This too shall pass, eventually


The hospital remote control is apparently designed specifically for kidney stone patients. Photo: Mitch Teich

When you write a weekly column, you find yourself living life on the record, collecting experiences both good and bad, in the hopes that they will inspire five or six hundred words that reach you on Saturday morning.

That’s what I told myself, anyway, when the kidney stone came along. 

“Nnnyyyyuurrrrgh,” I said in one breath.  “Column material,” I thought with the next. 

I crossed “kidney stone” off the bucket list almost two weeks ago now.  Or rather, I started crossing it off.  It turns out that my brand of kidney stone fun is bring spread out over a month. 

The experience started one cheerful Tuesday morning with a wave of pain on my right side and some regrets for the cole slaw I’d eaten the day before.  It eventually felt better, only for the pain to return in the identical place the next morning.  Now, I typed the word “pain” there, but it seems absurd to use the same word to describe a kidney stone that you might use to refer to a stubbed toe, a headache, or a paper cut. So strike “wave of pain,” and replace it with “tsunami of agony.”

I spent Wednesday afternoon in the ER, during which a CT scan revealed the 5 millimeter culprit that was slowly (read: “SLOWLY”) moving its way through my urinary system. I was discharged with a couple of days’ worth of pain medicine and instructions to return if the pain got worse or I started throwing up.  Conveniently, both of those things happened by Thursday morning, which earned me three more days in the hospital, and a surgery that did not actually remove the kidney stone, but instead inserted a “stent” in my ureter, to reduce the pain and allow me to pee what looks like Hawaiian Punch brand fruit drink roughly every fifteen minutes.  (“That’s totally normal!” my urology nurse cheerfully told me.  “Hooray,” I responded.)

That was a week ago.  And in the time since, I’ve learned a lot more about living with an unwanted tenant in my ureter.  For example, I’ve learned that the following things may lead to pain:

  • Activity
  • Inactivity
  • Lying down
  • Standing up

But what I haven’t done yet is name my kidney stone.  I was recovering in the hospital when a friend from Wisconsin – an ER doctor – suggested this, offering “Stony McStone Face” as a starting point.  But I live in Potsdam, home of the Potsdam High School Sandstoners and their (real) mascot, “Stoner Steve”, so Kidney Stoner Steve has a certain je ne sais quoi

So I am turning this over to you, my reader friends.  I am going on vacation (Yay! Peeing every 15 minutes!  Beach time!) for the next couple of weeks, and would like to have this 5 mm stalactite in my ureter named by the time I get back at the end of the month.  Leave your suggestion in the comments section, or email it to me at mitch [at] ncpr.org. The winner will receive something suitably weird for their effort, provided I ever leave the bathroom.


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