Last Tuesday August 2nd, I got a sore back in the middle of the night, around 3h00. It was on my lower left, where I sometimes get lumbar pain, but this time it felt strange, like a deeper numbing sensation. I also felt a bit nauseous. The day before we had flown from Madrid to Montreal and I thought the pain was probably from sitting down for 8 hours while holding onto our one year old. I took an aspirin, the pain subsided and I went back to sleep.
The next day was fine, walking all over Montreal, the usual haunts, Ste. Catherine Street, McGill Campus, St. Laurent Street. But again, at around 3h00 on August 4th, the pain came back, this time in the back and front, like a cramp in the lower abdomen. I took an ibuprofen, pain subsided, went back to sleep.
On the night of August 4th, I woke up around midnight with a stronger pain. I really felt like urinating but it did not hurt or burn, it actualy seemed to alleviate the pain. I took an ibuprofen but it had little effect this time. I realized the pain was getting stronger because I became more conscious of my breathing and made an effort to relax and imagine the pain subsiding, as if by concentrating on it I could control it. I imagine it was almost like having labour contractions, but very far apart. Around 3h00 I was finally able to go back to sleep.
Nothing happened over the weekend but then the pain came back again on Monday night (August 8th) , around 12h00 again and bascially stuck around. I started to feel more and more nauseous and stopped eating “normal” food. I had some chicken broth and water on Tuesday for lunch but could hardly rest or sleep. Finally on Wednesday I saw a doctor at a walk-in clinic. He thought it may be kidney stones but was puzzled that it did not bother me to urinate and the lack of fever or blood in urine. They did an X-ray and everything seemed to be normal. He said “we don’t really know what is happening to you, take tylenol and wait and see”. That night I went home and hardly slept again and was really nauseous.
On Thursday (August 11th) I was starting to feel like my body had reached a limit (my private Olympics, all the while watching atheletes breaking their limits in Rio). I had not had a proper nights sleep in three days and hardly anything to eat and was throwing up bile and my urine was a startling orange colour. I was also getting quite annoyed with everything and everybody. Finally my wife and mother convinced me that it was time to go to emergency. So I went to the Montreal General around 17h00 and after about 20 min saw a nurse who asked me to rate my pain on a scale of 1-10, where 10 is “like a truck running over your legs”. I thought a bit and said a 7 or 8. I literally could not stand up straight and felt better all curled up in the fetal position.
Fifty-three minutes after walking into the emergency vestibule I saw a doctor. She did a quick ultrasound which seemed to confirm kidney stones and ordered a CT scan, urine analysis and blood work. In the CT they saw a 5 mm stone about half way down the ureter (from kidney to bladder). The blood analysis same back with high creatinine, a sign that the kidneys were having trouble working. The best part was that I was given morphine and 1 liter of water (intravenous).
I went home late that night from the hospital feeling great. No pain the next day either, BUT I stupidly failed to get the prescriptions the emergency doctor ordered (flomax to dilate the ureter, and morphine). That night was worse than all the others, I got up around 12h00 with lots of pain, nauseous and tylenol doing nothing. My saint of a mother got up around 3h00 and went to get the drugs prescribed at an all night pharmacy. I started taking “the drugs” around 5h00, one morphine tablet every four hours and tylenol every four hours, two hours after the morphine. No more pain. I also tried a “chanca piedra”, a homeopathic pill that my brother used once to break up kidney stones.
The next day was fine (Saturday, August 13th) and the following day (Sunday, Aug 14th), all drugged up, we boarded the plane home. I was worried that I would get sick in front of everyone on the plane, without enough space to writhe around, but it as fine. I saw my family doctor the day after arriving and got blood work done again the following day and everything seemed normal, except for high transaminases, which my doctor thought may have been from taking so much tylenol! I stopped taking the pain killers and had no pain after that.
Finally, more than two weeks later, on September 2nd, a small little twirp of a stone came out. I was just doing my thing, the flow stopped for a split second, and then I saw something at the bottom of the toilet. I assume that the stone entered my bladder soon after I stopped feeling pain (say Aug 15th), so I guess that means it was hanging around in there for 2 weeks.
What caused the kidney stones? Who knows. Diet, the water quality in Madrid (apparently quite hard), not drinking during hot weather, genetic predisposition. I was surprised by how many people I know have actually had kidney stones or that know of a close friend or relative who has had them. If you have, let me know and I’ll add you to my growing data case for advice, in case the stones ever come back!