For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been dealing with what I’ve been calling “kidney stones.” The truth of the matter is a bit more complicated than that. The story starts over eight years ago, just after having my heart attack. The day I returned home from the hospital, I started feeling an intense pain that landed me back in the emergency room of our local hospital. That turned out to be an impassable kidney stone. Due to my health and the volume of blood thinners I was on, they couldn’t take the standard shockwave approach to dealing with it. When they tried alternatives, the amount of blood was enough to cut the procedure short and they ended up placing a stent so that I would no longer require the pain medications (which they were growing concerned about causing other problems) or a hospital stay. The plan was to come back and deal with it when I was well enough to do so.

Having received two stents in my heart the week before, I made an incorrect assumption that there wasn’t an expiration date on the stent they placed. (Very stupid.) I was no longer in pain and my heart issues took priority. The doctor who had installed the stent was out of network. I kept meaning to find a new urologist, but stupidly didn’t and I’m paying for that now. The stone rarely came up as more than medical history in the years between. I’ve remained on the blood thinners since and wasn’t comfortable with the thought of going off them for another procedure. (I’ve been off them for two weeks now and it’s causing me considerable stress, but not having this dealt with was… stupid. See a trend here?)

This type of stent, however, is meant to be temporary. Eventually, it failed, breaking into many unpassable pieces. My body responded as it should, by attacking it, leading each piece to become calcified with new stones. The stone it had been holding at bay was also eventually released. When I went to the hospital at the start of the month, I thought it was just that one stone, but it was more like an asteroid field of debris scattered between my kidney and bladder. The scan they showed me was lit up like a Christmas tree.

I had to spend several days in the hospital for pain management while they waited for the blood thinners to leave my body. I’m resistant to most pain medication, so it took a bit of time to find something that worked effectively and then they had to balance it with anti-nausea treatments to keep me from being sick. After a few days, they attempted the first procedure–to clear the bladder and remove the larger pieces of stent, including one that was now wedged between the two–and that was largely successful. I went home the next day to recover.

The second procedure, a week later, was anticipated to be significantly more challenging. The goal was to clear my kidney of what remained, but unfortunately they only managed to get about 70% of the material before having to stop and place a new stent to hold what remained at bay. I left the hospital later that day groggy and not really understanding much of what transpired. I’m still finding out little details.

Both procedures involved heading in (not saying how, but I was mercifully unconscious) with lasers to break up materials and vacuum it out. That makes two years in a row where I’ve had people shooting lasers inside my body in January. It’s a habit I hope to break.

Apparently we’ve reached the point where shockwave therapy is back on the table as an option. This causes a fair amount of internal bleeding, so it’s likely I’ll be pulled from the blood thinners again. A normal person with just a plain old stone would have started here and been done, so it feels like the worst might be over. I do still have the new stent–which comes with its own special, but predictable, type of pain–but that can be removed after the shockwave has broken up what remains. At this point, I’m told that I need to heal. The next session hasn’t been scheduled yet and could be weeks away.

If that wasn’t enough, I was informed this morning that they also noticed a cyst in my kidney. Apparently these are quite common, so I’ve been told not to worry about it. Easier said than done, but it’s good to know they are on top of things and will be monitoring the situation.

This latest medical saga isn’t done, but at least there’s no more hospital stays with their infernal IV lines and needles in my immediate future. (I neglected to mention that my IV line was accidentally ripped out when they were moving me back to my hospital bed after the first procedure. By some miracle, my arm ended in exactly the perfect position for the needle to pull out without ripping me to shreds. I’d like to thank the universe for that one small mercy it showed me. When it happened there were audible gasps in the room and I couldn’t bring myself to look until a stunned nurse said there was no blood.)