Kidney Stone Teaches Me About Care and Healing

Green-smThree weeks ago, as I prepared to go to work I experienced a sudden, severe pain in my right flank.  Although I had never previously experienced anything like this in my life, I had a sneaking suspicion that a kidney stone had decided to change its location.  Since my wife was out of town, and my dog could only be so helpful, I called my partner Dr. Huang, who then drove me to the Emergency Department.  This began a two week journey from which I learned several things which I would like to share regarding our health and recovery.

First, you need to advocate for yourself. The Emergency Department had no empty beds when I showed up at 8 AM, and I was left to sit in a wheelchair in the lobby.  When a medical assistant walked by 15 minutes later, I asked if there was any way I could at least lay down on a gurney in the hallway because I was so uncomfortable.  She took pity on me and within a few minutes wheeled me into a room.  99% of health care workers are compassionate people who truly do want help you feel better. Be sure to let them know what you need.  Ask nicely and say thank you even if you don’t feel great and the staff will bend over backwards to help you.

Second, give yourself time to heal.  My kidney stone decided it did not want to move any further and I eventually had surgery to remove it on a Sunday afternoon five days later.  (Shout out to Dr. Jason Smith of Vancouver Clinic Urology, a kind, compassionate, competent surgeon who took time away from his young family to help me.)  I thought I would get that stone out and just go right back to work the next day.  Which I did. And which was a mistake.  I felt terrible that evening after work and ended up missing most of the rest of the week.  I would like to apologize to the many people that I (or maybe you could say my stone) inconvenienced, but our patients were incredibly understanding.

Third, be wary of antibiotics and take only when necessary.  We all are tempted to take antibiotics “just in case,” but that can potentially lead to unintended consequences.  In my case, some preventative antibiotics that I received at my initial emergency room visit destroyed all of the good bacteria in my digestive system, leading to much misery and discomfort.  Antibiotics certainly have their place, we need to use them cautiously and intentionally.

Finally, allow people to help you. None of us wish to feel like a burden to others, but my recovery really did not start until I started to listen to my wife, and my business partner, and my staff, and allowed them to “handle things” for me until I regained my strength. Helping others makes us all feel great, especially when those we are helping express gratitude and appreciation.

Oh by the way, be sure to drink plenty of water!