First overnight hospital stay proves to be a teaching moment
I have reached the age of 60 with never having stayed overnight at a hospital – a fact that amazed one of my nurses during my recent bout with a kidney stone.
“You’ve done pretty well,” she told me.
I hope under the influence of morphine – my new best friend – I managed an appreciative response.
I’ve never had a broken bone and have only been put under twice in my life – for wisdom teeth and my 50th birthday present of a colonoscopy – so my experiences with hospitals have been nonexistent.
On July 28, though, I awoke with a pain in my abdomen that was at first worrisome and then became unbearable in a few short minutes. I was hoping for appendicitis as I understood a little about that ailment but my much smarter wife told me the pain was one the wrong side of my body.
After a trip to the emergency room – an education in itself – and a CAT Scan, it was determined that I had a rock – a kidney stone – of seven millimeters in size that even impressed the health professionals. I had to stay overnight in order to have surgery the next day.
Here was my first lesson. Apparently what I didn’t realize about sharing a room with someone was the thin cloth curtain that bisected the room has magical powers. Close it and it becomes soundproof. My curtain wasn’t working too well as the multi-tasking activities of my roommate, who seemed affable enough, was more than apparent through the night.
He liked to watch TV, while talking on his cell phone, which he never turned off, while playing video games. His favorite was a boxing game.
I really didn’t feel up to requesting a bit more civility as the morphine had taken me to a slightly loopy happy place.
The initial surgery was not successful in removing the stone, which I named “Rocky.” It was not in a very good location to blast it with a tiny laser and instead the doctor installed a stent to relieve the pressure.
Once the stent had done its job, another doctor used the laser to dissolve the stone about a week later. The stent remained to make sure all of the tiny chunks of the stone were flushed by my system.
A chemical analysis on part of the stone was being undertaken to see what caused it so my diet could be altered. Hopefully they will not tell me that my infrequent Scotches and cigars were the culprits.
Then the stent, which itself caused a lot of pain throughout its entire tenure, was removed after another week. So the stone and its effects were with me for about three weeks.
So, what did I learn in these teachable moments? I gained huge respect for anyone handling chronic pain. My dad was someone who lived with pain for years due to spinal arthritis. I now have a tiny glimpse of what that is like.
I learned I needed to drink much more water than I ever had. Water is the kidney stone’s natural enemy and I was instructed to consider drinking two liters a day. Nothing was said about mixing it with Scotch, though.
I learned why morphine is a controlled substance. It’s too good at masking pain – way too good.
I learned that in a hospital I needed to repeat my name and date of birth about one hundred million times to literally everyone with whom I came into contact. I also learned I had not memorized the names and doses of all of my prescriptions and I needed to know this information.
Since I carry my cell phone with me religiously my smarter-than-me-wife snapped photos of my prescriptions so I now have them on my smarter-than-me cell phone.
I appreciated the friendly and efficient medical staff at Baystate Medical Center, who was unfailingly helpful through this little journey.
My next leg of this adventure will be the bill from my insurance company. Gee, could I have a little morphine when I open the envelope? Agree? Disagree? Drop me a line at email@example.com or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.