Image from Nursing Times.
Lying on my stomach with my hands above my head, I wasn’t worried. (Nine people in the room seemed more than necessary for a conscious kidney procedure, but I was introduced to all the focused, smiling faces.) The consultant said there’d be no pain, only when the local anaesthetic was injected into my back. More than the usual ‘sharp scratch’, the needles pierced my skin, one, two then three times – each stinging more than the last. After 10 seconds the radiologist checked to see if the anaesthetic had worked; he checked by making a small incision in my back. I said I didn’t feel a thing (‘phew’, I thought. This was going to be easy!)
And then he pushed a tube thicker than a biro through my back. The pain was more than a ‘rummaging’ people often report from local anaesthetic in their trunk. Pushing the tube in, pulling it back and pushing it in further at a different angle, I started to feel sick. A deep ache enveloped my back, encircling around my front, deep into my womb and bladder. A deep ache that was more pain than I’d experienced in seven years of kidney pain.
As pain hugged at my middle, nausea strangled my throat. Seeing my hands pale and that syringe of purple Oramorph brought me back to myself. Before the radiologist gave the tube a final shove, he injected more local into my kidney. Having an organ pierced with a needle whilst laying conscious is not something I wish to repeat.
One of the nine, a student doctor held my hands and stroked my arm. She didn’t say anything, nor did she need to. I spoke to the radiologist enough to know what was happening and how long was left. Surely the worst of it was over?
After half an hour of inserting a tube into a kidney, the radiologist warned me he’d now try and push a stent in. As tears ran down my face, I prayed I wouldn’t feel it, not after all the painkillers. The flexi-stent didn’t go in (so why did he then attempt a rigid one?). After my kidney was repeatedly pierced and bruised, the radiologist gave up.
Once the tube was stitched in place, and a urine bag attached, I heaved my stupefied body from the operating table to the bed. The Nine looked at me with a mixture of apathy and commiseration in their eyes. I was to be assured that the kidney had been drained, despite the stenting being unsuccessful. A 50% success rate after 90 minutes of the worst pain I’ve experienced (reader: I promise you I have a high pain-threshold from years of hospital appointments).
At the risk of sounding all ‘holier than thou’ (which I assure you I do not intend), when you go through bout after bout of poor health, you re-evaluate aspects of your life. You might realise the cliché of ‘knowing who your true friends are’; you may re-work your career plan; you might abandon what causes you stress and aggravates your health. Or maybe you find an inner strength you didn’t know you had.
In times of health battles, have you felt the need to reconsider your life? What changes did you make? Does leading a more focused life aid your mental health?
Do share your thoughts in the comments section below.