Medical Bleg

This afternoon, after some exceptionally dull depositions, I came back to the office, ate some take-out lunch, and sat down to do some other work.

At about 2:30, my back started to really ache. I wondered if it was bad posture catching up with me, or something bad that I’d eaten. But the pain was localized just on my left flank, a few inches above my waist. Within twenty minutes, the pain had become intense; it felt like I’d been stabbed and it hurt to stand up. I tried to go to the bathroom to relieve myself, but that was of no avail.

I made a few more phone calls but by quarter after three, I was starting to feel a little dizzy and sick to my stomach, and I couldn’t really focus on anything but the pain. I felt a powerful compulsion to lay down, flat on my back. I let my assistant know I wasn’t feeling my very best and drove myself home.

On the drive back to Soffit House, the pain began radiating out into my left thigh and up to my ribcage. I cried out loud several times on the drive home, shifting about uncomfortably because of the discomfort. I’m not usually weepy when I hurt (pain makes me angry, not sad), but I felt tears coming down my face as I drove.

When I got home, I fed the animals and let the dogs out, and then I went into the bedroom. There, I stripped down to my underwear and laid down flat on my back on the bed. That seemed to help a little bit; it took some pressure off my back. I began to wonder what was going on inside me to cause so much pain, and what I could do about it other than take a drive to the hospital to wait twelve hours for emergency room treatment.

Keep in mind, all this time, the pain is localized on my left side, in my gut, closer to my back than my belly. Since it was on my left, I knew I could rule out appendicitis (the appendix is on the right, and would have been somewhat lower than this) but I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what was going on because I was in so much pain. Granted, when you’re in physical pain, it’s not always easy to think clearly about what’s going on, and I’d had a full plate of depositions and procedural wrangling already that day.

The best guess I had while I was laying there, trying to hold still because writhing around in pain just made it worse, was that I had not digested a part of my lunch properly, and the food had begun to impact my intestine. Nothing about that scenario sounded in the least bit pleasant to me. I knew the first treatment would be a two-pronged chemical attack — some sort of strong agent to be taken orally, and an enema to make things work better on the other end. Then I wondered if there might be some kind of extracorporeal treatment available, like an ultrasound gun, to help break down the problem area. If none of that worked, I know from the very nasty experiences of others that the ultimate solution is surgery to remove part of the intestine.

Thus thoroughly horrified with my medical condition, I heard The Wife came home. She was understandably disturbed to find me home so early and so unwilling to get up off the bed to greet her. She had to deal with the guy who installed our blinds (I’d completely forgotten about that), and then she give me a cup of tea to drink.

At about quarter to five, I suddenly felt an intense need to urinate, so I did that. When that was done, the result looked murky and reddish-purple. Oh, great, I thought. I have porphyria. George III went mad when he was not much older than I am now, and this just in time for Halloween! But that didn’t really make any sense; to my knowledge, there’s no history of anything like that on either side of my family tree.

I stayed on my back and the pain gradually receded for about an hour or so. The next time I had to do my business, all was normal. My back and leg were still a little bit sore, and my mood was not what you’d call “elevated,” but nothing really hurt and I felt comfortable walking and standing. The Wife made a spot diagnosis that I had passed a kidney stone. It seemed to make a lot of sense, and I wondered why I hadn’t thought of that myself. Granted, I’m not House, but the more likely reason was I was in pain and not really thinking as well as I could because of that.

We went out to get avgolemono and dolmodes for dinner and I even had a glass of wine. While I’ve felt a little bit subdued, I seem okay again as I write.

So here’s the medical bleg — is The Wife right; did I pass a kidney stone? My symptoms, including the relatively quick onset of symptoms and then quick recovery, seem consistent with this. Many details of my story are consistent with it — nausea, sudden sharp pain with radiating echoes in the region of the solar plexus, and what may well have been blood in my urine.

But I didn’t feel any stone pass out of my body, nor did I see one (granted, they are quite small). And why would kidney stone pain radiate into my leg? And while this was painful, painful enough for me to send myself home from work early, it was not the most physically painful thing I have ever experienced.

Loyal Readers with experience in this regard (and you know who you are) or with medical training are especially encouraged to comment.

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.


  1. I was in my early to mid-40’s when I suffered from a kidney stone. The pain started like a sore back muscle, localized to the mid back region and on one side. The pain intensified over several hours, until I asked to be taken to the emergency room. A three hour wait ensued before I was seen and admitted overnight. I was put on an IV and had to pee into a filter until the stone passed. The pain is caused by a stone which passes relatively freely from the kidney , travels down the Ureter to the bladder, and gets stuck at the entrance to the bladder. It blocks the passage of urine, and causes backpressure in the ureter to the kidney. That backpressure becomes high enough to generate pain. Normally, the treatment is fluids to cause further urination, and if that doesn’t relieve in a couple days, you get immersed in a bath and blasted with directed ultrasonic energy to help break up the stone. The bottom line to the whole issue is that you are not drinking enough water. Coffee and soft drinks and juice help, but more water is the best answer. If you’re not peeing, you’re not drinking enough water. P.S., this is how GOUT is usually triggered, especially in men. Bottom line: DRINK MORE WATER.

  2. Arnie is right. I’ve dealt with this twice. It ain’t pleasant! I now make it a point to drink at leat 60 oz of liquids a day (sorry, beer doesn’t count). The apins can radiate to all kinds of glands in the area (if you know what I mean).Cranberry juice, apple juice and oj are supposed to help in preventing the collection of calcium in the kidney. So drink those.The pain can be so intense that even drugs don’t help. I told the hospital to not revive me if I went into a coma (Toni got a kick out of that).

  3. Bless your heart TPL. I hope that you go see a doctor just to make sure.

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