Drink, drink, drink
Drink plenty of water. How many times have you heard that piece of advice?
Yet how many of us manage the recommended 1.5-2 litres (around 3 pints) a day?
In our household there are two who do and another who has finally got the message – that’s me.
Having watched my son and husband suffer the agony of a crippling pain, I am the latest member to join the exclusive ‘kidney stone club’ in our cul de sac.
Not only have three people in our house been caught out by these evil, spiky calcifications that manifest themselves in the kidneys, but one of our neighbours has too.
All of us have gone through excruciating pain and various treatments. My son was unfortunate to be in severe pain for a fortnight before passing a stone. A scan revealed further stones, and he was lucky to benefit from pulverisation or lithotripsy. This is when the stones are literally pummelled to pieces and become much easier to pass.
My poor husband also had several stones and some are still in his kidney. A stent had to be inserted under general anaesthetic and this procedure did not go smoothly, leaving him in less pain but with plenty of anxiety until the stent was removed some months later. Similarly our neighbour has undergone stent surgery.
In my case, it all started late on Thursday – the evening of the second lockdown – 5 November: bonfire night.
Relentless and vicious pain
The only fireworks I remember were inside my body. The relentless and vicious pain was in the left side of my stomach under the rib cage, like a knife perpetually twisting inside me.
My husband wanted to call an ambulance because he recognised the symptoms, but I blamed the prawns on the pizza we’d eaten earlier and declined. With his help I got into bed and tried to relax. Luckily the pain subsided and I went into a deep sleep.
On Friday morning I felt fine, completely back to normal. I even spent 20 minutes hanging on the phone to cancel a blood test the following week at our doctor’s surgery because they’d had cases of COVID-19 and I wanted to be on the safe side and not go in until the quarantine period was over.
Feeling relaxed, I carried out a little research on the Internet and passed off my pain the night before as a bout of colic. I thanked my lucky stars that I hadn’t ended up in hospital needlessly, especially as we have been shielding since March, and with COVID-19 on the increase it was the last place I wanted to go.
Unfortunately, I was forced to rethink my self-diagnosis about an hour later because wham! I was on the floor in agony, sweating and retching. I struggled to bed and expected the pain to die down as it had done the day before. How wrong could I have been.
This time my husband rang NHS 111 and an ambulance was called at around 11am. This was because there was no possible way I could have gone to A&E and sat in a waiting room. I was advised to take painkillers and as the day wore on, I had to crawl to the lavatory more times than I can count in severe pain. I also felt like I was going to burst, but couldn’t pee more than a drop.
At around 4.30pm I was still in agony and, because the ambulance was taking so long (I was low priority, and it took over six hours), my husband called the doctor who prescribed stronger painkillers. These were collected from the chemist and brought to me by my son. He arrived around the same time as the ambulance sometime after 5pm.
The instant the paramedics walked through the door, the pain stopped. I couldn’t believe it. They pressed my stomach, took my blood pressure and temperature (I’m sure the thermometer wasn’t working) and said I was fine and did I still want to go to hospital.
My husband strongly suspected kidney stones and I knew by the relief in his eyes when the paramedics arrived that my best option was to go to hospital. At least I would get a diagnosis. Also, half-an-hour before the paramedics arrived, I’d gone through an uncontrollable shaking and shivering episode and didn’t feel right despite there being no pain.
Heading rapidly towards a hotbed of Covid cases
Masked up, I got into the ambulance and despite the fact I was heading rapidly towards a hotbed of Covid cases at Royal Bournemouth Hospital, I felt oddly relieved to be going there. On arrival at A&E, I was admitted and waited on a chair in the corner of the ward. I felt absolutely shattered, and dozed. All staff wore masks and some had Perspex visors. I kept my mask on at all times.
A cannula was fitted in my arm, blood was taken, as was my blood pressure and temperature and the nurse tried not to look alarmed, but made a hasty exit. She came back with paracetamol and said I had to take them. I explained I wasn’t in pain, and she said they were to bring down my temperature. Apparently it was really high – no wonder I felt wiped out. I carried on dozing, grateful for my own company.
Likely to be a kidney stone
Once my temperature was down, I was moved to another A&E ward. This time I was given a bed. A doctor examined me sometime after 7pm. He said there were several possibilities, but it seemed likely that I’d had renal colic due to a kidney stone and that I should stay overnight and have a CT scan in the morning. A short while later another doctor performed an ultra sound scan of my aorta. This proved satisfactory. I even managed a urine sample, which was found to have blood in it.
They moved me to the renal surgery ward (Ward 18) at around 9.30pm. I managed a couple more specimens before falling into a deep sleep. A doctor woke me up at around 4am and shone a bright light in my face. The phrase, ‘Ve haf ways of making you talk’ sprang to mind. He said doctors worked through the night, and then he scared me by asking if there was a history of bowel cancer in the family, which there is. This put a new seed of doubt in my mind over the prognosis. However, I was so tired, I wondered if I had dreamt the entire episode.
The next morning I was given antibiotics for a urine infection, and a test for COVID-19. Luckily the only pain I had was a gnawing headache. I asked for a painkiller and was offered a suppository! For a headache? I said I’d rather have the headache, so the nurse fetched me a paracetamol. Nobody offered me food or drink, not even water except with the paracetamol. I was on nil by mouth, which worried me.
The ward was full of ladies aged between 19-94 in varying degrees of pain.
At around 9.30am I was taken for a CT scan. By midday I was told I had a kidney stone and it had got stuck between the kidney and the bladder. The good news was that it was small, (4mm), and I could go home. The doctor said he thought it would pass during the next week or so and a follow-up appointment would be booked.
At last I was offered a sandwich but the euphoria of eating was brief. The cheese and onion white triangle was so disgusting I couldn’t eat it. It still gives me a bad taste in the mouth when I think about it now.
A nurse arrived to take more blood. They’d tried earlier, but I’d refused arguing they’d already taken a sample. This time I agreed.
Time to go home
I was given strong painkillers to take home with me, told my Covid test was negative, and one of the doctor’s assistants checked the scan report at my request and said the stone was in the bladder and that I might pass it without even knowing. I felt a bit mixed up at this point, because I thought the doc had said it was stuck. Anyway, that was the sum of the advice. Nobody told me I had to drink lots and lots of water, but having two experts at home who had been through the same gruelling experience, and who continuously slurp water, I have been downing pints ever since. I’m pretty sure I haven’t yet passed the stone. My follow up date is 8 December.
Have a pint on me
Next time you go into your kitchen, have a pint on me, it might save you an incredibly painful experience that can spring on you without warning.
In my short time at the hospital I felt safe and secure and was extremely grateful for a diagnosis. This outweighed all my fears of being in a hospital with COVID-19 patients and I would stress, if you need to go to hospital – go.
I didn’t notice people in beds in corridors, but the hospital was very busy and wards were full. The corridors I travelled along were deserted. The current ‘no visitors’ policy seems to have had a positive effect on the hospital and the way it runs. The nursing staff were lovely.
I was told later that Ward 18 had been split in half and the other half was a Covid ward, but I would never have guessed. It made me feel slightly alarmed, but in my 24 hours at Bournemouth hospital, I never heard a single cough. Even I found that unusual, considering the time of year.
It sounds terrible. After reading this, I will drink more water. Hope the stone passes soon!
I am so sorry you have been so poorly. But even when you are ill you write beautifully. I wish I was so clever. Get better really soon x