I’m not a huge fan of feeling helpless.
Especially when grueling agony is involved.
I’ve experienced a lot of physical pain in my life—whether it’s been broken bones, pancreatitis, ruptured ovarian cysts, or whatever else—but last week I went through what is by far the absolutely worst pain I’ve ever felt in my entire life.
Wednesday around 3 a.m., I woke up to use the restroom. When I got back in bed, I felt a weird pain in my stomach and got up again. I looked at my stomach, and it looked sort of inflated and felt kind of hard. Then I suddenly couldn’t move. I didn’t know what to do. I am not very good at describing pain, but I can say that it was nothing like I’ve ever experienced, and I was pretty certain I was dying. The feeling was in my lower left abdomen, so I knew it wasn’t my pancreas (plus, I know that pain all too well), and I knew it couldn’t be my appendix.
The thought of going to the ER kept popping into my head, but I didn’t want to go if it was nothing. I called Baylor Hospital, but the woman who answered said that legally no one could give me advice on what to do. I still described my symptoms to her, anyway, and all she said was, “Ma’am, if you’re in enough pain to call a hospital at this hour, what do you think you should do?” Ugh. I hate when people answer my questions with questions.
For almost another hour, I tried to curl up in various positions to make the pain go away. I figured that I really couldn’t afford to miss work, so I might as well just suck it up. But, it finally became too much to bear, and I sent an email to our AP secretary saying I was going to the hospital and might need a sub that day, grabbed my purse, put on a coat, and walked (if that’s what you can even call what I was doing) to my car. I still had on my glasses, because I was hurting too badly even to put in my contacts.
I honestly have no idea how I drove that morning. I know I was moaning the whole time, and then it felt like I was in a maze trying to find the emergency entrance. I parked in a spot that I didn’t even know (or care) if it was legal, and I stumbled across the street and into the hospital. It would be almost another two hours before an actual doctor saw me and hooked me up with some pain medicine that would at least ease some of what I was going through. But first, a nurse had to try to put an IV in me, and she was struggling. I think she was new. She blew two of my veins and finally had to have a more experienced person come stick a needle in me. I wanted to cry so badly and for so many reasons at that point.
I went through a series of tests I will not recount to the public. Ever. But I will say they were awful, and I would never wish them upon anyone. Ever.
Even though there were nurses and doctors and other strangers throughout the entire emergency room area, I felt all alone. Granted, it was my own fault, because no one knew I was there, but it was very lonely, and there was way too much time when I had no idea where the doctor was or if he still planned on finding out what was wrong with me. My poor nurse Tyler probably started to hate me, because I hit the button to call him to my room simply to ask him if anyone was on the way.
I spent two hours in the sonogram room, where Joseph made me drink two gigantic cups of water but told me to pace myself and then insisted waiting 30 minutes after each cup and 20 minutes between cups before actually examining my stomach with his machine. But, he was a very sweet man and even got me an extra blanket and the ugliest pair of socks I’ve ever donned when he noticed how chilled I was in my ridiculous paper-thin gown. When I finally returned with no answers from that to my hospital room, Tyler said, “Finally! You’re back!” I don’t think he actually missed me pestering him so much, but it was nice of him to pretend.
At this point, I had been there five or six hours, so I texted my sister just to let her know where I was. I think deep inside I knew she would come to the hospital if she knew I was there, and I really wanted someone there with me. I do a lot alone in life, but I needed my sister. I told her not to come, but she did. And I felt better when she got there. Sure, I was pretty drugged up and not feeling much, but the warmth of a sister’s love can overpower morphine every single time.
Shortly after Steph arrived, I finally went back for my CT scan. I had already drunk the three cups of the nastiest lemon-lime flavored concoction a person can ingest that Tyler kept bringing me, claiming they made it easier to read the scan, so I was ready to go. I had to wait 30 minutes between each cup before I got the next. Don’t worry—I was monitoring the clock and pushed the button for Tyler if we made it to the 31-minute mark with no new cup of nasty. I wish hospitals moved as fast in real life as they do in movies and on television.
After 12 hours of wondering why I even had to be in the hospital that day, I finally got the answer. The doctor came back and said, “I have some good news for you: you have kidney stones. Three of them.” How is that good news?! Apparently it was just good that we finally knew what it was. Two of the kidney stones are still in my kidney, and the third had made its way to my bladder. That’s what had caused so much pain that morning, because the stone was passing from my kidney through some very narrow tube that isn’t big enough for a kidney stone, thus causing unbearable pain. The lone ranger stone was supposed to pass in the next few days but is still there, while the others could either stay in my kidney, go away, or eventually travel just as the first did. And there is no way to tell what they will do. Wonderful.
I’m not going to lie—I hate kidney stones. Multiple people (including the doctor) have told me that it’s a worse pain than childbirth, and I don’t doubt that for one second. But I think I came away with three valuable lessons from this whole ordeal:
1. Pain is often part of the process. Some things you go through in life simply have to hurt for a while. After the kidney stone leaves the kidney and makes you hurt terribly, it then causes a different type of pain after that, too. But, once it’s left you completely, the pain is gone, and you can carry on again like normal (whatever that is). You just have to get through that difficult part—and you can. Sure, sometimes people have to help you out along the way, but that just makes them part of your journey, too. Whether it’s doctors, nurses, or the best sister in the world, others will be there to aid and love you through your pain.
2. You can’t live in fear. I am not too keen on the fact that there are two more stones from hell, as I like to call them, just hanging out in my kidney. And I am not a fan of the thought of having to pass the loner kidney stone, either. But I don’t want to waste time worrying about what may or may not happen and when it may or may not occur. It doesn’t make sense to live life with hesitation. Live it boldly, and live it fearlessly. And just remember that sometimes stones happen, and that’s OK.
3. We need people. Life was not meant to be lived alone. The truth is, we need others. I needed doctors and nurses to take care of me last week. I needed my sister to sit with me and quote the doctor in Friends when he joyously says, “Kidney stones!” (I had waited for her to say this—I knew it was coming and truly enjoyed the awkward moment when she said it and then had to explain to the doctor why she said it the way she did.)
I never want to go through the agony of kidney stones again, and I hope you don’t have to, either. But, I hope that when you do face any type of pain in your life that you will fearlessly press through it and trust that the Lord will get you through it. Trust without borders. And I hope that you will have people like Tyler and my sister to be there with you and help you forget about the pain.
Because genuine love is strong enough to do that.
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