Some of you are aware that I have been suffering from kidney stones for the last 2 years. I also have a birth defect where I only have one functioning kidney. When I get a stone that achieves sufficient size to become lodged in my ureter, or urethra, I am in serious trouble. Different pain for each location, but the result is always the same – 4 to 12 hours of intense back and stomach pain followed by a rush to the hospital ER almost always at night and/or on the weekend. Then CT scan (I’ve had 38 in my life) followed by a visit by the attending only to tell me the stone size and location and that a nurse will give me pain meds until my doctor can perform a scope procedure in the morning some time. By the time I get to the OR the next day I’m willing to do anything. The pain meds don’t do crap. Don’t let anyone fool you. Even morphine only lasts minutes at best. Really the only relief I get is to induce vomiting, I don’t know why. This has happened 6 times in the last 2 years. 4 times this year alone. Oh yeah, I’m self insured, which is another story for another day. Don’t let this happen to you.
Oh by the way. If you do happen to have two functioning kidneys, chances are the ER will just send you home until you pass the stone if it isn’t too big to pass.
My urology group has 12 doctors practicing, all of which I would trust with my life (I’ve used 6 of them). They range in age from just out of school, I’m guessing 30-32 to about to retire, 60-65. I mention their age because interestingly enough the younger doctors are usually better at this video game like procedure than the older ones. They have to be able to remotely search for any problem and grab the stone(s) with the tong and either remove the stone or use a laser to break the stone up into more manageable sizes. All of this has to be done quickly, because the activity causes the ureter to swell around the tool. Finally, prior to exit, because of the swelling, a stint, roughly 20 inch long is placed in the kidney to extend down the ureter into the bladder to keep the ureter open while it heals.
Now if you are following me and are quick, you might be thinking how the heck are they going to get that stint out? Ah yes, turns out there are two ways. One way which I have experienced 5 times, is to have a string attached to the stint that continues from the bladder out the urethra and is taped to my privates. After 3 or 4 days I go back to the doctors office and the PA (physicians assistant), un-tapes the string and pulls like crazy to remove it. Believe me it is a rush and not in a good way. The second way, which I recently experienced, is to have no string but to be scoped again with another device in an outpatient procedure, while NOT under sedation, to grab and remove by pulling everything out. I had the stint in my kidney for 5 months. I couldn’t do anything but lay flat on my back and stare at the ceiling. The pain of the removal was short comparably.
I usually awaken to the smiling face of the recovery nurse telling me to take deep breaths. The anesthesia doesn’t make me as sick as it used to. I’m close with a first rate anesthetist.
I am writing this blog not to complain about my pitiful plight, but to tell you about the cure that my doctor and I discovered, at least for me.
There are at least 5 different types of kidney stones that form in different sizes and shapes. No one really can put a finger on what happens to the body to trigger this situation other than the body chemistry changes. In my case, we have found that I had been screwing around with my diet to try and improve my health and did just the opposite. I made my blood and urine pH (potential hydrogen), which is the measure of acid or alkalinity, to become very acidic (pH of 5)to the point of acidosis . This condition caused the balance of oxilate, calcium and uric acid to be completely thrown off in my blood and urine. Instead of combining with the calcium in my body to be removed in my stool, the extra uric acid, in my case, formed stones in my joints and kidney. In extreme cases stones can also form in your brain. In the joints its called Gout. In the kidney it causes back pain (that’s were the kidneys are) and radiating stomach pain. It’s when the stones break loose that the real trouble starts.
During my last procedure 5 months ago, the doctor broke up 2 large stones which he couldn’t remove because of their size and location. He thought the stones looked like uric acid stones. That was the good news. Uric acid stones can some times be dissolved if the urine pH can be consistently maintained at 7 pH or above. I took potassium citrate pills for 5 months and eventually a CT showed that the stones had indeed dissolved.
Long Term and Prevention
I know much of what I post falls on deaf ears. This will never happen to you, will it? I continue to post for the same reason that I would yell a warning at some one who was in the path of an approaching bus.
- Drink lots of neutral clean water (I drink a gallon a day)
- Eat mostly green vegetables or other alkaline foods (limes and lemons are surprisingly processed in the body as alkaline)
- When you eat protein eat a little dairy with it, but limit proteins to 3 or 4 meals per week.
- Test your urine with pH test strips weekly to avoid problems.
- Learn about how to maintain a body and diet that is above 6.5 pH
- Don’t eat sugar, sugar and anything else results in an acidic pH
- most of all don’t believe me – do the research yourself