If you’ve never had kidney stones, don’t wish for them. I’ve had three episodes in the last ten years, including the one that I’m in the middle of right now. I happen to be conscious enough to write for the time being. An hour from now, I could be curled up in the floor trying to find a comfortable position.
They say that when a man has kidney stones moving around, it is about as close as he can get to experiencing the pains of childbirth. Since my wife gave birth to three children, she says to me:
“I guess this means we’re even.”
I don’t mean to make her seem to be unfeeling. She has been great about the whole thing. And I’m not saying that her humor is lost on me. I have made fun of the fact that she, once upon a time while in delivery, grabbed me by the collar and pulled me down face to face, and through gritted teeth yelled at me:
“Make it stop!” Which is impossible when it comes to childbirth. And, I’m pretty sure impossible when it comes to kidney stones.
It all starts with the feeling that someone is pushing the butt end of a baseball bat into the flesh of your lower back. A dull ache. It moves to the front of your pelvic region and then on to other lower regions I dare not mention. Then the bat is switched for an ice pick. Sharp and deep. That is usually followed by a girlish squeal. A grown man twisting in agony and feeling a little green around the gills.
TMI, you say?
The first time this happened I was almost certain that I was going to die. It’s silly, I know, but I panicked and took a ride to the ER in an ambulance. They confirmed that I had stones. I rested on a morphine drip for a little while, and they sent me home with a little wire basket for catching the stones. Nada. If they pass, they pass. I don’t need to look at them.
The second time, Beth took me to the ER. Same results.
This time, I’m just gonna ride it out. I know the drill. I thought I was just having back pain earlier in the week. Maybe a stomach bug. It went away. I was fine for a few days. Then it came back. Last night, I finally recognized the tell-tale signs. Searing pain. Moans. Movement. Squirming on the floor. Burning. Grown man squeals. Been there before.
One good thing about being old and having been through a few surgeries is that you accumulate a collection of unused prescription meds. My own physician told me to hang on to them.
“You never know when you might need them.”
“What about the expiration dates?” I asked.
A long look from the Doc. “Keep them.”
So, about 8 PM I finally gave in and started rummaging through the good stuff. I had had all I could stand.
We sat down to watch a special series on the natural wonders of the planet. One of the segments was about the Chub fish found in the rivers of Tennessee. The male gathers stones in his mouth to stack them on the river bottom to make a safe place for the female to lay her eggs. He grabs a small stone in his mouth. I squirm. He’s building a mountain, moving one stone after another. I feel a sharp pain in my gut. More stones. I decide to get up and go to bed. Stupid fish story.
I tried telling myself, “It’s only pain. You can ignore it. Get you mind on something else.”
Hours later the meds kicked in. I finally slept. The pain subsided. Until it started all over about 7 this morning.
I’m not really sure why I’m telling you all of this. I do know that old folks like to talk about their aches and pains. Some of us don’t talk about anything else, and usually no one really wants to hear about it all. You have to be careful when you ask an old guy how he’s feeling. You might get more than you want to know.
“How you doing today, Mr. Jones?”
“Well, not too good. I’ve got this pain in my back. My knees are give out all the time. My pacemaker is giving me fits. I’ve got this sore on my foot that won’t heal up. But other than that, I’m feeling pretty good.”
“How you doing, young fella?”
I have been told a number of times by those who claim to be experts that I should go to the store and get a six pack of beer. Since beer runs through you, it’ll help flush out the stones. And if it doesn’t, you’ll feel better anyway. I am not a beer drinker, but last night about midnight I was thinking I should be.
For the moment the stones are quiet. It’s kind of like waiting for another lightning strike. Maybe it’s over. Maybe not.
I only have two questions. Are tea and coffee really the two biggest causes of kidney stones? Not sure I could give up my sweat tea and black coffee. And, if the meds do run out, what brand of beer should I buy?