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Kidney Stones - Who Needs 'em? by Gene Myers

Kidney Stones - Who Needs 'em? by
Article Posted: 10/17/2010
Article Views: 1034
Articles Written: 209
Word Count: 1671
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Kidney Stones - Who Needs 'em?

About a month ago I wrote an article entitled, BIRTHING A METEOR, which chronicled my first (and hopefully only) experience with an 8mm calcium stone that became lodged between my left kidney and bladder. Too big to pass, it stubbornly sat just outside my kidney and caused hours of excruciating pain; pain that brought me to my knees and induced frequent, gut-wretching vomiting. Sorry to be so graphic, but I want to describe a level of pain that a nurse told me (for her) was worse than giving birth to twins. See, for me pain is either zero or 10, nothing in between. Also, I count putting on a band-aid as major surgery. Minor surgery is performed on other people.

I was told the stone could not be treated until the effects of taking baby aspirin (a daily occurrence for me) was out of my system, which would take 10 days. As an intermediate measure, the meteor was pushed back into my kidney and a temporary stint was installed to 1) keep it there, and 2) open the ureter to aid urine flow. This would rid me of pain except when taking a whiz.

Ten days later I reported to the surgery center at 7 AM and was shuttled into the operating theater within 30 minutes. Although the gurney was padded and relatively comfortable, I thought of myself as being on a slab in the morgue.

Soon, two cheerful nurses and Dr. Ramsey were smiling at me. What were they so happy about? On the other hand, if they were going to "do" something to me, I preferred them to be in a good mood. Same attitude with commercial pilots.

I scooted myself from the gurney to the operating table, which had a chunk removed from the left side where my kidney would be.

"Hey, part of your table is missing," I informed the crew. Why would they use a broken table? I decided to insist on a new one.

"Silly," giggled a nurse, "That's where our equipment will rest against your kidney."

"Equipment? Say, you're not going to experiment on me are you?" They weren't going to put anything over on me. Nosiree.

The other nurse pointed to something that looked like a padded head rest on an automobile seat except it was about a foot from my kidney. "We just snug this up against you and it sends pulses into your kidney, which will break up the stone."

"Ha-ha-ha, exactly right, Nurse Ratchet, Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha," said Dr. Ramsey. (Truthfully, I think I imagined that as they were putting me under.)

However, I do remember the lot of them stuffing ear plugs into everyone including me. Said the device was really noisy. Said they could only do 3,000 pulses or the kidney could be permanently damaged. I hoped the counter on the machine was accurate and did not give me, say, 3,001 pulses and hear excuses later as they removed my ruined kidney that what did I expect because the counter was only accurate to one-percent. Sorry for the extra 30 bangs.

But all went well. I woke up in Recovery feeling rested and pain free. Soon Dr. Ramsey strolled in for a chat...

Remember in BIRTHING A METEOR when I had a conversation with God? I said I did everything right: drank gallons of water, ate mass quantities of fruits and vegetables, and exercised non-stop. So how come I get lumbered with an exceptionally painful stone I asked God. Big Guy said why not, and sort of chuckled like He knew something I didn't. Imagine that!

So Ramsey starts asking me about my diet kind of hinting that I might not be getting enough fluids. I set him straight, challenged him to find someone who drinks more than me; told him to ask my wife if he didn't believe me. He said good deal. Then I tell him about all the veggies I consume. He sort of perks up and gives me this weird look.

"What kind of vegetables, and how often? Tell me your typical day."

Here was my chance to dazzle him with my regimen, see how superior I am, get him to acknowledge I didn't deserve the stone; maybe if God were listening also get Him to see how I had been unfairly afflicted. Before I could say anything, Dr. Ramsey added...

"You know you have more small stones rattling around in both kidneys..."


"Don't get excited. That's typical for all of us. Calcium stones are not problematic unless they travel, which they often do; BUT most are small enough they just pass right on through unnoticed."

"That's a relief."

"Yes, well, that said if you don't change something, you have a 50-percent chance of suffering another of similar proportions within the next five years. Now, go ahead and describe your daily diet regimen."

"At all three meals I eat either organic spinach, broccoli or asparagus. I usually saute spinach for breakfast..."

Dr. Ramsey interrrupted, "You know, we call them calcium stones, but it's when calcium combines with oxalate that stones are formed. Dark green vegetables are loaded with oxalate especially the ones you named."

I could hear God mirthfully giving me an I-told-you-so.

Ramsey continued, "What do you snack on?"

"Mid-morning and mid-afternoon I eat some kind of fruit, some carrots (or carrot juice), and two tablespoons of raw almond or raw peanut butter." I stared at Ramsey and dared him to come up with something wrong with that.

"Almond and peanut butter are loaded with oxalate."

I swear I heard laughter from "above".

"Oh, man!" I whined. "What else has oxalate?"

Ramsey smiled like he enjoyed teaching an ignorant buffoon a lesson. (Come to think of it, I guess he was.) "Chocolate, all nuts, and rhubarb. Also, it's best to avoid tea and cola."

At least I didn't have to worry about the last three items.

He continued, "Probably best not to take calcium supplements, and limit your intake of foods with high calcium content."

"Such as..."

"Such as milk, ice cream, and other dairy products. Do you take vitamin C supplements?"

"Yeah, so?"

"So stop. Use salt?"



I was reeling. Here I intentionally lived what I thought was a healthy life style, and ate accordingly. Now this guy was telling me to stop. Well, not exactly stop since there is no doubt my diet is healthy; it just has a downside of causing kidney stones. I wondered if it took me a lifetime to form the stones or a relatively short time.

Dr. Ramsey looked at me thoughtfully and rubbed his forehead. "You drink a lot of water so you should produce about two quarts of urine a day; and it should be clear."

I smiled. At last I do something right. "At least two quarts; and it's crystal clear."

"Good, good. But consider this: most calcium stones form at night; therefore, drink one to two 10-ounce glasses of water before turning in."

"If I do that I'll be up all night going to the bathroom, but I'll have to wait until the massive wood the water causes to subside first." Now you guys out there know that can be a long time since blue-steel boners do not disappear quickly. If you can't wait damn thing's like second-class lever when you take a leak. Push it down to hit the bowl, and up you go on your toes. Could smack 'em with a hammer and have no effect.

Dr. Ramsey nodded knowingly. "That's the idea. You're supposed to wake at night to urinate. Oh, and while you're up, be sure to drink another 10 ounces of water."

Was this guy kidding? "Am I supposed to get any sleep?"

"You'll sleep better than ever because you'll have peace of mind knowing you're taking action to avoid more painful stones. Besides maybe your wife will appreciate your morning situation. See, water works just like Viagra (as you described)." Wink and smile.

Well now, I need neither excess water nor enhancement drugs for my "morning situation". I have to fight with the "second-class lever" every day as it is. (Hmmm, maybe the blue steel gets chromium plating...) Anyway, he doesn't know my wife. After years of marriage and "ride 'em cowboy" mornings, she considers my "condition" more of a nuisance than a benefit.

For the next two weeks I was given a screen to catch any outgoing stone chunks to be collected in a container and returned for analysis. I amassed quite a number, some quite large. When I turned in my rock collection, I was sent to X-ray for one last look. I was lying on this hard, metal table. Back to the morgue went my mind. Damn thing was hard. Made me wonder if corpses got pressure sores; some call them bed sores. I remember seeing a picture of a slain civil rights leader who was exhumed eight years after burial. He looked as fresh as the day he got his dirt sandwich. My first thought was wondering if he had pressure sores.

"Hey, doc, do dead bodies get pressure sores?"

Ramsey gave me another weird look, like maybe I was on something. As he turned and walked away, he shouted back, "We'll have you back in a year for another x-ray, see if those stones have grown. Remember what I said about diet."

I wonder if Popeye had kidney stones...

Copyright 2010 by Gene Myers author of AFTER HOURS: ADVENTURES OF AN INTERNATIONAL BUSINESSMAN, (2009) Strategic Publishing Group, New York, NY. Available from and and and

New from Gene Myers: SONGS FROM LATTYS GROVE, (2010) PublishAmerica, Baltimore, MD

Related Articles - calcium stone, kidney, pulses, diet,

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