Today’s post was due to be a quick look back at a 70’s comedian who for a variety of reasons seems to have revisited me recently. However, events today rather overtook that idea and I find myself posting something of a public information piece.
I was due to be at a meeting this morning in London so had to leave early to stand a chance of getting through the rush-hour traffic. In the UK it isn’t unusual for those who live in London to assume a 9am meeting is routine. Clearly they forget the world exists outside zones 1 and 2 and quite how much of a challenge it can be to get there for a prompt business hours start. As a result, it was a quicker breakfast this morning – after all, I can always catch something on the run a little later.
No surprise then when the usual end of the M4 approach in to London brought the predicted snarl-up. However, this time it came with something less predictable a quiet but growing stomach ache – or was it back ache, I couldn’t really be sure. A few updates (hands free before you ask) to those important to me and the traffic had moved as far as Chiswick. The problem was, so had the pain – now clearly in the back and moving down to the groin and where was the nearest public toilet please … As the next 30 minutes progressed, so did the pain and as I reached the Hammersmith flyover the decision had been made – this wasn’t right and it was time to make a quick diversion to Charing Cross Hospital. By the time I got there the discomfort was intense coming in waves and feeling like searing stabs with a red hot needle.
Although many people criticise the National Health Service (NHS) – and I know it has it’s challenges, I cannot speak highly enough of the treatment I received today. I made a conscious decision not to raise the alarm with my partner as it quickly became clear what the issue was and there was nothing to be gained by him sitting in A&E convincing me the pain wasn’t as bad as it felt. I’m sure I will have to defend that decision in the not too distant future but it seemed sensible at the time. I don’t think I would make that decision again – but that’s after the event.
After a quick triage and some investigations the diagnosis came back via a most helpful and direct Canadian registrar. ‘You have a kidney stone’ I’m told ‘It’s just a small one – someone hasn’t been keeping hydrated have they?’
The suggestion that the crystals of calcium and phosphorous were ‘small’ was neither reassuring or at that particular point believable. A couple of courses of ultrasound to break up the stone followed and gradually the pain subsided over the next hour.
Based on the findings of the day, I’m reasonably lucky. I don’t look like a natural stone former, I’ve just been careless in how much I’ve been drinking over the past couple of weeks. Perhaps a little too much alcohol and too few soft drinks have contributed too. Although I can’t claim the examples shown in the picture are anything to do with me – they give you an idea of what you are trying to pass through your system and why it might be so painful !
One helpful nurse points out that the resulting ‘gravel’ feels like peeing a bowling ball wrapped in barbed wire. Of course, I thanked her and asked if she had ever considered a career in advertising before asking whether this was likely to recur and what you could do to prevent it (if anything).
Reassuringly, the consultant’s view was that I had just become dehydrated over the past few days (it had been hectic – no excuse but an explanation) which had allowed some crystallisation to start. As long as I stay hydrated this shouldn’t recur. But he also passed on some pointers which I will repeat as I wouldn’t wish that pain on my worst enemy (well maybe my worst but not many others).
1. Drink enough ! – The target is apparently 2 litres per day and if you can include something citrus (or orange juice/cranberry juice) you can help prevent the risk
2. Try to ensure your calcium levels and Vitamin D levels are adequate – a multivitamin or a good glass of milk should do it
3. Watch out for foods high in sodium if you have a recurring history of kidney infections
4. If you have had more than one episode – try to reduce foods high in oxalates such as chocolate, spinach, rhubarb, tea, and most nuts
Thankfully, I’m now feeling a lot better and things are back to what passes as normal ! So not my usual type of post – but if you too are a skip breakfast type and don’t drink as much fluid as you should then just keep this in mind. By the way – the nurse wasn’t far off in her description .. so it’s in your interest to listen up !