Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Passing Whidbey Stones on Kidney Island

(Caution, TMI for the sensitive)

Mollie writes:

Never, ever let it be said that I live a boring life. After spending last week chronicalizing life on Kidney Island when it snows, I "moved on" this week, assuming that life would get back to normal.

Never gonna happen -

There is no "normal" on Kidney Island. Whilst the rest of the universe muddles through life within normal limits, Kidney Island is a planet unto itself. I mean, heck, it snows and STICKS at 36 degrees! And the planetary confusion doesn't stop there. "Tomorrow" by the trades people here usually means "sometime this week" and "next week" means sometime in the oncoming year.

Time, space, freezing levels and language all have their own rules here. We have the strangest vortex controlling everything. It's taken me six years to figure it out, but yesterday's trip to the ER confirmed what I've suspected all along - we live in a Different World.

I passed my first kidney stone in May of 2005. We had been traveling back and forth from Portland to Kidney Island looking at real estate. We had just sold our house and knew how much we had to spend on our "dream" home. We were drinking island water without filtering it, but in those days, bottled water was for idiots only. We shouldda been smarter than to drink from the tap, but there you have it.

It came as a complete shock to me, in 2005, when the first stone passage hit. I ended up in the emergency room with copious amounts of antibiotics, saline solution and morphine dripping into my veins. The stone passed from my ureters into my bladder, and they sent me home with even more morphine.

I woke up the next morning with the sweetest of hallucinations. (Note to the wary reader, not all hallucinations are bad.) My hallucination included Tom Selleck, Earl Gray Tea and a dozen long stemmed red roses. What a lovely man Mr. Selleck is, and his mother must be so proud, he is such a gentleman.

Once the hallucination had passed, it was time to wait for the kidney stone to pass from my bladder. Sometimes, fear IS therapeutic. The stone eventually did pass, six weeks later, but just as my urologist was prepping me for the ultimate in ultrasounds. I swear, I passed that stone in his office, it was HUGE, and subsequent assay proved it to be 100% calcium.

I'd never had problems with Whidbey stones before. We knew that much of our water supplied on Kidney Island would be well water. We decided that buying a water purifier was just the ticket. We had one installed in our new fridge and bought another one to store water in for emergencies.

We also started buying bottled water, just like those effete snobs did on the East Coast. We were moving to Whidbey Island from the Portland Metropolitan Area, where water is pure and doesn't necessarily kill you. But we understood that there are places where bottled water was actually a good idea, and moving to an island where well water and septic tanks co-exist seemed like a good time to change our thinking.

March into March, 2011. I woke to back pain and the strangest stinging on my right side. It didn't take me long to determine that I was passing another stone. So I alerted my husband, we threw on street clothes and headed off to the local ER.

Being all fancy-smancy on Kidney Island, we have a 35 bed hospital. The ER has a special suite for those of us who have Whidbey stones, and I was ushered into it. Moe, my nurse, took my urine sample and had it checked. It was loaded with white blood cells AND blood, so my amateur diagnosis of Whidbey stones was correct.

(Before I go any further, Moe is her name. Larry and Curly never had the nerve to show up. Moe had everything under control, including my Whidbey stone. Every ER should have a Moe.)

Once I had been cleansed and robed in a hospital gown, John, my better-half, called my friend Mimi and asked her to bring me fresh fleeces (say that ten times whilst passing a Whidbey stone!). One tends to puke and do other impolite things while passing stones, and clean clothes to wear home is critical. In no time at all, Mimi was there with fresh French fleeces, I was IV'd to saline (one tends to dehydrate rapidly whilst passing stones and puking one's guts out).

Within an hour, I'd passed my stone through to my bladder.

Meanwhile, John and Mimi (a retired corporate lawyer) were discussing the legal work we are having done in the week coming. We are rewriting our wills and/or setting up a trust. But John and Mimi found this to be a good time to discuss the particulars and who was I to argue, I was busy, PASSING A WHIDBEY STONE, thank you very much.

So here I am, dying on a gurney, passing a stone that's probably bigger than any diamond John will ever buy me, and they are discussing our 'estate.' Only on Kidney Island. And just when everything was getting interesting, I managed to excuse myself, go to the bathroom, where my Whidbey stone finally made it through my ureters.

The pain cleared up after that, and I was then able to participate in our estate planning. Not to say that I had NO pain, it was just reduced by 85%, and that was fine with me. I actually even learned something whilst Mimi was explaining the fine art of probate to John.

Just when things couldn't possibly get weirder, they did. The ER physician came into the room, reviewed my urinalysis, imaged my kidney, and told me that things were looking up. You bet they were looking up. This guy looked like Fabio, complete with pony-tail. Mimi was panting, John was looking disturbed, and I was wondering how badly I looked, post passing of a Whidbey stone.

Dr. Fabio added an anti-biotic to my IV drips and then left the room. I realized then, that miracle of miracles, I'd just passed a kidney stone without morphine. He left, to spread beauty and joy through-out the ER, where I understood that patients lined up for Whidbey stones when he's on duty.

(Insert applause and cheering)

Things continued to improve. Nurse Moe came into the room and joined the conversation on our estate planning. At one point, the discussion paused, and Moe, young mother of 2 kiddies, asked if it was more painful to give birth or pass a kidney stone. I admitted that I'd rather pass a kidney stone and her little face puckered. "But you don't have a baby to take home" she lamented.

My point exactly.

I'm 58 years old. The only kids I want are grandkids - in fresh French fleeces, no less.

Eventually I was detached from my IV and sent home to strain my urine until I discovered the offending stone. We made the drive home and arrived to find another Kidney Island phenomena, our power was out.

So here I am, on Kidney Island, straining my urine by flashlight. What's new up your way?


  1. Well as soon as I'm done *cringing,* I'll let you know!

    I never understand why they don't pulverize stones as soon as they start to cause pain. Is it a test of your pain tolerance, or is Dr. Fabio just a sadist?

  2. I suspect it's because laser therapy (or other alternatives) are expensive. I have wonderful insurance, but they didn't know that. Better to give the poor soul a drip of morphine than set her up for multiple complicated procedures with fancy medical tools that she can't afford, and most kidney stones do pass.

    Next time, I'll try to put on make-up before I pass a stone. You never know when Dr. Fabio is on duty . . . did I mention that he was wonderfully tanned for this time of year?????


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