So after dinner Thursday, just as I was posting my previous entry, I noticed that my back was hurting -- odd because I've never had back problems, and I've never known blogging to be a strenuous activity involving large muscle groups, etc. "Hmm," I said to myself. "Perhaps this is some weird kind of indigestion?" I curled up on the couch to see if it would help, but no dice. Ditto my attempts to massage whatever sinews seemed to be knotting up somewhere to the right of my spine.
Almost Dr. Sis (the one in med school) happened to call at that moment. At this point, I was fairly uncomfortable but not sure if I was overreacting to some silly back spasms. "What do you think this is?" I asked her.
"Well, it could be your pancreas, at which point, that's a surgical emergency," she said. "If it gets worse, go to the ER."
Ten minutes later, I was in enough pain to make it difficult to move in any fashion, so I called up a friend, who drove me directly to the hospital. Good thing we went when we did, as there was a sudden influx of walk-ins after I was admitted. As it was, I waited an hour to be treated, and by the time the doctor got to me, I was in tears.
Fortunately, the diagnosis was pretty straightforward: "You have a kidney stone," the doctor said, after a quick trip to the CT scanner (aided by some truly wonderful IV drugs that took all the pain away). No surgery needed either, thank goodness. I was sent home with a prescription for more painkillers, advice to drink tons of fluids, and orders to follow up with my regular doctor in a few days.
So the weekend was less productive than I'd hoped it would be -- even though I was only technically in pain for not quite three hours Thursday night, I was completely exhausted on Friday and didn't really feel back to normal until Monday. My stack of student papers, to be graded by Thursday, is still much larger than it should be. And my birthday, which fell within those recovery days, slipped by rather quietly. (I did get lovely phone calls from my family, but because I didn't want to worry my parents, who were traveling, and my other sister, who was dealing with a nasty paper herself, I didn't mention the ER visit.)
There is a VERY positive side to this: on Friday of this week, I leave for Seattle again. Imagine if that kidney stone had chosen to wreak havoc while I was 30,000 feet over Montana. There would have been no option but to divert the plane to get me to a hospital (you can't confirm the presence of kidney stones without a scan, and there are too many other scary things that could be wrong if you leave the diagnosis at a guess, even if you can administer painkillers to treat the symptoms). So I'm okay with the way things turned out. Relieved, in fact (no pun intended).
I'll leave you with a picture, courtesy of Almost Dr. Sis, who created this diagram of how a nephron works when she was studying for her board exams last year (click on it for a close-up). Truly amazing what these tiny things do and how a small imbalance in their regulation can cause so much distress.
*Credit goes to Almost Dr. Sis for the title too. That was her response after I told her how the Thursday night (mis)adventure turned out.
The Morning After (a Full Night’s Sleep)
9 hours ago