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Kidney stones are just plain mean

They say it’s like giving birth, but not as much fun. Instead of an 8-pound, 6- ounce bundle of joy for all your trouble, one only has the memory of the excruciating pain of trying to pass a kidney stone measured in mere millimeters.

As I write this, I am preparing myself emotionally for tomorrow’s kidney stone procedure scheduled for high noon in the town of Redding, approximately two hours away from home. I’ll miss a day of work, but I have no choice in the matter. It has to get done.

Kidney stones, if you’re unfamiliar with them, are the result of a buildup of dissolved minerals on the inner lining of the kidneys.They can grow to the size of a golf ball while maintaining a sharp, crystalline structure.

In my case, 14 millimeters is too large of a stone to pass on its own, thus the kidney operation, which as I recall from a number of previous bouts takes about an hour-and-a-half, but sometimes longer.

A kidney stone usually remains symptomless until it moves into the ureter, the duct by which urine passes from the kidney to the bladder, when symptoms of kidney stones become apparent, accompanied by severe pain and intense nausea.

According to years of research, people with kidney stones have a significantly higher risk of developing chronic kidney disease; a fact that makes me wonder when that shoe will drop next. But I digress.

The leading cause of kidney stones is a lack of water in the body, say experts. Diet is also a factor.

Stones are more commonly found in individuals who drink less than the recommended eight to 10 glasses of water a day. When there is not enough water to dilute the uric acid, a component of urine, an excessively acidic environment in the body can lead to the formation of kidney stones.

The problem for me personally is that I already know all this stuff. Apparently I am genetically predisposed to forming kidney stones despite a healthy intake of water. They just seem to keep forming regardless.

Kidney stones are mean.

If only they were made of gold nuggets instead of calcium oxalate, I’d be rich by now. Instead it’s my doctor who’s getting rich.

By the way, this isn’t my first rodeo when it comes to kidney stones. Since 1997, when I had my first attack while living in Santa Cruz on the shore of Monterey Bay, I’ve probably suffered through at least 15 episodes or more, requiring four or five operations over a 21-year period — but then again I’ve lost track of the exact number by now.

I have all the faith in the world that my urologist, an old hand by now at removing stones big and small from both of my duplicitous kidneys over the years, knows what he’s doing.

To reiterate, the stone he’ll be zapping with a laser is too sizeable to pass by itself, perhaps requiring the addition of a stick or two of dynamite to help finish the job.

I’ve also had stones chiseled away using ultrasound or Shock Wave Lithotripsy, a treatment that causes the stone to fragment into small pieces that can more readily pass through to the bladder and then painlessly out of the body.

I’ll spare you the gruesome details and you can thank me later. Suffice it to say that I’ll be knocked out for a few hours from the anesthesia and none the worse for it, except that I have to return a week later to have the stent removed.

One of the happier aspects of the situation — and I admit this freely — is looking forward to the drugs. At 62 years of age, I could use a deep, sound sleep for a change. I prefer being thoroughly unconsciousness until the dirty deed is done anyway.

By the time you read this, I will have presumably recovered enough after spending the weekend in bed watching reruns and consuming gallons of water to return to work.

In conclusion, perhaps one day — the sooner the better — researchers will discover a drug that dissolves kidney stones without all the fuss.

Until then, be sure to drink plenty of fluids.

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