Sometimes when you blog you need to get personal. Even on a blog that is primarily about public policy and libertine thought. Most often people are more interested in reading about something personal...this blog will be as personal as it gets.
Since the age of 18 I've suffered from kidney stones. There has been a great deal of speculation as to why but I've never been able to fully shake it. I've been hospitalized once for them and have spent at least two other times in an emergency room because of them.
This last Sunday I got out of bed and felt a burning sensation in my bladder area. If you've ever had a bladder infection then you know what this feels like. If you haven't I'll do my best to explain it. Here it goes:
Imagine having to pee really bad...but instead of pee in your bladder it's a mixture of battery acid, snake venom and some hot magma from an exotic Hawaiian volcano. You respond to the sensation the way you always do by heading to the toilet for a session of "going number one" only you pee and find that it produced very little. You're quite certain that your bladder is empty but the sensation to pee has not gone away. Basically you feel like you're holding it all the time.
A good home remedy that produces good results is Cranberry juice. I go get a gallon of it and starting drinking glasses of it. I can't usually drink it straight so I cut it down with water. After an hour I feel like I really have to pee so I do and now the toilet water has a blush tint. Here's a urinary fun fact: If you're urine has any tint of red or pink in it then it means you're peeing blood. This explains the discomfort from the acid/venom/magma mixture I described in the last paragraph.
After a night where I woke up every half-hour to pee (but didn't really need to) I made an appointment to see my doctor the next day. I peed in a cup and after an analysis they discovered that it was just blood and no infection. This is good news...well relatively good news because I'm still peeing blood.
Since I have a history of kidney stones we both know how to tackle this. I'll take pain medicine and drink plenty of water. If the pain is managed then the stone can proceed. I have another sleepless night with less pain but frequent trips to the bathroom. Then morning came.
I got up and made what I thought was a real trip to the bathroom and when I began to pee nothing happened. This was different though because I could tell something actually needed to happen only it didn't. This told me that the pain medicine did in fact help the stone move along, though it had now moved to an area obstructing the flow of urine. This is progress though it presents a brand new and potentially dangerous problem.
I had to figure out a way to get this stone dislodged before the backup of urine became too much. The last thing you'd want to happen is to cause your bladder to rupture; that could cause toxic shock and may be fatal. I figured I had plenty of time because it didn't feel full.
The first thing I had to figure out was if I could pass any urine at all. With some muscle control and a tiny bit of straining I could produce a small two second stream at a time. At this rate I could empty my bladder in about 45 minutes. I also need to mention that in the 20 seconds it took to produce two seconds of flow I'm in a great deal of pain.
I spent some time thinking about how to fix it and came up with something I figured would work. I needed to get equal pressure around the stone. I need more than a back flow behind the stone I also needed to use whatever urine passed the stone to help dislodge it. Try to follow me on this...I had to get urine past the stone but not out of the uh...body. Basically I had to plug it off. Once I was sure I had close to equal pressure on both side of the stone I clenched a muscle that started the flow in another direction back toward the bladder. I knew it worked because I could feel it moving. I also felt it enough to have tears in my eyes. After unplugging the end I could control (standing over the toilet) it flowed out though stopped after about 3 seconds...it was stuck again only now nothing was coming out at all. This was bad news.
Now I could feel every bit of pressure behind the obstruction. I figured I had about an hour to decide what to do at this point. Keep trying to get it loose or go to the emergency room and have them push it back into my bladder with a catheter. Since I wanted the catheter to be a last ditch attempt I decided to keep at it.
I took a ten minute break because I was in so much pain I couldn't stand it. I knew the last thing I could try was just letting the pressure build up behind it as much as I could stand it and just give it a strain. Not a finesse way of handling it but the only maneuver I had left in my bag of tricks.
I stood over the toilet and concentrated. The pressure built up and built up until the burning was as intense as I could take it. I strained. I felt a sensation in me that I can't describe adequately. Like the focal point of straining was going to cause a problem with a special part of my body. It hurt so much that it felt like if I strained much longer I'd have a blowout similar to what happens when you leave a hot dog in the microwave too long. Blammo.
At this point the stone shot loose and I peed like I had never peed before. I felt relief and pain all at the same time. The good news is that it just looked like urine, no blood.
When I was done I was a bit dizzy and had a raging headache from the stress and straining. It still stings now as I type this even though I'm about eight hours removed from the experience.
I really feel like I dodged a bullet on this one. I'm sure the policies of the Bush administration are responsible somehow. That will be my next post.