Nov 9, 2012

Stoned {a novel}

At the end of my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, my friends April and Elizabeth showed up on my doorstep with ice cream, Oreos, and the gift of their companionship.  We laughed and cried and relaxed in the comfort of home (so I could wear pajamas) and I went to bed at 10:30 with a smile on my face.

Four hours later, though, my smile was gone.  I woke up at 2:30 a.m. with pain in the left side of my lower back.  Initially I thought it was a muscle spasm or a pinched nerve, but I couldn't find a comfortable position or stretch in the right way, and the pain kept getting worse.  It wrapped around to my abdomen and the intense ache became cramping and searing pain.  I tried lying on a hot pad, which helped, but not enough.  By about 3:30 I was throwing up and crying.  I hurt so much.  Actually, I was sobbing on the bathroom floor, resting my head on the open (and very dirty) toilet so I didn't have to move my head very much to throw up.  Garry sat with me, his hand on my back for moral support.  He kept asking if I wanted to go to the hospital, but I refused.

I was having vivid flashbacks to the night before I was admitted to the hospital for my PICC line infection 20 months ago.  I was 13 weeks pregnant with Kate.  I was sent home from the ER with "the flu."  The next 36 hours were horrific as my fever spiked, my pain intensified, and I vomited relentlessly.  It wasn't until my temperature was nearly 104 (because a blood infection was raging) that I went back to the hospital and the ER docs took me seriously.  By that time I was so sick that I nearly died.

So even though I was in agony two nights ago, I did NOT want to go back to that place. The memories haunted me.  I couldn't face it.  Somehow I thought that the triage nurse would turn me away.  Or that I'd have to stay indefinitely.  I think I had a panic attack in the middle of my pain attack. It was crazy.

Then "call Karla" popped into my head.  Karla.  She's a gift of a friend, someone who happily came into my life when she moved here in February.  We had an instant connection, I became her visiting teacher, and now we get to work together with the young women in our ward.  I knew she would come and stay with the kids so I wouldn't have to go to the ER alone.  Once Garry called her (and of course she jumped out of bed and drove over immediately), some of my panic receded, I got control of my emotions, and I agreed to go to the hospital.

The ER was deserted.  Garry helped me hobble into the waiting room (I could barely walk, and was bent at a 90 degree angle).  Someone got a wheelchair for me.  I curled up in a little ball and flashed back to the morning Garry wheeled me into that same room 20 months ago.  The similarities were unsettling.  Thankfully, a doctor saw me immediately and a crowd of people attended to my needs.

Within a few minutes a nurse tried to start an IV.  I'm a hard stick.  My veins are crappy. She tried to get the line going three [verrrry slow] times, and the attempts were so painful. Finally the fluids--and the meds--started flowing.  Once the Morphine and the Zofran hit my system, I began to return to reality.  I could think and speak and open my eyes and hold still.  The world took on color again.  It was like an epidural taking effect after being in the throes of hard labor.  It was a miracle.

Why do I feel compelled to take pictures of my IVs?

Hanging out with my "knight in dirty old car."
A CT scan revealed a 4-5mm kidney stone.  I had classic symptoms, but I was oddly euphoric that my pain had a cause and a cure.  It was classified as a large stone, on the borderline between passable and surgical.  I had a kidney stone eight years ago, so of course I had considered the possibility that my pain originated there this time, but I was so relieved with the diagnosis.

This is my super-sarcastic, life-is-so-much-fun smile.  Note how red my eyes are from crying.
For me, the pain truly rivals natural childbirth--the moment when the baby is crowning and everything is on fire and the world is black.  It's really that exquisite.  The difference with kidney stones is that there isn't a beautiful bundle of joy at the end.  At least the pain stops.


Armed with a diagnosis, some drugs, and my CT scan on disc, I was discharged.  At 8:00 a.m. I made an appointment with a local urologist.  He could see me at 10:30.  I got in bed and starting texting friends to make arrangements for my little kids for the day. Amazingly, the first three people I asked were willing and able.  Such a blessing!  Garry got everyone ready for school and began delivering children to their various destinations.  He had just enough time for a quick shower before transferring Zach from the middle school to the elementary school, and then he went to work. He is almost out of vacation days for the year, and I want him home for Christmas, and I knew my friends would take care of me.  And they literally did, all day long.

My dear friend Melanie drove me to see the urologist.  I was pretty loopy, partly from my pain meds and partly from having been up half the night and purging my body of all nutrients.  She helped me walk and fill out forms and talk to the doctor.  Her nursing career and alert brain and witty personality made the visit so great (and kind of hilarious). Dr. Moody said the kidney stone was actually 6 mm.  After explaining things, he said I had a 5% chance of passing the stone on my own, and I'd be miserable and/or drugged up the whole time.  He strongly recommended surgery.  We scheduled for 7 a.m. the next day.

Having taken another dose of pain meds, I was really goofy and nauseated on the way out of the doctor's office.  Instead of leaving me in my empty house, Melanie took me to her house and tucked me into her guest bed.  She brought me tissues when I had a breakdown, and she fed me chicken noodle soup, and she sat on the couch and talked to me all afternoon.  Elizabeth visited, too!  It was so lovely to have someone take care of ME like that. Thanks, friends. :)

Melanie and Karla brought dinner for my family.  Garry rounded up the kids from Ashley, Jenny, and Desi.  He picked up my meds from the pharmacy (total cost for four prescriptions: $1.16!).  We all went to bed early and slept soundly.  Hooray for that.

This morning, another friend, Jennie, picked me up just before six and took me to the surgical center.  Garry stayed home to do the morning routine with the kids (it's complicated and pretty hard to hand off to someone else). Jennie got to be up close and personal with all my meds and health history as the nurses prepared me for surgery.  It was nice to have a good friend along for that!  I'm so glad I wasn't alone...and that she didn't take pictures of me in all of my early-morning, about-to-have-surgery glory.

Only 15 minutes passed between the time I walked toward the OR and when Dr. Moody showed up in the waiting room to tell Jennie that the surgery was successful. Hooray! Jennie took me home and tucked me into bed just as Garry left to deliver the non-school kids to their homes for the day.  I slept.  Later Jennie delivered my new prescriptions ($0.86 for three).

The rest of the day has been quiet and restful.  My pain and nausea are receding.  I have slept and watched a movie and talked on the phone in a perfectly quiet house.  Ashley, Audra, April, and Becky took care of the Littles all day long.  Garry worked at home so he could attend to my needs, hold my hand, and fetch my food. Julee is bringing dinner for my family in a few minutes. Hopefully the insanity of this week will soon be a distant memory.

And, best of all, my mom is coming to town tonight!  We planned her visit for this weekend way back in September.  The timing now is wonderful.  I hope I'll continue to improve and be well enough to enjoy our time together.
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