In my last post I moaned on about feeling a bit down. I was feeling rotten and very sorry for myself – which, if you are familiar with my work – is unusual for me. I’m usually happy or angry, but not miserable.
Well it turns out I was feeling miserable because I WAS ABOUT TO BE RUSHED TO HOSPITAL!
Yes, the aches and pains I was suffering the day I wrote that post turned out to be a brewing kidney stone.
The day following that post I was in a foul mood. I ached all over and was ratty and snappy with the children. This is not uncommon, but my mood lasted a lot longer than it should have. I took some ibuprofen, which seemed to help, but by about 4 in the afternoon I had a nagging pain in my right side which seemed to be getting worse and worse.
I wondered if I was just hungry – always my go to – so stuffed some ill advised carbs down myself, followed by an enormous bar of chocolate for pudding. Yes I know this was stupid, and not how to go about getting back on track to my previous weight loss, but I was in pain, the children were nagging me… all those excuses.
Surprisingly, considering what a hypochondriac I am, I didn’t immediately assume I had a sudden onset form of cancer, I just assumed it was bad period pains combined with a pulled muscle.
An hour later, however, I had changed my tune. Rob returned from work to find me lying on the floor, white-faced and rocking slightly. ‘My side really hurts,’ I moaned.
Now Rob is very familiar with my hypochondria, and though sympathetic, was not overly concerned. He gave me a bit of a pat and went out to mow the lawn. I made him take his phone in case I needed emergency love and support.
Half an hour later I had to call him.
Now let me try and explain the pain.
My brother has suffered with kidney stones for years and has always said he reckoned it was as bad as child birth.
‘Nonsense!’ I used to scoff. ‘Don’t be ridiculous – NOTHING – is as bad as the pains of labour, the only thing I have had that came close was when I had an infected tooth abscess combined with a root canal.’
Turns out he was right. The feel of a kidney stone moving through your kidney and down the ureter is FXXXING PAINFUL. I mean, unbelievably painful. And, unlike labour, you don’t get a break between contractions.
I thought a lot through those long, long hours how I would describe the pain. Picture, if you will, the area of your right waist at the back and around the side just below your rib cage. Then imagine someone is taking a very long, metal skewer and slowly inserting it through your body with a little twist around every now and then. The insertion of the (in my mind’s eye slightly roughened and rusty) skewer doesn’t stop, you have to keep checking your tummy as you are convinced you are going to see the tip of the skewer emerging as it savages its way thought your intestines. The effect of this skewer is to send arrow aches of pain circling around over your hip and into your groin.
According to my brother in a man it causes ‘electric shocks of pain into your balls.’
It was at this point my hypochondria kicked in and I started to worry a benign cyst which had been discovered on my ovary years ago had burst and I was going to die, probably in the next twenty minutes.
I was in too much pain to consult Dr Google, so I called Rob. He realised very quickly that he needed external aid so called an ambulance.
As I was panting lightly and moaning every now and then I could hear him on the phone to 999.
‘I need an ambulance,’ he said. ‘My wife is in a lot of pain and is crying and moaning, which isn’t like her.’
(Bless him for saying that, it is SO like me, but not usually for so long to be fair.)
After questioning me via him they decided to send over a 111 person. She took about 45 minutes by which time I was almost delirious with the pain. The second she walked in she said, ‘kidney stones, I bet you,’ and handed over a canister of Entonox.
My joy at seeing this canister, familiar from three previous labours, was unconfined. I sucked on that thing like it was mother’s milk.
‘Gas and Air doesn’t usually work on kidney stones,’ the medic said chattily to Rob. ‘It’s a good way of helping us identify the cause.’
I didn’t care, I’d do anything to help ease the pain. But she was right. It didn’t help with the pain at all, it just stopped me caring about it.
‘It hasn’t helped,’ I kept saying, my voice loud in my ears as I got more and more Entonox drunk, ‘it hasn’t helped at all. Rob? Rob? ROB! It hasn’t helped the pain AT ALL. Not AT ALL. But I don’t care as much. Rob? I don’t care as much, so that’s good. Isn’t it. Isn’t it?.’
Rob and the medic were having an urgent conversation as I lay on the bed sucking on the gas and air. She left and Rob told me they had called an ambulance to take me to the hospital as I had to have scans and I could get more pain killers there.
I nodded and carried on with the Entonox and continued telling him the pain was still there but ‘I DIDN’T CARE.’
‘OK, OK,’ he kept saying, trying to calm down the children who had briefly popped up to see if I was alright before returning to fortnite and Netflix. I kind of wanted them to be weeping and wailing over me offering sympathy, but Rob was probably right to calm them down and say I was fine.
An hour later I’m on the ambulance. The children cluster around in excitement and send me videos of me in the ambulance leaving the house. I think the videos get sent to all their friends.
My amazing, wonderful, don’t-know-what-I’d-do-without-her neighbour took the children while Rob and I made the journey to A&E.
In the ambulance I decided to text the only man I knew who had been through this, my brother.
Me: ‘Been rushed to hospital with suspected f***ing kidney stones!’
Bro: ‘Oh no! … I’ve got a ton of suppositories!’
Me: ‘Unbelievably painful… On the good side.. Gas and Air.’
Bro: ‘Gotta get some morphine. That stuff is great.’
Me: ‘I’m absolutely ducking off my face, man.’
Bro: ‘… Are the kids being taken care of? Is Rob with you?’
I love that, for a second, my brother thought I’d just got completely stoned on gas and air and just disappeared without a care in the world leaving the children to fend for themselves.
I kept hooting with laughter at my brother’s texts and telling the paramedics what he was saying.
‘He keeps telling me to get voltarol suppositories,’ I said. ‘He’s obsessed with them. I’ve never even heard of them. He is telling me he has packs and packs of them.’
‘Whatever floats his boat,’ one of the paramedics replied, ‘we’re not here to judge.’
This tickled the paramedic sitting behind me so much she laughed for about twenty minutes. It cheered up the atmosphere no end. I hadn’t had this much fun since I was labouring with Son on gas and air and talked, without a break, for 45 minutes about cricket.
They offered me morphine on the ambulance and I said no, I could cope until we got to the hospital as long as I had the Entonox.
THIS WAS A VERY BIG MISTAKE.
If you are ever in this situation.
TAKE THE MORPHINE!
The reason for this is as follows. I didn’t realise that when I got the hospital I would not, as I thought, be immediately rushed to the front of the queue and be given morphine.
Turns out kidney stones are not – despite how painful they feel – an emergency. Heart attacks, strokes, and car crashes take priority.
So when you arrive you go to the back of the queue. And they won’t give you painkillers until you have gone through the whole triage thing.
So I arrived. The lovely paramedics took away the gas and air and I went to sit in the waiting room.
For FOUR AND A HALF HOURS.
WITH NO PAIN MEDICATION.
The place was absolutely rammed. The staff were incredible, endlessly patient and caring but clearly understaffed and overwhelmed.
When I finally got to see someone to assess me I was unable to move without making involuntary yips of pain. I sat down and she offered me two pink ibuprofen in a little cup. I said, ‘it really really hurts. It really really hurts.’
It hurt so much I had to grab a sick bowl as the walk from the waiting room to the little office had made the skewer jolt about sending waves of agony through me. I threw up. In front of everyone. And then I threw up two more times, filling two more bowls. I could see Rob had gone stark white and knew he was about to hurl too. He never could cope with seeing people be sick.
Eventually she gave me a sick bowl the size of a kitchen sink and said to Rob, ‘I don’t think these tablets are going to be any help,’ and took them away.
In the depths of pain and misery I found some comfort in the fact that, judging by what was in the bowls, I had successfully got rid of the family size chocolate bar. Result!
I got moved through to the next level where I was shocked out of my selfish obsession by seeing people much more ill than me being treated. When a nurse saw me I felt ashamed and said, pathetically, ‘I really don’t mind waiting, but if I could have something for the pain that would be brilliant.’
So we waited a bit more to see a doctor who could give me morphine. While we waited I marveled at the busyness of the place and wondered how the hell the staff coped with this amount of human misery whilst keeping the smiles on their faces and their voices so kind and patient.
It was then a woman started kicking off at the staff.
‘Who the f**k d’you think you are talking about patients like that!’ she bellowed across the room. ‘You f***ing c***s!’ She started to pull over a cupboard and continued roaring, yelling the most vile filth imaginable.
I simply could not believe it. Her misplaced rage and violence was as shocking as if someone had just dropped a bomb. I couldn’t even work out why she had gone so mad. She wasn’t a patient, she was with the patient and, as far as I could gather, was angry because a nurse had warned another nurse that the patient was ‘anxious and vulnerable.’
What she meant, I realised, was that the elderly woman was senile and the nurse was discreetly conveying she needed to be seen urgently and carefully looked after, but had to do it in front of a packed waiting room. The woman accompanying her took that as a breach of confidence and decided the way to show her disapproval was to start smashing up the waiting room and yelling filthy abuse at the staff.
God knows how they cope with dealing with that. As well as heart attacks, sick children and middle-aged fat woman like me yelping in pain.
At all times the staff dealt with the abusive woman with calm, respect, and lowered voices. They quietly ushered her and her companion away to be treated and then carried on with their shift. Honestly, my hats off to the NHS staff. I suspect that, judging by the well oiled procedures that took place, this happens an awful lot.
We are so lucky to have free health care. I had X-Rays done of my lungs and abdomen, full blood tests, a CT Scan and highly qualified staff looking after me for hours and walked away without having to pay a thing. Something we should be thankful for. And this woman thought it was OK to abuse staff and destroy equipment. It beggers belief. It really does.
Anyway, back to me!
I see a lovely doctor who is thoughtful and methodical and confirms, as far as he can without a CT scan at that point, it’s a kidney stone.
He prescribes morphine and the nurse inserts a canula to take blood and administer the morphine.
This is the moment the pain stops.
Just like that.
I’m back to normal.
It bloody typical. And just the same as when I roared for an epidural when giving birth to Son and Daughter and both times they were delivered about five minutes after the injection so I never felt the benefit.
Rather sheepishly I tell the nurse the pain is gone and watch as she takes the morphine away. The doctor discharges me with packs of painkillers and tells me to come back for a scan the next day. He says he might see me as his shift was 1-11. A TEN HOUR SHIFT! Dealing with sick people and people who yell abuse and smash things up.
By now it gone 10pm and my wonderful saint of a neighbour has taken my children back to the house and is sitting with them to wait for us to come back. The children are pleased to see me and sweetly concerned whether I was OK and were happy the pain had gone.
I was carrying a bag filled with paracetamol, buscopan and ibuprofen, along with my bra (you have to take it off for an X-ray) and I never got a chance to put it back on, so my boob were swinging low like a sweet chariot.
The following morning back I went for my CT scan. Confirmed: One 4mm kidney stone lodged, with some inflammation, in the ureter.
‘So it hasn’t come out?’ I asked pathetically.
I am told to go home and wait for it to pass. They recommend I use a ‘small sieve’ to try and catch it. Pee through a sieve!?
I have to watch out for extreme pain, sudden temperature, the shakes and chills. If I have that I have to go straight back in as it may be blocked and have caused an infection – which is very bad, according to my reading. Hopefully it is also unlikely. I am to keep drinking loads of water and take pain killers.
All was fine the next night, but the night after that it shifted again, causing great pain between 9.30 and 2 in the morning, but I knew the signs and dosed up on ibuprofen and paracetamol and managed to cope with it. Knowing what it is helps as you are more relaxed, and recognising it’s just the stone moving which causes pain makes you more accepting and able to cope.
We were due to visit my brother so we spent a good few hours catching up and I enjoyed, with a kind of horror, his stories of ‘great stones I have passed,’ and got a lot of good advice from him.
To the children’s fascination, he got out some of the stones he caught after having ESWL to treat some stones measuring 8-9 mm. He kept them, wrapped in tissue, in his wallet next to the photos of his children. With great ceremony he unwrapped the tissue revealing two objects that looked a little like this.
We oohed and ahhed and were all very impressed. Brother then admitted they were doing a great deal of building work at the time and he wasn’t sure whether the larger stone was a kidney stone or, in fact, a lump of plaster which had fallen off the wall of the bathroom.
So here I am, with the stone still there, as far as I know, I really must get a sieve handy to catch the damn thing. I am hoping after the night before last that’s it gone, but I suspect not. I am drinking as much as I can and have been immensely cheered up by a visit from my lovely USA school friend who came to stay for a couple of days. There is simply nothing like laughing and crying with people who have known you for – gulp – over 35 years.
Keep drinking the water and avoiding salt, warriors!