10 May 2002

When Kidney Stones Attack

Yesterday was already going pretty badly when I started to get abdominal pain at around 16:00. It initially felt like indigestion, but so did my last kidney stone attack…

About twenty minutes later there was a wave of pain and nausea. I made it to the bathroom, rallied a little, but eventually had to give in and have a lengthy conversation on the big white telephone with Ralph and Hughie.

Let’s skip a little. You don’t need to know every detail of what it’s like to spend time lying on a corporate restroom floor, panting hard and trying not to scream.

Around 17:00 I was still in agony. I realized there was no way I could get home—I wasn’t capable of sitting on a train, far less walking to the station. I needed painkillers desperately. I wandered back towards the kitchen, where there used to be a first aid box. As I walked past the cube farm, I saw that Evija was still at work. I asked her if she had any painkillers. She had aspirin, or something else. I was vaguely aware that I was probably bleeding internally, so I opted for Something Else. Evija offered to drive me home. She got the car, and I met her outside the office.

It was cold outside, but I felt feverish. I began to shiver. I couldn’t understand why the pain hadn’t stopped—last time it was all over in half an hour. I wasn’t sure whether my situation justified a trip to the hospital, but I was fairly sure I couldn’t take much more of the pain.

I wasn’t sure what the rules were regarding hospitals and insurance. I remembered that sara had had investigative surgery at a hospital near Harvard Square, but in my confused mental state I couldn’t remember its name. After the car hit a couple of bumps and ended up behind a huge queue of cars, I realized that we could easily end up in traffic for an hour, and there was no way I could give directions. I could barely string three or four words together.

Mass General Hospital was just across the river, and it was really easy to get there. Evija did some crazy driving, and before I knew it we were there. The hospital staff brought out a wheelchair for me; I was shaking uncontrollably, presumably in shock.

Before long I was hooked up to a drip feed. Apparently I was severely dehydrated from hyperventilating. They gave me morphine, but it wasn’t enough to get rid of the pain, so they gave me 30mg of something else that I didn’t catch the name of because my head was swimming from the morphine…

There were lots of questions. I think I answered them all correctly. Questions about insurance, allergies, phone numbers… Blood was taken, and I lay there waiting for the drugs to kick in. Apparently the hospital said Evija couldn’t see me, and she called sara, who arrived as the pain was starting to ease.

The doctors wanted a urine sample. I was on the second intravenous drip before I felt that might be a realistic possibility. It turns out to be incredibly difficult to urinate while sitting on a metal trolley, listening to doctors discussing someone’s colostomy. When I finally managed it, there was a wait of an hour or so for the test results. The doctors decided I was safe to go home, though I still felt nauseous. We walked out and found a taxi.

The taxi driver’s cologne was so strong that sara had to open a window. I was concentrating on controlling my mounting nausea, and too busy to identify possible causes. We made it home, I staggered out of the taxi and got as far as the front door. Once inside I crashed into bed.

Several ibuprofen were enough to deaden the pain so I could get some sleep. This morning I made it to the pharmacy and picked up a prescription of Percocet—which I needed to do in person. If the pain comes back, I’m to take one, wait twenty minutes, and only take the second if I really really need to. (I gather that Percocet addicts often switch to heroin or other IV drugs.)

So, I’m spending the day in bed, drinking energy drinks and Gatorade and feeling as weak as a kitten. I think I’ll make some toast in a minute or two. Later on I have to contact my usual doctor and sort out some treatment for the kidney stone. Probably something involving lasers or sonic disruption.

My iMac just arrived, but I’m too tired to unpack it.

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