9 Lost Days

kidney stoneI have been absent from these pages – and virtually absent from life – for nine days. And, here is the story…

A week ago Wednesday (July 22nd, the date of the well-debated post on the Match Tiebreaker), I woke with constant pain in my lower-left abdomen. My self-diagnosis (aided by WebMD.com) was diverticulitis … an inflammation of a crevice/poach in the intestine.

I walked around with the pain for three days and finally went to the emergency room on the fourth day to confirm the diagnosis and get needed anti-biotic to cure the problem. The doctor agreed that it was probably diverticulitis, but wanted to do a cat scan to be sure. He said that same pain can be from a variety of different ailments.

Kidney Stone

After three hours of drinking the dye, waiting for it to travel, taking the scan, and waiting for the results… the doctor said, “We were both wrong. It was a 4 mm kidney stone.”

He gave me a prescription for the powerful pain killer Oxycodone and sent me home to wait for it to pass (which normally happens in 48 hours).

That Saturday, Sunday, and Monday (Days 4, 5 and 6) I did virtually nothing but drink water (to help flush the stone), pee, and sleep from the pill. But nothing changed.

Plan B

So I went to Plan B … Exercise. I forced myself to play tennis (very poorly) on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (Days 7, 8 and 9) and, although it is not supposed to happen much, I believe the stone disintegrated and came out on Day 9!

Muscle Atrophy

Tennis buddy Bob Wilkie observed that I must have lost at least 10% of muscle mass on my calves in just that short time of inactivity. And I lost a full eight pounds. It is incredible how fast your body reacts to a layoff!

The U.S. Heath Care System

My other global observation from this experience in trying to get someone to help is the change in the health care system in the last few years…

• Fewer doctors taking on new patients.
• One doctor I called in New Hampshire who was taking on patients had his first available appointment in SEPTEMBER
• The urology clinic that came to the local hospital eventually called me back, but couldn’t see me for two weeks
• And the urology department at Dartmouth never called back after receiving my scans from the emergency room

Without pain now, trying to get back in shape for the mid-summer doubles tournament next weekend at the local college!

P.S. Special thanks for the only good medical advice it did get, from retired Dr. Michael Fenster!!

You have kidney stone experience??

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17 thoughts on “9 Lost Days

  1. Having had two kidney stones many years ago and talked to a few tennis players who’ve had them, the key to prevention is HYDRATION. Think about high school chemistry — nothing precipitates out of dilute solutions but does out of concentrated solutions, i.e. the urine in your kidney. That’s particularly true at night for those of us who like a drink or two. Alcohol is a diuretic.

    I gradually ignored the advice I’d been given on foods to avoid and concentrated on hydration throughout the day and night. Presto. No kidney stones but a couple trips to the bathroom during the night.

    Keith – it would be worth the trade-off! thanks, george

  2. Ouch, George!! Kidney stone! Sorry to hear that. Glad you were able to pass it. At least one part of the healthcare system worked for you – the ER !! (Though I would have saved you the 3 hours using oral contrast!)

    Geoff – the only brights spots in the whole process was the ER Doc and the male ER nurse, who both did a great job! Thanks to all you guys. George

  3. George, glad all back on target now……………….and yes, layoff is amazing what it does to our body mass and muscles……………
    I know you, you will be back on track and fit for Florida.
    Be well

  4. George, glad to hear you are feeling better and most probably rid your body of the stone. Am I crazy or do I only see 4 Fridays in August, unless it is August on the Chinese calendar, of which I don’t have a copy and couldn’t read anyways?

    AUGUST DAYS??? You are right! I will blame my forwarding without thoroughly vetting the facts on the Oxycodone! GEORGE

  5. Hi George,
    Sorry to hear of your ordeal and glad you are now getting back on track .
    I had the same experience here in Saratoga and Andrea had to take me emergency room at 5 am. It was the most severe pain I had ever experienced . Passed it in middle of night in hospital.

    Kenny – i saw your nice NY pix on Facebook. Enjoy your time. thanks, george

  6. Hmmm, I think I see some of your tennis terminology leaking through. Isn’t the intestine a bit crowded for a poach (on a return of serve)? You probably meant pouch!

    Jack – Yup. I blame the drugs for all my errors right now! thanks. george

  7. George: I feel your pain–have had at least four stones–all small–they passed on their own and mercifully the agony never lasted more than 36 hours for me. Pain is indescribable–searing pain combined with abdominal ache and bloating as well as nausea. The first time I was curled up on the couch,self-diagnosed, begging my wife to shoot me in the head. That she didn’t take me up on the offer still astounds me-I -probably didn’t have enough life insurance then!! She won’t make that mistake again.
    Second time I tried to work through it–was curled up under my desk at lunch when one of my partners went to the hospital pharmacy and signed out IV morphine. Miracle pain reliever-I was so euphoric to be out of agony-stone did not pass until a few days later after another horrible pain episode. I never believed the conventional wisdom that the pain is worse than childbirth until a few women that have experienced both told me that yes, it is worse to have kidney stones.
    Hydrate more than you think you need to and maybe get a 24 hour urine collection to look for uric acid content. It is ridiculous that you had to wait so long for a visit-

    Doc – even the docs suffer too! yikes. thanks, george

  8. George, get well soon and I can relate.

    On Wednesday, July 22, I woke up with a dull headache. It was localized on the right side at the top of my head. I thought, “This is strange. I NEVER get headaches.” But I decided to wait it out and took no pain relievers.

    By the next day, Thursday, the headache was a bit stronger, so I popped a few Advils. “No problem,” I thought, and I was pleased to note the pain went away for most of the day while the pills did their thing.

    Friday, I again played tennis, but this time having to take 3 Advils to dull the pain in my head because it was, by then, pretty unrelenting and a lot stronger than previously.

    However, by the time Friday night hit, so did my headache. Despite popping 3 more Advils, the pounding was getting pretty severe. Then I took my blood pressure and was alarmed to see it up around 166/103. I got scared, and with my wife I drove myself to the hospital emergency room. Four and a half hours and one CAT scan later, I was told by the emergency room doctor that there was no evidence of a stroke, bleeding on the brain, or a brain tumor, but my BP was too high and he was not sure whether that was the cause or the effect. He sent me home with some BP medicine, called it a migraine, but then noted that it is “very unusual” for anyone who does not have a history of headaches – like me – to suddenly get a migraine for the first time so late in life. The instructions were to take the BP medicine and as much Advil or Tylenol as I needed and come back if things got worse. Also, see my regular doctor ASAP.

    Saturday, the headache was still there and it hurt like hell, but I found that if I took 3 Advils every 4 – 5 hours it was tolerable.

    But Sunday night, my head pounded almost unrelentingly and no amount of Advil could stop it. All night I tossed and turned and barely got a few hours of sleep. I also noticed, for the first time, what appeared to be a silver dollar sized welt from a bug or spider bite that had appeared high on the right side of my forehead for the first time after I returned home from the tennis.

    This past Monday, the welt on my head was more or less the same in the morning, but my headache started to move lower so it was no longer at the top of my head but started to localized more in about a 4 inch diameter location right beneath my right ear. I also started to feel flu like fatigue, although my temperature remained normal.

    However, as the day wore on, I also noticed that the presumed bug/ spider bite on my high right forehead seemed to be getting bigger. Into the early evening, staring into a mirror, I also thought I noticed several more “bug” bites moving but up into my right scalp and also moving lower on my forehead. But about 11:00 pm, I even thought I noticed several more rash like bumps on and around my right eyebrow and on the bridge of my nose. All of these bumps were also incredibly sore to the touch. And my headache was still pretty much constant. For an instant, I thought “maybe it’s poison ivy,” but then I remembered that I have never been allergic to poison ivy and the probability of that striking me for the first time in my life past the age of 60 was probably as unlikely as my suddenly developing migraines at the same age.

    Playing around again on Google, I suddenly figured it out: Shingles. Everything fit. So, first thing Tuesday morning I made an appointment to see my regular doctor and, sure enough, shingles it was. He gave me a week long prescription to an anti-viral drug, Valtrex, and also told me to continue to take ibuprofen and acetaminophen as much as needed for the pain. Additionally, he insisted that I go see an eye doctor that day because, by then, the lesions were all over my right eyelid and around and beneath the same eye. I did see an eye doctor and was relieved to hear there was no evidence the shingles had yet gotten into my eye, but I was also given anti-viral eye drops to prevent that from occurring.

    I have spent the last week in intense pain from the shingles. They also have gotten a lot worse, spreading pretty much over the entire right side of my head, from the crown down over the entire forehead and down to my eye. But fortunately, and probably due to the anti-viral treatments, they have stopped spreading and, according to a follow up visit that I had Friday with the eye doctor, have stayed away from my eye and cornea. So, the good news is that I am on the mend. I was even allowed to go play tennis yesterday, which I did.

    I hate getting old. It sucks. – Marty

    Marty – I guess i will stick with my kidney stone! I also had shingles (around my waist) several years ago. No fun. (to see Marty’s “Longer message”, see the full post below this one). Glad you are on the mend. See you in October! george

  9. Glad to hear you’re on the mend, George. Did you name your kidney stone? Phil Jackson called his “Kobe” because it wouldn’t pass. Meanwhile, I’m finally back on the tennis court after back surgery in March. My first goal was to dance at our daughter’s wedding in June (check). My next goal is to be back in tennis shape for Texas two-a-days this October. Hope to see you there.

    Joe – great goals to have! See you in October! george

  10. Geez…I’ve got to start drinking water, and I’ve got to get my shingles shot.
    After reading this column, I feel like one of the healthy guys!!!
    (Knock on wood…no episodes of diverticulitis for a year now!)

    Spike, it was you i was thinking about the first three days. george

  11. Glad you are feeling better and getting back to tennis shape. I have never had a kidney stone thank God.
    My father was 1 of 9 kids during the depression and the toughest guy I ever knew and a kidney stone brought tears to his eyes . If this could bring BIG AL to his knees it must be incredible pain.

  12. George I feel and know your pain. I have had kidney stones off and on for over 30 years. Last fall, while playing a singles match, I had to stop playing from the pain. In November I was diagnosed with three large stones, all one cm and larger…too large to pass or for lithotripsy. A Naples surgeon performed Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy (PCNL) at NCH early in December. This is a procedure where they remove the stones after inserting a tube through your back into your kidney. After 3 days in the hospital I went home but was still in severe pain with fevers for two weeks and an infection. This basically knocked me out of the January tournaments. And yes George, like you I lost 10 pounds and much of my conditioning. Now through good advice and research I drink filtered water with lemon juice (cranberry juice will not help) and apple cider vinigar. For all the senior players who experience some surgery it is difficult getting back in shape after the recovery. It is a lot of work as you get older but we do it because we love tennis!

    Doug – One cm????!!! i cannot imagine that big. Mine was a “average” size of 4 mm and that was big enough for me. Size does matter. thanks. george

  13. Glad you are feeling better. I know that is not a good thing to have and I have heard that if you have had one, you are susceptible to more. Don’t know how true that is though but keep drinking. How does gin, vodka and/or wine help the problem??

    Dick – hydration appears to be a key… hopefully beer works too! thanks, george

  14. Yay for plan B! And how frustrating about the state of medical these days! I’m glad you’re OK now! xoxo

  15. Glad to hear you’re doing better George. Renal stones are very painful….generally much more so than diverticulitis. (just had my first episode of the latter 2 weeks ago) I guess I have now officially arrived as a young senior.

    Marty, feel better. Shingles is a bitch.

    Chris – Welcome to The Club! george

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