*Trigger warning, dark/semi-suicidal thoughts brought on by pain*
I have never been good about drinking water.
To this day I still fall short. I’m doing better lately but even so….I don’t know what it is. I always feel like I’ve drowned myself if I drink too much, I just don’t handle a ton of liquids well.
Cue kidney stones.
My first kidney stone was a fairly minor event. I was in my 20’s still, I remember it was a Sunday morning and I was asleep in bed with my husband, whom I shall henceforth refer to as S, for spouse. It was around 6ish or so when I woke to a pain in my right side. I tried to ignore it and go back to sleep, but it steadily and quickly grew into something one simply cannot put off. It escalated so fast that I was soon stumbling out of bed and into the bath, in desperate hopes that it would quell the wretched sensation.
It only took a matter of minutes before I knew I was in deep shit. My first thought was appendicitis. My twin (fraternal) had that as a teenager and I remembered it was right sided pain, so surely my time had come too. Immediately I started shaving everything on my body as fast as I could. I knew I was bound for the ER and couldn’t handle the prospect of being judged for my hairy legs on top of nearly dying.
This is how S found me, frantically shaving as I whimpered in the bath. When he realized the severity of my problem, he woke right up and started getting me clothes so we could get the hell out. This whole thing took like, fifteen minutes, mind you. Real fast from the get go. It’s rather silly, thinking about it. I’m in the tub, crying and shaving and he’s rushing back and forth to get me clothes, which I still had the sense to reject in spite of my growing pain.
“Not that shirt,” I’d manage, and he’d growl in frustration and bolt off to try another.
“No, I hate those pants. They don’t fit anymore.” And off he’d go again. When I returned later that day, I found our entire bedroom absolutely covered in my clothes. He’d dumped out every drawer.
The ER was only about 15 minutes out and I was moaning the whole way. We got there and called my parents to come because I was still in my 20s then and couldn’t possibly do anything so big as get appendicitis without their involvement. While we waited in the lobby I felt nauseated and asked where the bathroom was. Instead the receptionist wordlessly handed me a basin. I looked at it in horror, then at all the other people around me and decided that, no, I didn’t need to vomit after all. Boundaries people.
Things must’ve been slow that day, because they got me in fast. They wanted to make sure my appendix wasn’t rupturing or that I had some other life threatening illness. I vaguely recall getting a urine sample taken. Note I said taken, I sure didn’t give it to them, they just went up there and took it themselves like that friend who comes over and immediately starts digging around your fridge. I think they may have looked in my freezer too, if you know what I mean.
The whole time I was in immense pain, so much so that they had to put me on oxygen because I wasn’t breathing enough. I am a tad dramatic when I’m not feeling well.
A CT scan soon revealed, not the life threatening ailment I was sure was killing me, but a kidney stone of all things, and a small one at that. The nurse was very sympathetic and kind through the whole ordeal and soon I was on pain meds and sent home, and you know what? They worked! By late morning I was back to my usual self and didn’t have a single twinge again.
If you have to have a kidney stone, that’s the way to do it. In. Out. Rest of the day free for napping and cooking shows. 5/5 would recommend.
Time passed. Like, three or four years.
It was April, 2015.
I was going about my daily life and felt weird…down there. Pressure and mild pain and like my pelvis was being lightly strangled with a piano wire. You know the feeling. Like a raging UTI was on the horizon.
I tried to ignore it, drink lots of water, blah blah blah. Finally it was unpleasant enough I went to give a urine sample and my doctor informed me it was slightly off but not infected.
“Could be a kidney stone,” she said.
My first kidney stone hurt like a bitch, but it was a timely bitch at least. I was not happy about this news but I at least hoped it would be fast and I’d be done with it.
A few days passed. My pelvic drama worsened. I was a ticking time bomb.
Then, one late afternoon, I remember walking down the hallway towards our bedroom. I was in my pj’s because that’s what one does when one feels like shit. The pain in my side was so sudden and immense that I immediately dropped to the floor like I’d been shot. Poor S was in our bedroom and came rushing out to me crying for about 10 seconds, and then I never cried again through the ensuing ordeal. In my experience, when you’re in a certain amount of pain, you move past crying and on to unnatural moans that could only be likened to the hybridization of a banshee and a particularly out of sorts Holstein.
Now, my stupid insurance would only let me go to one hospital and this one was about 23 minutes away. A different one from the last time. Off we rushed, fully aware of what to expect this time around. Surely I’d be seen lickety split, get my drugs and be on my way.
Only I did something stupid.
I decided to wait.
We got there and I decided I’d try to tough it out in the parking lot. The pain was not constant this time. It came and went and came and went in waves. Maybe, just maybe, it would pass and I could save us the hefty ER fee and we could go home. S kept saying, “Are you sure? We’re here, if you think you need to go in…” But I kept thinking about the cost because, American healthcare.
Instead, I said we should just watch an anime on his phone and try to wait it out. I remember distinctly it was Kaze no Stigma, a delightful little fluffy thing that my dad had gotten me into.
We got about twenty minutes into the episode when I realized I was a supreme moron. The pain seemed to agree, for it gripped me by the side and made me its bitch.
I was dying. Well, not technically but…yeah, I was dying.
Let me explain to you what kidney stones feel like. You know when you run super fast and you get a horrible stitch in your side really, really bad? That’s what it starts out like. And then, somehow, it blows past that level of pain and escalates to new heights until you’re left wondering how you’re still alive and conscious.
We stumbled in the waiting room, filled out the paperwork and were promptly told it would be three to four hours of waiting.
Remember, I have no choice of where I go because of my insurance. This is it. This is all she wrote.
S settled in to wait while I informed him I was going to be sick. I staggered off to the public restroom and made good on my words. Multiple times. The whole time the pain was indescribable. I was wailing and moaning and swearing and gasping and I’m sure many a poor soul who had to pee heard me and did an about face. I was in there at least half an hour making my banshee cow noises and throwing up repeatedly. At last, I decided I could try to make it back to the waiting room.
I washed my hands (because you ALWAYS fucking wash your hands people!) and then something happened.
I gave up.
I was done. I couldn’t make it out of that bathroom. I couldn’t live anymore. (Did I mention I’m dramatic when I’m not well?)
Bit of backstory about me. I’m a germaphobe. Like, huge. When people have birthdays, I take the entire top layer off my cake slice since I don’t want to eat anything someone blew on, and even then I usually just skip it. If I touch my foot on accident, I wash my hands. When I put laundry in the washer, I wash my hands. I used to make my sister pull out the entire straw, while sucking, every time she took a drink from the single pop my parents made us share at the movies. Every time she’d drink you’d hear, “FWOOOOP!” as the straw pulled out. Annoying? Yes. But the danger of backwash was eliminated.
Needless to say, I care about germs. A lot.
But on this day, back in April of 2015…I did the unthinkable.
I laid down on the bathroom floor. The bathroom floor of a public restroom.
I don’t know exactly what my plan was. I just knew I was done. I was through with puking, I was through dealing with this pain, through with silly things like standing. I was going to just lay there and die.
Several minutes went by, and finally, for the first time, someone came in to use the restroom. It was a lovely young woman in a wheelchair, and her friend. They took one look at me and immediately rushed to my aid. I’ll always remember their kindness. The woman in the wheelchair kindly talked to me and asked if I was alright while her friend tore off to get help. S saw her run out and a minute later saw several nurses run in and then come out with me in a wheelchair and thought, “Well shit.”
Needless to say, I got seen early. I guess all it takes is laying down in a public restroom for someone to finally take you seriously. To be honest, though, I guess I technically skipped the line this way. I really didn’t mean to. It just happened. I could barely talk, so they probably thought I was dying and I wasn’t feeling conversational enough to explain that, no, I just had given up.
The rest of the experience was a puking blur. I couldn’t stop throwing up. They gave me a long blue narrow bag that looked like a condom for the Jolly Green Giant. I went through several. CT scan confirmed it was another stone. They took FOR-FUCKING-EVER to get me pain meds, the entire time they were rolling their eyes and treating me like a drug seeker since that particular hospital sees a lot of those. I’ll never forget the horrible way I was treated. The lack of sympathy, the coldness. I get why medical professionals get jaded, I really do. But it’s too bad that people who are suffering have to get the brunt of it.
At last I was given medication. I lay in the hospital bed, waiting for it to take effect while I filled up my puke condoms again and again. Poor S just sat in the corner looking traumatized. It took a while, but the meds started to kick in. The pain started to ease for the first time in hours. Yes. This was going to be like the last time. I was going to go home soon and it would be like it never happened. I was going to be fine.
But nope. I wasn’t fine.
Within fifteen minutes, the pain meds wore off completely. I don’t know why, I don’t know how. They just didn’t fucking work.
We went home. It was late by then, and of course it was a work night. S went to the all night pharmacy to fill my useless meds, and I just laid on the couch and threw up.
And that’s what I did for the next TEN fucking days.
I can honestly say, this was the worst experience of my entire life and it will be damn hard to beat.
Oh, another fun thing. I was on my period during all this too.
Here, have a horribly unflattering picture of me in my hospital bed.
(note the ice cream cone socks!)
My days went pretty much like this. S would get up, take himself to work and leave. I was ok with that. If I’d needed him to stay, he would’ve but there was nothing he could do for me so I told him to go. I would struggle to the bath and lay there. It was the only thing that remotely helped even a little. I’d stay in the bath as long as the hot water would hold out. Eventually, when S was home, I had him boil water so I could stay in. He’d rush back and forth from the kitchen to the bathroom to refill my water while I moaned and wailed at him, “Hotter, I need hotter!!!” He’s a good husband.
When my baths were done, I’d drag myself out, throw up in the toilet, and lay on the floor naked for at least half an hour before I had the strength to get dressed. I was taking five baths a day. The bathroom floor was just a pile of damp towels. I had to have my mom buy more because I couldn’t do laundry.
Needless to say, I couldn’t keep anything down. The most I could manage was about a third of a Boost drink for the entire day. No water, no nothing. I actually ended up back at the ER because I was feeling so dehydrated and weak. No sympathy again. They just gave me anti-nausea pills. Same kind they give chemo patients. Didn’t work. Neither did my oxy. Nothing ever fucking worked at all. I stopped trying because it would only make me vomit more to even attempt it.
The pain eventually went away, but the nausea stayed. Turns out there’s some nerve that the kidney stone can activate that triggers a nausea response. Go figure. I couldn’t brush my hair because moving my arm that much would make me puke. So I ended up with a huge rat’s nest of tangles, made worse by the fact that the sticky stuff from the ER sensor thingies they stick on you got in my hair too. So by the time I was through with all this, I had to have my sister cut my hair short. It was unsalvageable.
I went to the infusion clinic to get an IV to replace the liquids I was losing. I got sick throughout. Talking made me puke. Moving made me puke. Drinking made me puke. I always say that I’m never throwing up again because I paid a lifetime of dues. I actually kept count of how much I did it. It was 42 ‘sessions,’ with about five bouts each session by the time all was done. So, you know, a lot.
I was incredibly weak, I slept fitfully at best, I felt like this was my entire life. Poor S was stressed beyond belief, working a full time demanding job while trying to take care of me at the same time.
I literally wanted to die. I’m not exaggerating. I felt that I would never get better, and if I had to feel like this the rest of my life, it wasn’t worth it. I know that’s a horrible way to feel, but I genuinely did. It gave me a new respect for people with chronic health issues. The shit they have to go through. Fuck. I remember my sister took my garbage out to the curb for me and I nearly cried from gratitude because I physically just couldn’t do it. It was impossible. Such a stupid, simple thing.
Finally, FINALLY, I started to feel better. I actually ate something, soup, I think? One of my sisters came over and cleaned my kitchen for me. I could move, I could talk, I wasn’t throwing up anymore! I was ecstatic. Incredibly weak, but finally feeling hopeful.
I decided to help her. I did a few dishes. I wiped off the counters.
She left after about an hour. I sat down in the living room and was so suddenly overcome with illness that I immediately reverted to being even sicker than I was before. I don’t know how it happened, but I was so ill, so weak, so hopeless that I kept telling S, “I want to die, I want to die!” I thought I’d never be well again, that I’d been tricked into thinking it was over. I called my dad crying and he said he’d take the next day off work to take care of me.
True to his word, he came. He was incredibly sympathetic and kind. He introduced me to Sword Art Online (another anime he’d discovered) and we watched episode after episode. I was starting to feel better again. He gave me a Twinkie he’d bought for me since he knows they’re one of my favorites. I even was able to eat it! It was a day I’ll never forget.
That day marked a turnaround for me. This time, I finally improved and kept improving. I was weak for a long while after, though. I couldn’t finish an ice cream bar because I got too exhausted to! I went for a walk with S and had to turn back, after eight minutes. I got tired so easily it was ridiculous. I also got cavities from throwing up so much. To this day I’m chagrined about that because before then I’d gone 30 years without a cavity.
But I was getting better. And so far (knock on wood), I haven’t had a kidney stone since.
So, a few things to take away from this massive, massive post.
First, I’m incredibly grateful to the wonderful people in my life who care about me. My twin bought me new jammies and socks to wear during this. My mom picked me up toiletries and towels. My other sister cleaned, my dad came over multiple times, my aunt made S dinner (seafood casserole, which I made him eat in the other room for obvious reasons). Other people sent texts and messages saying they were thinking about me. I felt so incredibly loved, even as I felt I was truly in the depths of hell.
I always joke that watching anime and having twinkies with my dad is what healed me, but that’s not really giving near enough credit to S. He took me where I needed to go, got me what I needed, waited with me all hours of the night at the ER and then went to work at 6 the next morning. He kept my bathwater hot, tried to get me to eat and drink, and even paid for my six THOUSAND dollar medical bill when all was said and done.
Fuck American health insurance.
So, thank you S. You’re truly the best.
This experience honestly traumatized me. I live in constant fear of it happening again. When you get kidney stones, it’s very likely you’ll get them the rest of your life. I’m terrified. But, as hellish as this experience was, I really developed feeling for people in pain. Temporary, chronic, doesn’t matter. It sucks. It’s scary, it’s isolating, it’s frightening and it just absolutely becomes your world. A world that others couldn’t possibly understand. My heart goes out to anyone in a situation where their body is causing them harm. I’m so, so sorry. I only got a meager taste of what others go through and it nearly broke me. There are a lot of really badass people out there dealing with this kind of shit every day.
If I could give you any advice from this whole ordeal, it would be two things. First, be kind to others. From that woman in the bathroom at the hospital to my dad and his silly Twinkies, and of course S and all he entails, I will never forget the kindness shown to me. Be that for other people, especially when they’re going through shit. Something as stupid as taking out the garbage can mean SO much. Or listening to them when they’re despairing. Or even recommending a fucking anime. These little things are actually huge things. Things that person will never forget for the rest of their life, even if you don’t fathom the significance.
And, my second piece of advice?
Drink your fucking water!