It has been over two months since I returned home from Phoenix. My kidney stone adventure has lasted longer than the road trip. Upon my return home I attempted to make an appointment with an urologist which turned out to be a herculean task in itself. You see, I have avoided doctors most of my life, only seeing one when something is broken to get it fixed. My last regular doctor was a pediatrician almost 50 years ago. So in spite of my Medicare Advantage Plan that doesn’t require a gatekeeper, getting the appointment took roughly ten days. The provider wanted a signed release form to get the records from Elk City so I filled it out and faxed to the number on the form. I got no response so I called and they said they didn’t get it, turns out that the fax number wasn’t the one on the form. I faxed to the new number and I still didn’t get an appointment. Two days later after a few more phone calls it turns out I needed to fax the release to Elk City. The women on the phone was nice enough to fax it to them after I got the fax number for her. Finally I got an appointment but my pain killers were running out and I couldn’t get more until I see the doctor. The first appointment in the office nearest to me was the middle of May, but luckily I got one at St Raphael’s in New Haven on March 13th. That was over three weeks in the future and I only had 3 pills left. I decided to stop taking the pills and save the three I have. I finally have a little good luck, the pain didn’t come back.

New Haven, CT
0 Miles

It had been 15 years since I had even visited St Raphael’s, things had changed, just give your name to the person at the desk as you enter, they know you are coming and direct you to your destination. My next bit of luck is the doctor, Dr. Mary Maher, we talked for a few minutes and I knew she is the right doctor for me. She was friendly, explained everything to me in easy to understand terms and most importantly she understood me and my lack of medical history. When she found out I was a tennis player she told me she is a pickle ball player and played at Edgewood Park where I have been playing tennis for over thirty years. While she was reviewing the information sent from the Elk City hospital I asked to see the CT scan but they had not sent them. I showed her the picture of the CT scan I took with my phone. She thanked me and based on that she told me she would be using a laser to remove the stone (laser lithotripsy). I was chastised by a nurse when she found out I didn’t have GP but Dr. Maher told her it was OK because I was a tennis player. All the pre op tests where scheduled except a pre OP screening which needs to be done by a GP (more on this later) and because I didn’t have a GP DOCs urgent care was suggested.

I tried to find a GP to do the screening but I couldn’t find an appointment before my scheduled surgery so I had to go to DOCs. This turned into an interesting experience, the office was in a strip mall next to the Home Depot, a very appropriate location. On arrival they didn’t have the instructions from my surgeon, this could have been the fault of either office. I spent the next half hour making calls to get the instructions faxed over. While I was waiting a doctor came out and was complaining about one of examination rooms not being ready. It seemed to have been under construction for some time. His last comment caught my attention, “This is why the federal government can’t do anything.” Why would a construction project for a profit medical business be effected by the federal government? My answer was it is not and this doctor has a political agenda. At this point the nurse took my vitals. When she took my blood pressure and heart rate I asked her how it looked. She said my blood pressure was okay but my resting pulse rate was 50 beats per minute so she decided to take it on my other side. I asked, “Do you want me to make it lower?” She laughed as if I was joking so I relaxed a little more and much to her surprise it read 43. Next the doctor came in and asked me all the same questions I had answered on line. He then looked in my mouth, eyes and ears. He asked me if I ever put a Q-tip in my ears. I lied and said never. He said, “Good because Q-tips cause cancer and were worse than smoking.” I responded, “But both things feel so good.” He responded, “The ears are a direct route to the heart. They don’t want you to know that Q-Tips cause cancer” This really set off my bullshit detector so when I got home I did an online search. All I could find was a story about an anti-vaxer that refused to have his nosed swabbed for a Covid test claiming Q-Tips contain a carcinogenic ingredient used in anti-freeze. It turns out that a gas is used to sterilize medical products and is used in making anti-freeze. The gas dissipates during the manufacturing process and is not in the Q-Tip when it is used. I guess this is why the doctor works for an urgent care office and doesn’t work at a real practice.

I reported to the hospital on April 8th for surgery. All I can say is it was actually a fun experience as strange as that seems. I had a lot of laughs with all the wonderful nurses. The funniest moment was when the anesthesiologist asked, “What do you do for a living?” I answered, “I’m retired.” She responded, “What did you do before you retired?” I answered “I was a computer technician.” After that she gave me a double take and a strange look so I asked, “What is the matter?” She replied, “I never met a computer person in such good shape” Next the doctor came in to explain the procedure to me. While trying to describe how she was going to use two wires to create a tram-track she used two paper clips to demonstrate. I asked, “I hope you are going to sterilize those paper clips?’ She quipped back, “Don’t worry, we have special sterilized paper clips in the OR.” After a slight delay due to the surgery before mine running long three nurses rolled me into the ER. While they slid me onto to the operating table in noticed two strange looking devices attached to the bottom of the table. I said, “I don’t like the look of those.” One nurse replied, “Is this your first time riding in the stirrups?” Next they tied me to the table to which I mentioned, “This is a good idea, I sure don’t want to run away when you start.” At this point the anesthesiologist put a mask on my face and started listing off what she was administering. Next thing I came too instantly and no time had passed, whatever they gave me worked perfectly, I wasn’t even high. The doctor was the first one to speak to me, she told me it all went fine and she had put in a stent. I asked why the stent when everything went well and she said it was standard and I could forget about tennis the next day. She made a comment about driving home from Phoenix and I told her I drove to Phoenix. A nurse came and had me drink some water and try to pee. I did both and I pissed fire and blood, which would go on for a few more days.

The words renal stent didn’t sound that bad when I first heard them, but once one was inside me my opinion changed a bit. This thing was 26 mm (over 10 inches for us Americans) long and was inserted to the top of my right kidney and extended into my bladder. Now for the first couple of days this wasn’t a problem because of fact that is was still pissing flaming orange (this was caused by the Phenazopyridine prescription). After this had healed I started noticing a strange sensation after peeing, kind of a pulling sensation in my gut. I finally guessed it was the stent being pulled by my bladder shrinking. The doctor later confirmed my guess.

After ten days with the stent it was finally time for it to go. When I entered the examination room the first thing I noticed was the apparatus that they were going to be using to remove the stent. I noticed an LCD screen and a long clear ¼ tube laying on a table. My first thought was to panic and run because they were going to insert that thing into me. But on a closer look I realized that the clear tube was a guard covering the roughly 1/8 inch in diameter device. At this point I noticed the room was extremely cold, so I decided to wait in the hallway. Good thing because it was 20 minutes before the nurse came in to apply a topical anesthetic. While explaining what she was going to do she kept referring to the penis.” I asked, “How long is the applicator that you will be inserting into my penis?” She showed it to me and it was a large syringe with a very short tip. She then explained to me, “After injecting the anesthetic she will be holding the end of the penis to prevent the anesthetic from squirting back out.” Well, all I can say is this made my day. She then told me, “Drop you pants and I will be back with a chaperone.” She returned with another nurse and as they entered the room I warned them, “It is cold in here.” Imagine the Seinfeld shrinkage episode. At this point the nurse injected the anesthetic and was holding on to the penis and we are all laughing. Finally the doctor comes in and announces, “It is time to do a little fishing.” While we are discussing how I can prevent getting another stone she says, “This may be a little uncomfortable.” And inserts the device. At this point I don’t talk anymore, it didn’t hurt but it was unpleasant. The doctor is steering the probe and the nurse is running the tiny little claw used to grab the string on the stent. It takes them about five or six attempts before hooking the fish. Next thing was a very strange pulling sensation and it was out. I asked to see it and it was a long thin blue thing that kind of looked one of those rubber worms that are used to catch fish.

It was over except for the paying. I went and played tennis that night. In an attempt to prevent getting another stone I have made adjustments based on the doctors recommendations. I doubled my water intake, I now drink 4 liters of water a day and I drink a ¼ cup of lemon juice every morning. I have never peed so much in my life, I sure hope it works.