Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Guest Post: Destroying the Death Star (Part 2 of Urology Series)



Reed Soper was born and raised in southern California. He considered attending the Lord's University but opted for BYU instead where he met Kathryn Lynard doing his home teaching. They married in 1992 and have seven children. Friends and loved ones often describe Reed as "difficult" or "a slow learner." In his spare time, he likes (virgin) pina coladas and getting caught in the rain. Check out Reed's previous guest posts, including the MMM 2011 Post of the Year on his vasectomy.

I have come to the realization that there are two types of people in the world -- those who pass kidney stones and those who don't. For many years, I was blissfully in the second category. Then one morning at about 4 a.m., I moved from the second category to the first category. I made the move initially on my bathroom floor and completed the transformation at the local emergency room. This experience prompted me to do some reading up on the topic and I learned that kidney stones lie in wait and will pass at moments without warning. (1)


I related these stones to the most obvious comparison – Star Wars. The stones were like little Death Stars moving about the universe (my kidney) waiting to attack and heap pain upon unsuspecting Alderaans or moons of the planet Yavin. It was determined that I should get an x-ray to determine how many little Death Stars might by lying in wait.

I sat patiently in the urologist's office awaiting the interpretation of my latest x-rays. His assistant entered, young, bearded and devoid of humor. He delivered the news to me gently. "You have an extremely large kidney stone that could cause you a problem at any time." He let me know that it could get stuck, perhaps for days, when passing. We went over the options:

1. Roll the dice and see what happens; or,
2. Opt for a lithotripsy.

Lithotripsy is a procedure where kidney stones (the litho) are exploded (tripsy?) into small pieces (hopefully) using ultrasonic waves. Kind of like the rebels destroying the Death Star in Episode 4. (2) I could explain the procedure in greater detail, but suffice it to say that it will run you your full deductible and then some. Based on the experience I had with the first two kidney stones I passed, I was scared into the procedure. We set the date and I hoped that the forces of gravity and inertia would cause the massive stone to wait.

On the appointed day, my wife delivered me to the hospital and returned home to get the kids off to school, etc. The plan was for me to go through the process and then call her when it was time for me to return. One of the things I like about hospitals is the egalitarian sense you feel with the other patients. There is this feeling of "togetherness" because we each pass through degrees of humiliation, centered upon the wearing of the "gown." (3) As I changed into my gown behind the privacy of the ceiling-mounted curtain, I was handed a sharpie. At a hospital, a sharpie could mean a lot of different things, but in this case it was a pen. I was asked to write "this side" on the side that would be receiving the ultrasonic bombardment and put a big "X" on the side that was not. I will be the first to admit that on Christmas morning, children's birthdays and trips to IKEA, when embarking upon an unfamiliar process I will often not read the instructions and see how it goes. I was a little alarmed that I was apparently the one responsible to prepare "cliff notes" for the doctor, technician and/or janitor who would be operating the machine.

Soon after, I was given anesthesia so that I would be still during the procedure. You might think that bombarding your body with ultrasonic waves would be painless. If you think that, you would be wrong. I did my thing and took the injection and fell asleep and they did there thing and bombarded (4) me. After waking up I had to prove my ability to eat and drink something in and pee something out before I could call for my ride home. At that time, I was scheduled for a follow-up x-ray to (hopefully) confirm that the big rock in my kidney was a bunch of small rocks (5).

After getting home, the anesthesia wore off completely. I had some meds which I gladly took. My wife described the point of bombardment on my skin as "looking like a cigarette burn." It is possible that they took my deductible money, knocked me out and used me as an ashtray, but I was hopeful. Soon after, I got the next x-ray and headed back to the urologist. The humorless assistant came in the room with the x-ray in hand. "We didn’t get it." In that split second, approximately a gagillion things went through my head including: WHAT?!? IT IS STILL THERE???!!!!! (6) He thought that they might have grazed it and that I'd likely be passing some smaller stones in the coming weeks. (7) He was right about that. The No-Humor man suggested we wait a couple months for my kidney to heal and then do it again. (8) I told him I'd need to think about it which was my way of saying I am leaving and never coming back.

Several months ago the Death Star cleared the planet and began its attack run on the rebel moon (9) (fancy talk for saying it left the kidney and headed through painsville for the bladder). It took about three hours and a trip to the ER to pass. Several days later, the Death Star made its appearance, looking all innocent and unassuming; about the size of a bb and looking like a pebble you might find in your shoe. Based on what I have been told and my track record to date, I assume that at this very moment, the Emperor and Lord Vader are constructing a new, more powerful Death Star in my kidney. My only hope is that I will have Ewoks to help me through it.

(1) I also read that cola drinks apparently are suspected to be the primary culprit in the creation of the stones. I have to dismiss this because Coca Cola has been my one consistent friend throughout my life and has never done anything bad to me ever. I believe blaming coke for kidney stones is nothing but a smear campaign.

(2) I can remember seeing that episode in the theater many times when it first came out. Did it always start with the title “A New Hope”? I can’t remember anyone ever referring to that at all, but I was aware that there were supposed to be 9 episodes and this was one in the middle. My 11-year old heart could hardly wait.

(3) Of all the things to call it, why a gown? Why not “backwards robe” or something like that?

(4) If you think I am being over the top with my use of the term bombard and explode, those are my doctor's words, not mine.

(5) Or a bunch of small lights that extinguish and disappear like with the Death Star.

(6) To quote Red Leader in episode 4, "Negative negative!, it didn't go in. It just impacted on the surface."

(7) Kind of like from the movie "Deep Impact" where their missiles didn't destroy the asteroid, it just split it up. And unlike the movie "Armageddon" where a brave Bruce Willis heroically gave his life to ensure the job was done right.

(8) I might have been willing to do this had Luke Skywalker or someone else with the force would be aiming the equipment this time.

(9) Here is my major beef with Episode 4. The Death Star destroys planets, right? It shows up to destroy the rebel base on the moon on the far side of the planet Yavin. So the Death Star is basically stuck in first gear trying to get around Yavin to get a clear shot at the moon, right? Still with me? Hey Grand Moff Tarkin, are you forgetting something? The Death Star blows up planets! Blow up Yavin, and all of its moons will either be destroyed by the debris or be thrown out of orbit, thereby losing their atmosphere and destroying all life. We could have chopped a good 20 minutes off that movie if they really thought this through.

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