Sunday, April 15, 2018

Hell is 3mm wide

It was almost exactly a week ago. I took a shower and went to bed with a book, but I couldn't get comfortable. I tried pillows and moved from one side to the other but I was increasingly uncomfortable. I got up to go to the bathroom. It didn't help. After a bit, it became apparent that something was seriously wrong and it was getting worse. I told Tim I thought it was time we saw about getting some transportation to the emergency room. He ran up to the guard shack and the guard on duty quickly handed him his keys. We were off.

Image courtesy of
The pain was getting worse at a rapid rate. Tim was stopping at red lights, looking, and running them. We were in the emergency room in just under 12 minutes, and not a single minute too soon. The staff there was professional, courteous, and efficient and happened to have some greatly improved sick bags handy, a good thing as I almost immediately revisited our excellent dinner from earlier in the evening.

Within the hour, a Cat scan revealed the cause of the misery, a 3mm kidney stone which was lodged just above the bladder. The photo at the right is so you can get an idea of the size. It's amazing that something that small can bring a human to her knees. Pain meds were administered, which finally brought some blessed relief. After a while, they allowed me to leave, pain and nausea prescriptions in hand. I slept the rest of the night, all of Monday, and Monday night. I completely lost a day, which I guess isn't really out of the ordinary for a cruiser who usually doesn't even know what month it is.

The next three days I was pain-free. I read the handout the emergency room had given me which stated that should you be pain-free for more than 24 hours, it was likely that the stone had broken up or passed unnoticed and you were in the clear. I was buoyed with hope, but unfortunately it was in vain.

Friday night (yes, Friday the 13th,) as I left the shower, I had a twinge in the exact same place. By the time I tried to lay down in bed it became apparent that I was headed the same road again.This time we didn't wait. We had a rental car that we had picked up for weekend errands and we quickly left. By the time we got to the hospital, I was in as much pain as the previous visit, not able to sit comfortably in any position, not able to stand, not able to lay down, and revisiting dinner again. A small word of advice - if you have any inkling that you might be getting ready to pass a kidney stone, enchiladas in red sauce is probably not the best choice of dinner. A couple hours, some kidney performance tests to be sure the kidneys were functioning correctly, and a blessed dose of pain meds, and I was once again in the land of the living.

The doctor was really sweet when I asked her whether she thought the stone was going to pass soon. She said she wished she was a fortune teller, but just couldn't say. So we're now left with a decision of how long to stay put. Hurricane season is closing in fast and we need to go north, but the idea of getting down to the anchorage in the Everglades and having to tough it through that level of pain without medical assistance is frightening to me. Of all the difficulties that cruising brings, the issue of needing medical attention when out of range is the one that bothers me most, especially as we age.

A lot of cruising spots are named "Hell Gate" or some version of it. We've been through the one in New York on a small sailboat, and we're going to attempt the one in Georgia in a few weeks but, truly, the worst Hell Gate I've navigated is this passage of a kidney stone. My wish for you this evening is that you never have to go through it.


S/V Via Bella said...

Deb. I'm sorry you're having to deal with this, and so much pain! Hope it passes or breaks up soon! --Nancy

Mike Boyd said...

Deb, I feel, or should I say have felt, your pain. I've had stones twice. The doctors give you pain meds and say they help as long as you stay ahead of it. They lie. I hope yours passes soon and as pain free as possible. I'm so sorry you are going through it.

pfrymier1 said...

Wow. That does not sound like fun. Thank goodness you were within a few minutes of pain relief. Hope I never get them. My dad had a kidney stone once when I was pretty small. It must have been extremely painful because that is one of the few things I remember from that age.

Robert Sapp said...

Ouch. Isn't there a way for them to break it up so you can pass the fragments?

Deb said...

Robert there is but mine is small enough that they won't do it. I'm taking several medications to help break them up and pass more easily. Only time will tell.