Stoned…A Kidney Story

picture of a kidney with a stone it in


Sunday night and I’m bagged, head upstairs, get ready to call this day done.

I’m on the phone debriefing with a crisis responder (I dispatch from home) when “something” happens. I get a twinge in my back which is rapidly getting more painful, maybe I pinched a nerve. Then I’m hit with a wave of nausea and I blurt out that I need to get off the phone. The pain is getting sharper by the second and by the time I make it to my bathroom (ensuite, maybe 8’ away), I collapse in excruciating pain and I think I’m going to pass out.

What the fuck? My son is in the basement but he thinks I’ve gone to bed, he’s on his winter lay off right now, he won’t even realize there might be something amiss until sometime tomorrow afternoon when he realizes my car is still in the driveway. Before I pass out, he should probably be aware that I’ve collapsed on my bathroom floor. Fortunately, having been on the phone when it happened, I still have the phone clutched in my hand. No, I’m not that person who can’t put my phone down long enough to go to the bathroom. Nor am I that person who needs reading material while I’m in there – I completely don’t understand that. I’ve had this conversation before, what’s up with needing to read while you’re in the bathroom? If whatever you are about to do in there requires a magazine article, newspaper, etc maybe you should consult a doctor. I think it’s primarily a male thing but I’ve yet to find one who can offer up an explanation other than it’s a bit of down time. No one’s going to bother him while he’s in there so maybe he’ll stay a while. Nope.

Where was I…oh yes, laying on the bathroom floor trying not to pass out while I call my son. I was going to text him but I can’t, I think I can manage the 2 steps it will take to call him.

“need you upstairs”

Hoping he’s not in the middle of a video game and I’m left waiting for a save place. I can’t explain anything more than I need him upstairs, I can barely breathe for the pain.

He’s at the bathroom door in 30 seconds. So far, so good. Fighting nausea and pain I can only describe as someone having jammed an ice pick into my spine and wrenching it around non stop.

“what’s wrong?”

“don’t know…I just want you to know that something’s wrong and if it doesn’t pass at some point, I might need you to drive me to the hospital”

“you’re lucky, I almost didn’t answer my phone” (we are going to circle back to this later) “maybe we should just go”

I’m curled in the fetal position on the verge of blacking out. My initial fear is that it’s something heart related. I’ve read that women’s heart attack symptoms are different than men’s. We don’t necessarily get the crushing chest pain and pain radiating down the arm. We get back pain…I’ve got that in spades. Nausea…check. I don’t want to scare my son so I don’t share this with him. (yes, it occurs to me later that was a stupid decision…and not the first one I’m going to make tonight). I’m shit at googling stuff on my phone, hand me a lap top and I’ll do a search. That’s not currently an option. Still clutching my phone, I try searching heart attack symptoms for women, but the pain is getting worse and I can’t…I mean who am I kidding, if I can’t google shit on my phone on a good day what makes me think this is an option under the circumstances.

“no, not yet, this could pass, could be a pinched nerve or something else, if it doesn’t pass in 15 min, I’ll make a decision then”

(it is pointed out to me later the stupidity of laying there thinking it might be my heart and telling my son not to call the ambulance, when you say it out loud, not my most shining moment)

“mom, I think we should just go”

I wave him off…still in the fetal position on the bathroom floor.

I’m crying, I’m screaming…this hurts something fierce.

“actually mom, I’m not driving you to the hospital”


“I’m going to call an ambulance”

“no, you’re not, this could pass in a few minutes and if it doesn’t, just drive me in”

“mom, if you pass out on the way, what the hell am I supposed to do?”

“keep driving, you’re already on your way to the hospital”

“no, I’m calling an ambulance, something is seriously wrong”

I’m still arguing the point, I’m not in much of a position to make an argument but that doesn’t stop me.

“just get me downstairs, let’s start with that”

So he peels me off the floor and assists me down the stairs. It’s a long, slow, painful journey.

“I’m calling now”

“nope, get me to the living room, give me a few more minutes”

He’s getting a little pissed off with me at this point.  Kinda testy for someone who does not currently have someone excavating his spine with an ice pick.  He gets me as far as the couch. Time to reassess. Is this getting any better? Nope. It’s actually getting worse.  I tell him that I’m a little concerned that this may be heart related. Maybe he should know – if I lose consciousness, pass that tidbit onto the paramedics.

“mom, I’m not waiting”

I wave him off…“5 more minutes”

He’s got his phone in his hand, ready to dial 911.

Moments later, I collapse on the floor.

“you can call now”

The ambulance arrives a few minutes later to find me in a crumpled ball on the living room floor alternately sobbing and crying out in pain. They do stuff…no idea what. They’re asking if I’m on any meds…nope. They ask again…anything for high blood pressure, diabetes? Oh, I see where we are going with this…nope, seriously, just fat and out of shape, otherwise healthy.

They hook up an IV…(I remember to compliment the paramedic on his IV skills later at the hospital when there’s less sobbing) stick electrode pads on my arms and legs. Given that any movement at all just makes things worse, an ambulance ride as opposed to a road trip in my son’s Corolla should be smooth. Nope. This is the mode of transportation for critically ill people, how the hell is this such a rough ride?

“is the pain less or more than labor”

“more…and no breaks”

“are you ok with morphine”

“sure, hook me up”

It takes a few minutes before the effects start kicking in and the razor sharp point of the ice pick is dulled a bit. More morphine? Sure, don’t mind if I do.

I’m offloaded at the hospital into a wheelchair under the very erroneous assumption that having arrived by ambulance, I should be seeing a doctor very shortly. If it’s serious enough to have required an ambulance to get me there, I should be near the top of the list. It’s midnight and the morphine has brought the pain down to a much more tolerable level.  Having some time on my hands, I suddenly remember when my son came upstairs, he said something about almost not answering the phone.

“I’m laying on the bathroom floor passing out from pain and you’re not taking my calls?”

“I don’t answer blocked #’s”

“I was using the emergency phone, the # is permanently blocked for confidentiality purposes, it was in my hand when I hit the floor, I was working with what I had”

“Ya, but I didn’t know it was you”

Two hours later, the morphine begins to wear off. I’m losing ground quickly.  My son goes to the nursing station and asks if they can give me something for the pain. Nope, not until I’m seen by a doctor.  Peachy.  By 3 am, I have my son wheel me over to the triage nurse.

“I have a high pain tolerance, but I can’t take this anymore, can you please give me something”

“I can’t give you anything until the doctor’s seen you”

“I don’t think you understand how much pain I’m in, the morphine has worn off”

“did you give me a urine sample?”

“did you ask me for a urine sample?”

She hands me a specimen bottle.

“I can give you an advil”

That’s as close as I’ve ever come to punching a nurse in the face.  If what’s wrong could have been resolved with a fucking advil, probably could have skipped the 911 call and the ambulance ride.

Not sure how I’m going to manage a urine sample and there are some experiences you just don’t want to share with your son.

“get me to the bathroom and I’ll figure this out”

“I’m going in but I won’t lock the door, I’ll let you know if I need you”

We exchange that knowing glance, neither one of us wants his participation is this particular task. I manage until I get off the toilet and get my pants up.

“ok, come and get me out now”

By the time they call me back, it’s 4:30 am and I’m kneeling on the floor in front of a chair with my head on the seat crying – it takes another 15 – 20 minutes for the doctor to come and check on me.

“on a scale of one to ten, how bad….”

“ten, ten, fucking ten”

He reviews my chart.

“I think you’ve got a kidney stone – the sudden onset severe pain, blood in your urine. We are going to give you some morphine”

It takes another half hour to set up an IV and start mainlining the good stuff. I’m a few minutes from sweet relief.

“you’re going to need a CT scan to confirm the diagnosis, here’s a prescription for morphine, get this filled – you’re going to need it, go home and get some rest, you’ll get a call back for the CT scan”

“that’s it, go home?”

“yes, they won’t likely be able to do the CT scan until this afternoon so go and get some rest, if it’s a kidney stone you’ll have to see a specialist at another hospital for a treatment plan, we don’t have a kidney specialist here”

“you totally should”

We get about half way home and I do the math, the morphine is going to wear off before the pharmacy opens and I never thought to ask for a dose for the trip…a “roadie” as it were. Karma cuts me a bit of a break (‘bout time, where have you been all night?) and I find myself exhausted and sore as the morphine wears off, but it’s bearable. I get the call to head back in the afternoon for the CT scan. Keep in mind, for the rest of this story, I’m clutching a bottle of morphine, I’m not taking any chances.

CT scan done and I get to…you guessed it, wait in emergency again for the results. Nearly 3 hours later, I’m called in.

“you have a kidney stone on your right side, it became dislodged from your kidney last night and is currently stuck in the top of your ureter, that’s what caused the sudden onset pain, it’s 3 x 5 mm and you may not be able to pass it on your own”

“so where does that leave me?”

“did they give you a prescription for morphine?”


“keep it handy, you’re going to need it (sensing a recurring theme here)…we are going to refer you to a specialist in Brampton who will decide the best course of action, whether he thinks you can pass it or if you will need assistance with that”

“what does assistance look like?”

“they can go up in after it, catch it and pull it out in a little basket”

“that sounds thoroughly unpleasant…is that it, I just go home and wait this out?”

“yes, keep your morphine handy and if you can’t manage your pain at home, come back in and we’ll put you back on an IV, if the doctor’s office doesn’t call you in 2 days, call them”

Thus starts a game of Russian roulette that I have absolutely no interest in playing. I’m okay until I’m not okay. You know when you need morphine? About a half hour before you know you need morphine. I’ve had 3 shifts of the stone or attacks since Monday morning, there’s about a 30 second warning before shit hits the fan. It’s all “oh, that kind of feels…..fuuuuucccckk!” And then you have to let it wear off a bit to determine if the coast is clear or you need more (or just keep taking it every 4 hours just in case).

Part of this week’s learning curve…morphine to dull kidney stone pain is delicious…side effect – constipation, oh good, more crap stuck in an uncomfortable situation, fucking brilliant.  Anyone else see the irony here?  I’m not planning on bearing down to resolve this issue.  My current modus operandi is “no sudden movements”, I’m not rocking the boat at all. I realize that each shift, each bout of pain brings me a little closer to birthing the culprit but I’m not forcing the issue as it were.

So, I’m all Criminal Minds over here, packing a “go bag” in case things get out of hand and morphine isn’t cutting it. So far, so good. It got dicey yesterday but then I had a quick flash to a few minutes in a friend’s car the other day with the seat warmers on and it felt soooo damn good. I warned her that she might find me randomly spending time in her car, just sayin’. When the morphine wasn’t sufficient and my son was planning on calling the ambulance again (coward still won’t drive me in) I cut him a deal – you run to WalMart and pick up a heating pad and I’ll take an extra dose of morphine.  I’m all for heading over to my friend’s house and hanging out in her car but what do I do when she leaves for work? It worked…morphine and heat. I do, however, suspect I might be in a relationship with my new heating pad ‘cause it doesn’t hurt any more but I’m snuggling with it anyway. Don’t judge me.

I have discovered kidney stones have a horrible sense of humor.
Me: totally exhausted from a rough week, think I’ll grab a nap
Kidney stone: hold my beer…

A few days later a friend of mine drives me to the urologist’s office in case shit hits the fan on the way…but mostly ‘cause she wants to see how messed up I get on morphine should the occasion arrive.  While waiting in the Dr’s office, I notice an eye chart on the back of the office door…of a urologist? We ponder just wtf that’s doing there…it’s a shared office, he shares it with a gynecologist and a cosmetic surgeon – that just raises more questions. Is there such a thing as vagina vision? Wait…don’t answer that, don’t want to know.

eye chart

(yes, I know the eye chart picture is out of focus, but the door opens in and suddenly it was opening, let it go)

Turns out the specialist thinks the stone will pass on its own – given that I’ve had 3 attacks recently, that means it’s moving and he predicts within 1 to 3 weeks this will all be over if I can just manage through 2 or 3 more attacks.

“I think I’m going to need some more morphine.”

“Nope, you are going to need some Percocet. Keep it handy, you’re going to need it.”

I got the prescription filled on the way home. Here’s where I play the blonde card – I got home and opened the bag to find a bottle of oxycodone. I’ve heard nightmare stories about this stuff; I don’t think I’m supposed to have this. I called the drugstore to clear up the mistake only to be told that percs and oxy are the same thing, Percocet is just the name brand. I’ll just shut up now, I’ve never been prescribed percocets before, what do I know.

Update: at some point, Stonezilla left of its own accord. Don’t know when but it just stopped hurting. I’ll let my boss know in a couple of weeks, kind of nice to have a “get out of work” card tucked in my back pocket for days when I just don’t want to be there. You want me to work on what? Oh, gotta go…

˜˜ the nasty wench ˜˜

(bonus round…I have another one tucked securely in my left kidney – but I just might have a stash of opiates on hand for that occasion)

4 thoughts on “Stoned…A Kidney Story

  1. That is a good story. I can totally relate to the prescription Duluth’s . I think I would have to be at a 10 to take one but if I get there I would guess all bets are off on what I may or may not do. I have a high pain tolerance but i don’t like the sound of “labor” again. They way my husband described what happens the night my daughter was born he simply says “ you scared all of the other babies out right quick with all that holllering”. Gee, I was wondering why my throat was so sore the next day.

    1. I’ve also got a high pain tolerance – I’ve done 39 hours of labour and the kidney stone was worse…there was no break, just excruciating pain. Morphine was my best friend for a couple of weeks. Thanks for reading the post!

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