This week was World Kidney Day, and I thought it would be a good time to educate everyone about kidney stones! Two weeks ago I ended up in hospital because of them, it was NOT fun.
It started with pain in my back and in the front at the same time on the Wednesday around 10am. At first I thought maybe it was a kidney infection. I tried to get on with my day but ended up cancelling gym when the pain got worse. I stopped at the pharmacy and they gave me muscle relaxers, shame. I also got cranberry juice, shame. After trying to sleep for an hour I realised this was NOT getting better, even after a litre plus of cranberry juice. So I made an appointment with my doctor and waited the 4 hours until my appointment. I just got steadily worse, and my back was the most ridiculous pain I had ever felt. The doctor said it was either a kidney stone or kidney infection. She gave me antibiotics and pain killers and an ultrasound form in case it got worse and I needed to go straight to the hospital in the morning. As soon as I left the doctor’s office, about 50 metres down the road we had to pull over as I needed to throw up from the pain! I was so grateful we were in a big car and able to jump the pavement! We went straight to the chemist to get the pain killers and antibiotics, and again I was throwing up from pain.
I had never experienced this before.
Once home, I had to try eat something so I could take the pills. Success! However I was so nauseas I had to just try sleep. Unsuccessful. I then continued to throw up from the pain on average every hour for 12 hours. The pain was insane and I couldn’t keep the anti nausea tablets or pain killers down. It was horrendous. I tried to sleep upright, but basically I was just sitting upright in the dark, throwing up every so often. If I turned my head the wrong angel to the right, tickets, the bucket couldn’t come fast enough. At 5am I really couldn’t take the pain anymore, and I announced that I was going to shower and then needed to go to the hospital. Off we went, with the bucket in hand. The pain was the same and the nausea was as bad as ever. I made it to the hospital without incident, however, on walking in that streak was done. Shame that guy sitting in reception didn’t see that coming. Or the security guards 5 metres on. Or the admin clerks. Shame, they just pointed to the emergency room and said: “Go straight through!”
Luckily after that I managed to hold it in long enough to explain everything and get situated in a cubicle. I had a urine test, blood tests, and was given a drip for hydration and pain killers as well as nausea. Finally after 20 hours of pain I was finally able to have some relief. It was also nice not throwing up every few minutes as well. It was 6am and we would have to wait until 8am for the ultrasound department to open. So I dozed in and out of consciousness, for the first time in over 12 hours. It was such a welcome relief. At 8am I was wheeled off for my ultrasound. It showed my kidney was very swollen (I didn’t realise how badly until Saturday night reading my report, 1.8cm swollen!), and there were stones. That sealed the deal, I was admitted to the ward and would see the doctor for next plan of action. After a few more hours and drips and some lovely morphine (you know what I’m talking about), the doctor came and checked me out and gave me some meds that would help dissolve them a bit and expand the urethra as well. Then I was ordered a CT scan as well. That was meant to happen on the Thursday but for some reason the Urologist only got me into that Friday morning, which the physician wasn’t too happy with. He came back on Thursday afternoon and was shocked I hadn’t gone yet. He had the same reaction the following morning. So the rest of Thursday was spent on heavy medication for the nausea, pain, dehydration and swelling. I was pretty drowsy from all of the meds plus the morphine so I just slept as much as possible, in between having to unhook and use the toilet every hour or so. Obviously the key is to flush it out, so I was drinking water as well as the drip to flush it out. I was a bit over getting up I won’t lie!
Not how I planned my Thursday
I had another blood test and was then briefed on what would be happening the next morning. I would be needing a fasting glucose blood test as well. Joys. I hate needles and blood tests on a good day, so after having three different needles in me that day, excluding the morphine jabs in my butt, I was a bit bruised and over it. So the next morning someone would come around 5am and draw blood, then I would drink glucose and someone would come back two hours later to draw blood again. I wasn’t happy about it but what can you do. After seeing my mom and Nick I tried to get some sleep. For some reason I felt SUPER nauseas again, so I put the bin between my legs and slept like that in case I needed it! I slept with the bed up at an angle so that the nausea wasn’t as bad. The nurse came in around 10pm and asked what was going on, I told her and she left it at that, probably happy I was saving her some cleaning! I let on and off ok enough. There were only three beds in my room, and only two of us. My roommate was a bed space away, but she was having overnight dialysis, so I heard that machine the whole night. It wasn’t terrible, and actually made me so grateful! Imagine having to have dialysis a few times a week. That was enough to convince me to drink even more the next day!
The never-ending drip
I was woken up at 5:20am for my blood test. She then gave me the glucose to drink. Shame, she wanted me to basically down it. Was not happening! For someone who doesn’t drink tea or coffee with sugar in it, this was ridiculously sweet. I was basically sipping it and pulling a face every time. She obviously had rounds to do as she kept prompting me to drink up! I got it down, eventually, and then the kicker. She explained that I will probably want to throw up, but I can’t, because then I’ll have to stay ANOTHER night and do the test all over the next day. Not keen on fasting again, I prepared myself. Well, there is no preparing for that. I really didn’t think it would happen to me, how silly I was! About 20 minutes in, the first wave came. She said to do whatever it takes to keep it down. Sounded harmless enough at the time! I must say, I haven’t needed to swallow it down before, but it happened THREE TIMES! I would be ashamed, but I feel like I took one for the team, and my medical aid, by swallowing that down three times! One of those times was when the night shift was changing over and at the end of my bed. I just kept my hand over my mouth and as they walked away I gave myself a little chat and swallowed that sucker down. I should mention that this was around 6am now and my back pain had returned around 5am. So I was nauseas from the pain AND the glucose. I then figured that if I have another morphine shot and get the pain to go away that nausea will follow and I’ll have a better chance of keeping it down! So I called the nurse and she gave me an almighty jab in my ass. This left a giant purple bruise for 6 days FYI. If you’ve ever had morphine you know that feeling when it comes over you. The nausea was gone and I was out for the count, thank goodness! Next minute the nurse is back at 7:20 to take the blood again. As soon as she woke me I was like “Take this quickly before I throw up!” She did. She also noted that I was already bruised from the 5am blood draw. Thats me. I bruise easily. I was so happy to have the last blood test done and I could finally eat breakfast and drink water! I had to stop drinking water at 9pm. After breakfast I flushed and flushed and flushed. I was happy to be pain free at this time as well. I had my CT scan at 10am and it was clear! After seeing the Urologist we deduced that it must have dissolved more and passed between 6am and 10am whilst on morphine. Praise the Lord! The pain before that was enough to convince me of choosing a c-section in the future. Even the doctor said its worse than child birth so choose wisely. I have made my decision thanks.
I don’t heart you back
I was finally released in the early evening and so happy to be home in my own bed! I had to keep taking anti inflammatories, flomax, pain killers and stomach cramps meds as well, but just being at home makes all the difference. I started consuming 2L of water and increased it to 2.6L over the weekend. I spent Saturday and Sunday in bed recovering as well. It’s amazing how tired something like this makes you! I went for my follow up on the Wednesday and all clear! I need to go back and see the physician this week and another CT in a month, but besides that I am all good!
So everyone has been asking me what causes kidney stones?
Kidney stones effect one in ten people in their lifetime.
- Urine contains many dissolved minerals and salts. When your urine has high levels of these, you can form stones.
- The most common type of kidney stone, are calcium stones. There are two types: calcium oxalate and calcium phosphate. Calcium oxalate is by far the most common type of calcium stone. Some people have too much calcium in their urine, raising their risk of calcium stones. Even with normal amounts of calcium in the urine, calcium stones may form for other reasons. Oxalate is found naturally in many foods and it is a common misconception that cutting these foods from your diet will reduce the occurrence of calcium oxalate kidney stones. Most kidney stones are formed when oxalate binds to calcium while urine is produced by the kidneys. Rather than cut those foods, eat and drink calcium and oxalate-rich foods together during a mean. This allows oxalate and calcium to bind to each other in the stomach and intestines before heading to the kidneys, which in theory can prevent the stones from forming.
- Most people think calcium causes kidney stones, when in fact a diet low in calcium can actually increase the risk of kidney stones. Rather cut back on the sodium in your diet and pair calcium-rich foods with oxalate-rich foods.
- Uric acid stones are 5-10% of cases. Uric acid is a waste product that comes from chemical changes in the body. Uric acid crystals do not dissolve well in acidic urine and instead will form a uric acid stone. Having acidic urine may come from:
- Being overweight
- Chronic diarrhea
- Type 2 diabetes (high blood sugar)
- A diet that is high in animal protein and low in fruits and vegetables
- Struvite stones are not a common type of stone. These stones are related to chronic urinary tract infections (UTIs). Some bacteria make the urine less acidic and more basic or alkaline. Magnesium ammonium phosphate (struvite) stones form in alkaline urine. These stones are often large, with branches, and they often grow very fast. People who get chronic UTIs, such as those with long-term tubes in their kidneys or bladders, or people with poor bladder emptying due to neurologic disorders are at the highest risk for developing these stones.
- Cystic stones are not very common at all. Cystine is an amino acid that is in certain foods; it is one of the building blocks of protein. Cystinuria (too much cystine in the urine) is a rare, inherited metabolic disorder. It is when the kidneys do not reabsorb cystine from the urine. When high amounts of cystine are in the urine, it causes stones to form. Cystine stones often start to form in childhood.
- Dehydration due to sweating and not replenishing with water leads to less urination. The more you sweat, the less you urinate which lets stone-causing minerals settle and bond in the kidneys and urinary tract.
- Passing a kidney stone is often described as one of the most painful experiences a person can have, and it is not always a one time thing. Studies have shown that having one greatly increases your chances of having another one. Listen to your doctor and make the changes they tell you.
- Another common type of kidney stone is uric acid stones. Red meat, organ meats and shellfish have high concentrations of purines. These high levels of purines lead to a higher production of uric acid, producing a larger acid load for the kidneys to excrete. A higher uric acid excretion leads to a lower urine pH which means your urine is more acidic. With a high acid concentration of the urine, it is easier for uric acid stones to form. To prevent these, cut down on red meat, organ meats and shellfish. Follow a diet of mostly vegetables, fruits, whole grain, and low fat dairy products. Limit sugar in food and drinks as well as alcohol as it can increase uric acid levels in the blood. Crash diets can also increase uric acid levels.
A scary statistic from the NHS is that the number kidney stone cases have increased 115% in 10 years! An increase in obesity may be the cause for the increase of this, which can be mitigated by drinking enough water. Make sure you drink a lot of water, and eat healthily with good portions of fresh fruit and vegetables and limited salt and red meat.
I hope none of you have to experience this in your lifetime!
The nurses at Ethekwini heart hospital were INCREDIBLE. They were all so lovely and nice, and you can see they really love their job. If you know any from the 3rd floor give them a shout out for me!
Here is a great video showing what happens in your body CLICK
Have you ever had a kidney stone? Tell me about your experience, did you also wish for death?