The last couple weeks have been difficult, not least because I passed a kidney stone (I have history with the buggers, and I could feel the pop and pressure release) over a week ago. That one took 2 days to pass. But then my kidney kept on being very, very sore (though mostly not quite as sore as before passing the stone). When the pain crept up to the excruciating level, I ended up in the ER. The doctor was not sympathetic, and appeared to doubt what I was saying about my kidney pain. I was worried that there might be bruising or some other lingering damage. Painful infection (these can actually be life-threatening) is also a possible complication, though as my temp hadn’t spiked, I was pretty certain it wasn’t that.
For weird reasons, I was at a hospital about 50 km away from home. It was a smaller hospital, and the CT machine there doesn’t operate overnight. So I had to wait for morning, in raucous pain the whole time, in a chair in the lobby. (Beds were apparently only available for priority patients.) The CT team had a couple patients higher in priority than me for first pics, but they got to me around 9am. Low! And Behold! The pics showed numerous stones in my kidneys. Most weren’t placed low enough to block fluid flow and create the painful pressure famously associated with them. One, however, was located low enough to cause pain, but not all the way down near the exit yet. Imagine my surprise! It was “large-ish” in the words of the physician, who suddenly became much more solicitous than my overnight doctor. I received good care from that moment on.
What seems terrible to say, however, is that both at the time and after analyzing the events of that night in far more detail than I’ve laid out here, it seems that the primary reason for the ungenerous care upon being admitted was that I was able to tell people almost exactly what was going on with me. I described the pain. I spoke of passing a kidney stone and a specific feeling associated. I told them that I couldn’t be sure that this was another stone or whether it might be lingering damage, but that it was sure as heck kidney pain. Finally, I told them that there was no way that this pain could be treated with over the counter meds (I had already tried).
There really isn’t a lot of wiggle room in there for the doc. Metabolic and physiological signs of infection were absent. There was no blood in my urine when I first showed up at the ER (normal for an early-stage kidney stone, and any small bleeding from the stone I passed might have been long over). In truth, if I were a drug addict actively seeking to score narcotics, kidney pain and a professed history of kidney stones (that, in this case, hadn’t been imaged since I entered the Canadian health system) would be an almost perfect story. The one weakness: real kidney stones large enough to cause pain would almost certainly show up on a CT scan.
Now, it’s nice to have images on file showing I have a history of stones, and showing that my left kidney has one of problematic size (though innocent position) and my right kidney has several (only one dropping now). Maybe the next doc can see those files in the system and treat my story more credibly. However, I can’t help but think that if I had been less helpfully informative of everything I knew about my kidney pain and its history, I might have been treated better.
I don’t know for a fact (maybe there’s research out there) that being able to speak with great specificity about one’s problems is or is not characteristic of drug seeking behavior. Maybe it is.
But it sure as hell sucks to be penalized for knowing your body and your medical history and for being able to articulate both plainly and clearly to your provider.
At this point, I think I’d rather know a little less and be able to pass on my kidney stones to a deserving Trump or Trump Cabinet member, rather than keep my knowledge and my stones. If anyone knows anything about donating kidney stones, do let me know in the comments.