“Dragged Down by the Stone…stone…stone”

Dragged down by the stone…stone…stone…stone

By Rob Hoffman on October 23, 2020 at 6:39 AM

Pain, thy name is kidney stones. This isn’t news to anybody who’s had one, in fact this is a fraternity I wish I’d never gotten to join, but to my brothers and sisters throughout the land who have known the pain of the pebble, my ureter goes out to you. In my 56 plus years of existence, I’ve been fortunate in that I have not really known significant physical or emotional pain. About the worst pain I’ve ever experienced was from a root canal I experienced about 10 years ago. The dentist, whose specialty was root canals, (Kind of like a proctologist whose specialty is anal fissures) needed to drill right into the middle of my infected tooth. However the pain was too much and no matter how many shots of novocaine she gave me in the surrounding area, she couldn’t get it numb enough to drill into the middle of the tooth without causing me excruciating pain. Finally she said, this is going to hurt for a second, and boy was she right. She plunged the novocaine into the middle of my tooth and I felt pain the likes of which I’ve never known before or since. However, it worked and she finished the root canal with a minimal amount of tsuris. (It should be pointed out that she bore a resemblance to “J-Lo” which made the entire episode somewhat bearable, but not really.)

While the intensity of that one shot of novocaine in the middle of my sickened molar may have been without parallel, the agony of the kidney stone is more of a marathon of pain rather than a sprint. Most stones despite the suffering they cause, do pass on their own, and with minimal damage to the individual. I’ve had at least three or four in my life and while they were unpleasant to say the least, they were more than bearable, and did pass without incident. However this most recent encounter with a urinary boulder has most assuredly cut me to the quick. My body decided to produce a stone of 7 millimeters, a tad too large to pass on its own, and so, with an assist from my urologist, said stone was snatched via basket catheter several days ago. Ah, but if only the tale was so simple.

Sadly, this is not my collection of jewels procured down in the diamond district of New York City. These are a collection of kidney stones, and as you can see, they make their living cutting through your urinary tract with pulverizing proficiency. (Getty Images)

Back about three weeks ago I felt a slight twinge in the left side of my groin. I didn’t give it much thought and went about my business doing some yard work. After I showered I felt terrible pain/pressure in my groin, plus a sharp pain running up or down, I’m not sure which, the left side of my chest and stomach. It went away for a little while, but then came back with a vengeance around seven o’clock. The pain was excruciating, coming in waves and not relenting. In addition, I couldn’t really urinate which seemed to be a large part of the problem. By this time I figured out it must be a kidney stone, and I felt like it was just a matter of time until I passed it. I went to bed and somehow fell asleep (passed out?). I woke up around five thirty in the morning, urinated like a teenager, and pronounced myself cured. I told my wife that I felt great and was on my way to work. However, like the eccentric “ghostbuster” in the movie Poltergeist who after performing an exorcism of sorts on the house of the unfortunate family in that movie, announced those infamous words, “This house is clean,” I was sorely mistaken.

(Whether we are talking poltergeists or kidney stones, it’s better to be safe than sorry. You Tube)

As Thursday became Friday I began to feel twinges of pain in my back, ribs, and hip, all on the left side once again. As much as I attempted to explain these all away as if I was the mayor of Amity Island in Jaws, who upon looking down on a cadaver that had literally been chomped in half stated, “Hmm, must be a boating accident,” I was in denial. I went to the doctor who stated that while they couldn’t see my stone on the ultrasound, based on my symptoms I certainly seemed to have one around midway down my ureter. This was followed up by a trip to the urologist who through the more accurate lens of a CT-scan saw my 7 mm stone approximately 90% of the way down my ureter, and most likely not going any further on its own. Armed with flomax and hydrocodone, I was now facing approximately two more weeks before a procedure could be performed. (Thanks a lot COVID testing protocol….and Obama!)

Words to live and suffer by. (Getty Images)

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Over the two week period from when I was saw the urologist to when my procedure would be performed, I had days where I believed I had somehow passed the stone based on how good I was feeling, to days where I truly understood how a life can be ruined by continuous pain. As my fellow sufferers are “painfully” aware, when the pain hits, there is simply no relief. There is no position that works, no painkiller shy of oxycontin that can eliminate it, and an attack can last for 10 or 12 hours before slowly subsiding. Most of the time the pain is caused by the stone making its way through the ureter, cutting and slashing its way through this narrow passage with its jagged edges scraping your inner workings. Imagine a star shaped rock cutting through a garden hose. The ureter spasms, forcing the stone down towards the bladder, and the rest is misery. Occasionally it lands in a spot where it blocks the flow of urine, causing it to back up into the kidney, which is also painful. Then, it can land somewhere and cause literally no issues whatsoever.

While passing a stone out one’s “hose” may sound horrifying, it’s actually a feeling that is more funky than frightening. As fate would have it, I never got the chance. This boulder was simply too mighty for my delicate urinary system. Over the last four days that I carried the stone, I had two nights of complete agony, and two days where I’ve never felt better. When the day for my surgery finally arrived, I was grateful for the opportunity to get off this “rock” and roller-coaster ride. My status had been determined to be positively negative regarding COVID-19, and I was now set to have my internal asteroid eradicated.

They say the look of somebody suffering from a kidney stone is virtually indistinguishable from the look of a New York Jets fans watching his team run a two-minute drill. (Getty Images)

Cystoscopy, laser lithotripsy, and ureteral stent are three things I’ve never said out loud in my life, but they have now played a major role in my life as of October 19th, 2020. The procedure used to eradicate my stone from my person is roughly the equivalent of “blast and grab.” Think the Israeli army’s raid on Entebbe Airport on July 4th, 1976, but instead of involving Ugandan strongman General Idi Amin, picture a mild-mannered urologist playing the starring role. The process went pretty quickly and as far as I could tell, pretty smoothly. Of course I was put out by the anesthesiologist. Anesthesiologists are always such jolly fellows. They really seem to enjoy their work. The operating room was packed with medical personal. There were no less than four nurses, plus the urologist, and the aforementioned anesthesiologist all to blast and gather a stone that was barely more than a 1/4 of an inch. This got me thinking, I’ve had three medical procedures of note in my life, a vasectomy, a hernia operation, and now a procedure to remove a kidney stone. All of these events occurred in my most private of arenas, making me wonder why I didn’t stop after my bris.

Now I’m home resting and doing whatever work I can, and courtesy of the stent that was placed in my ureter, I feel like I have to pee all of the time. In other words, imagine you just drank a 12-pack of Coors Light, and you’ve been holding it in all day, trying not to “break the seal,” but now the time has come. You’re looking for a little privacy so you can delight in a prolonged bout of urinary evacuation. Except, when you’re done urinating, you feel as if you haven’t even gone, and it burns, welcome to life with a stent. I was told that this feeling would dissipate after two or three days, so hopefully that is the case. Either way, on Wednesday, 10/28/20, the stent will be removed by my urologist and that should be that. How do they get the stent out you ask? Um, you really don’t want to know, but remember the classic Led Zeppelin album “In Through the Out Door?” Well, now you’ll have an idea of just what that title involves.

Is this what I looked like when my stone was on the move? Perhaps, it could also be what I’ll look like on Election Night if a certain president gets reelected. (Getty Images)

As this entire drama unfolded, I began to consider man’s relationship with “the stone.” Why do we refer to these “concretions” that are produced in our kidneys as stones? They’re really more star-shaped than anything else. However the term, “Kidney Stars,” sounds like some sort of celebration, and believe me, there’s nothing about kidney stones that should ever elicit celebration. As a species, we as a people have always had a fondness for stones. We write about them, examine them, explore them, we even sing about them. There’s the “Black Stone of Mecca, holy to people of the Islamic faith, and Stonehenge, the famed British archeological exhibit. We are buried under tombstones, enjoy a classic cartoon known as the “Flintstones,” were regaled during the first Iraqi war by Stone Phillips, the “Scud Stud,” you can study stone masonry, and if you’re British and a bit plump, you can weigh 25 stone(350 pounds). If you like smoking pot you can get stoned, and if you listen to Bob Dylan, no matter what you do, or where you go, or who you are, it’s pretty much inevitable that you will get stoned, because at some point, everybody must get that way. If you’re a woman of ill repute, you will be stoned for your behavior, and if you’re a good old boy from Georgia, then you have most likely hung out on Stone Mountain. Let’s face it, the greatest rock ’n’ roll band in the world is none other than the Rolling Stones.

Musically, the word stone, while not perhaps evoking images of romance or valor, is used time and time again in popular song titles. For example…

  1. Like a Rolling Stone
  2. Stone Free
  3. Turn to Stone
  4. Papa was a Rolling Stone
  5. Heart of Stone
  6. Not Your Stepping Stone
  7. Throwing Stones
  8. Stone in Love
  9. Stone Cold Crazy
  10. Roll Away the Stone

Now can you name the artist? Here are the choices:

A — Mott the Hoople

B — ELO

C — Bob Dylan

D — Journey

E — Queen

F — Grateful Dead

G — The Monkees

H — Rolling Stones

I — Jimi Hendrix

J — The Temptations

  • Answer key located at the end of the blog

Let us not forget that at least three of the greatest groups in rock ’n’ roll history are named in honor of the stone.

  1. The Rolling Stones
  2. Sly and the Family Stone
  3. Stone Temple Pilots

We revere the stone for its strength, its staying power, and its consistency. We are but creatures who have built our civilization upon temples of stone. Our journeys end under a tombstone, and we live out our lives within the safety and security of what we dig from the earth in our stone quarries. We are one with the stone, but with all due respect to the legendary Bob Dylan, in a perfect world, really nobody would get stones.

  1. C
  2. I
  3. B
  4. J
  5. H
  6. J
  7. F
  8. D
  9. E
  10. A

If you get 8 or more right, then you are like the immortal Muddy Waters, a true “Rolling Stone.”

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Rob Hoffman

Rob Hoffman

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