A Day and A Night at Bristol Hospital



It all started on the way home from a late night of work. Those all too familiar twinges in my back and groin that signal the onset of a kidney stone attack. Certainly I was not looking forward to the upcoming hours of pain and associated difficulties.

If you have never had a kidney stone before, let me tell you a little about this carnival of pain. A kidney stone is created when a deposit of calcium forms into a large and problematic stone inside the kidney. This stone interferes with the passing of urine from your kidney, to bladder and out. Your body needs to move these fluids and when it cannot, it lets you know. Invariably you will piss blood, have extremely painful spasms, dribbling, and host of other small twinges and spasms of Old Testament fury. I have been told by several nurses and doctors that passing a stone is as close o labor pains as a man can feel and I have noticed an increase in their sympathy.

There are a few different ways that a person can deal with kidney stones. I have had several before, so I know the options. You can blast them ultrasonically which is relatively painless and efficient. I am too fat for that procedure. You can laser it provided that it is the right type of stone and accessible endoscopically, they can go get it (a painful situation to say the least), or you can pass it. Passing the stone is the most common approach and I resigned myself to the hours of pain ahead. However, I did not know at the time that I would be dealing with an iceberg to my Titanic.

The pain progressed rapidly and by 11:30 things were really hot. I was doing my usual pacing, showering, fidgeting dribbling and swearing. But this time, the pain was broader and my back and legs hurt too. Boy this must be a big one! I told my wife. She nodded sympathetically and went to bed. There was nothing she could do for me and soon my mood would be most foul and she didn't want to be there for that phase. The pain increased and there seemed to be no progress. You can usually track the location of the stone once it starts moving by noting the location of the sharpest pain. By 4:30am the pain had not moved and I knew I was in for a long night.

7:30am came along and I knew I was in big trouble. This stone was going to require a trip to the hospital. There they would give me blessed IV pain killers, but more importantly drugs that would ease the spasms and allow me to relax so the stone could move. I went upstairs to tell Deb that I would be driving myself to the hospital. This too had been done before. There was nothing she could do for me at the hospital and they wouldn't let me out until all the pain medicine went away, so I would go by myself. I woke her up to explain the situation. When she woke up and looked at me, I was told that she would be coming with me to the hospital. I was yellow, and pale and sweating and it was obvious to her this was no small bit of gravel I was moving but something larger. Away we went.

Bristol Hospital is not too busy in the early morning and I was processed pretty quickly. As I said, there is genuine sympathy for people in my plight and I was whisked away to an examination room. I knew that soon IV drugs would be coming to my aid but first I had to give them a sample. I managed to dribble out about 25ccs of crimson urine. It was obvious I was passing blood, but they sent it off to the lab for confirmation. I waited. After about twenty minutes a nurse and the doctor came into the room. "You may have a kidney stone, Mr. Ravlin. We will give you something for the pain, then we will send you in for a CAT scan."

Twenty minutes later I was feeling groovy and was on my way to the CAT scan room which they keep in a refrigerator along with all of the other x-ray equipment. They wheeled me up to the machine, looked at my girth, looked at the machine, looked at me, at the machine... How much do you weigh Mr. Ravlin? I mumbled my response. He's too big for the machine! I heard. I was wheeled outside the room and abandoned. Forty minutes later they came and brought me back to the exam room. Forty five minutes after that, the doctor came back and said that I would need an IVP Contrasting x-ray to determine the size and location of the stone. Radiology showed up quickly and they wheeled me back into the cooler. I was put on the hard, cold x-ray table and told that a doctor of radiology was called and he would have to come down and give me the dye. I told them I was cold, so I was given an extra blanket and left.

Over the next NINETY FREAKING MINUTES I dozed off. I was finally awakened by my wife who was cursing about something. Also, the pain medicine had worn off, I was still cold and not very happy. My wife told me that an old man across the hall from me had asked to be moved, because he thought I was dead and it was giving him the willies.. Apparently, he could not see my wife from the angle he was at. Strangely, I was not comforted by this event. Twenty minutes later, the nurse from the ER showed up and gave more pain killers. Shortly after that, the doctor finally arrived to give me the dye. I asked him what took me so long and was told that he was just paged about five minutes ago. He went on to explain that they were going to take a number of x-rays to follow the progress of the dye and the entire procedure would take up to two hours. Two hours and fifteen minutes later I was brought back to the emergency room where the nurse came in and said that I would be discharged very soon and was given more IV painkiller. I went to sleep, it was 1:30pm.

I woke up at 2:15 to hear the nurse tell my wife that I was being admitted and scheduled for surgery later that afternoon. The stone was completely blocking my kidney and something needed to be done quickly. What I was most concerned about was the fact that the nurse was delivering this news. I had not see the doctor assigned to me in the ER since I was sent to Radiology. The wait to go upstairs took another 75 minutes. During that time, no one came to check on me. No doctor, no nurse, nobody. Finally at 3:30 I was whisked upstairs to the OR where my urologist and an anesthesiologist were waiting.

Due to a number of factors, it was decided that I would receive a spinal anesthesia. I thought this was cool, because now I could be awake to hear and follow the progress of the procedure. What I was unprepared for was the very strange feel of this type of anesthesia. I was basically paralyzed from the stomach down. I was asked repeatedly to try and move my toes and the used that pointy wheeled dough docker to see if I had feeling. I could not move. I felt nothing. We have all had our foot fall asleep and suffered that prickly numb feeling. The effect of the spinal block was not like that. There was absolutely nothing.

As the procedure went on I could feel the pressure of the doctor rummaging around down there. My body was being uncooperative and the doctor was having a hard time. In the end, he put in a stint and a Foley Catheter with external bag. For those not up on the medical lingo, a stint is a tube inserted for the purposes of stretching the route from kidney to exit. The catheter is a tube that drains urine directly from your bladder to a bag. After the surgery, I was admitted for the night and I must say that the staff on the G floor was efficient and friendly.

The next day I was released but the fun did not end. Over the course of the next month I would undergo three more procedures, piss blood, have a tube in me from the tip of my penis to my kidney and have other cool medical fun. But those are other tales for another time. I am back, no more the less for the wear and ready to let fly my brand of cynical ranting.