Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Torture Tuesdays

A month and a half with the new kidney


A few weeks ago, I thought it'd be a good idea to schedule the removal of my ureteral stent for the Tuesday following my wedding.  Ben and I returned from Washington, Va., Monday afternoon as planned, so naturally, why waste a complete day off and be forced to use up more of my dwindling supply of sick leave, when I could just pop in and pop out or the urologist's office on my second weekday off.  The procedure only takes a few minutes, I'd heard.  I also heard that it was really no big deal.  

What is a ureteral stent you ask?  During my kidney transplant operation, the doctors inserted a plastic tube between my kidney and my bladder.  This tube is used to keep the new ureter from my donated kidney open, to prevent any obstruction of urine flowing through the kidney to the bladder and then out of the urethra.  Lot of medical terms here.  But basically, this tube is supposed to keep you peeing after you have the surgery.

So on Tuesday, on a high from the fabulous weekend and feeling just a tad more rested, I set out after noon to begin my errands.  I went to the courthouse and turned in our signed marriage certificate.  Now, it's officially official official.  Ben and I are 100 percent married and recognized by the state of Virginia.  I did a little happy dance out of the court clerk's office with five copies of the marriage certificate in hand to use for name change purposes.  Despite the rain in my area, the day was off to a good start.  I loaded up the address for the doctor where I was to have the stent removed and drove towards the highway.

I arrived at the doctor's office.  Nice. Clean. Stylish.  No way this place could be a zone for muffled screams, I thought.  I checked in at the reception desk.  "Married!"  I answered, as chipper as can be when she asked me my marital status.  Then I gave my urine sample and waited to be called to the back.  

A male nurse took me to an exam room.  This was your typical exam room.  Exam table with paper sheets, and two extra sitting chairs.  "What are you in for today?" the nurse asked.  I told him I was having my stent removed.  "Oh!"  he replied, a bit shocked.  "You are?"  he asked.  I nodded at him, still smiling, but confused as to why he was shocked.  "I'm sorry, you're in the wrong examination room.  Let me take you to the correct room," he said.  We left the exam room and walked a few doors down to the "correct room."  

My smile faded as soon as we entered the "correct room."  There were machines, machines I didn't recognize.  There was an exam table with paper sheets and a pillow, but it was low to the ground.  There were huge basins on a counter filled with a tinted bluish green water.  And there were strange looking plastic devices in each basin.  The room was cold.  Cold enough to preserve meat...or a dead body.  I grabbed my shoulders and shivered.

"Undress from the bottom down and I'll have a female nurse prep you in just a minute."  The male nurse left the room and I was alone with the scary, unfamiliar machines.   I took off my pants, covered up with the sheet, and waited.  Then a woman came in. She seemed friendly.  I asked her how they do the stent removal.  As she unfolded some stirrups from the sides of the bed (had NO idea those were there), she explained that the doctor inserts a scope into my urethra, looks for the stent, then pulls it out with a grasper.

I'll let that sink in for a bit.

My URETHRA.  WHERE WE PEE.

She finished prepping me then left the room to get the doctor.  In walked the doctor, a really nice doctor, but still I had to keep myself from shaking.  He asked me if I was ready for the stent to come out.  I said no.  I was not ready.  The procedure is over and I'm still not ready.  He tried to give me some reassurance by telling me the procedure is worse for men, and that a male patient before me had actually left the office before having the stent removed.  I contemplated doing the same thing.

It was time to begin.  The machines came one.  The doctor and nurse grabbed several long tubes.  "Just take some deep breaths and try to relax,"  the doctor said.  The doctor said I would feel pressure.  I felt pressure.  I also felt like I wanted someone to slit my throat.  I tried relaxing, I promise you.  But this just wasn't natural.  Things are supposed to come out of your urethra, not go in.  

I clinched the nurses arm and apologized repeatedly for hurting her.  I was breathing, but they were fast and not deep breaths.  "You're going to hyperventilate,"  the doctor said.  "I want alcohol!" I screamed.  I reached deep down into the depths of my being to pull out a strength I didn't know was there. I needed to calm down or else I was going to pass out from what was happening to me.  I could feel the plastic tube sliding out of my insides.  "And we're done!" the doctor said.  I immediately threw my hands up to my face, which was covered in salty tears and sweat.  "Good job!'  he shook my hand, I said thank you, and then the nurse told me I could get dressed.  I didn't put my clothes on right away. I was still trying to recuperate.  I sat up in bed and just stared for several minutes at my feet.  I was trying to make sense of what had just transpired.  Why did I go to the doctor that day?  Did this really happen, I wondered.  I replayed what happened over again in my head and chills traveled up and down my spine, then up again and I shook my head in disbelief.  I slowly put my clothing on.  I was shaking.

I shook all the way out of the doctor's office, into the elevator, and all the way to my car. I had to stop several times while I was walking, just to clear my head or just to stare into space.  Anything to quit reliving the previous 15 minutes. I eventually made it to my car, and drove home.  Ben greeted me with a piece of our wedding cake.  I nearly swallowed the slice whole. 

"Ben...you won't believe what happened to me today,"  I said, as I started to tell him the story of the appointment to remove the stent.  I also told him that I'd pray for him.  I'd pray that he would never have to undergo such a procedure, ever in his life.