When you weren’t expecting surgery

I know that life throws unexpected things at us sometimes, but there are certain unanticipated events I would prefer to avoid.

Like surgeries.

Last Wednesday, I had been feeling weird all day at work. I’ve had some kidney issues this year, but they’ve all been on my right side, and this pain was on my left. I thought it might be a kidney stone, but I also thought maybe I was just having really bad cramps or had eaten something that hurt my stomach. But there was also pain in my back, though I was trying to ignore it.

I went through the entire workday, but something simply felt off, and I was hurting pretty badly. My solution was to go home and go running. Listen, I don’t always make the wisest decisions in life, and this was probably one of the unwise ones. It turns out that, even though running often makes me feel better when I’m sad or even feeling a little sick, it’s not helpful for all of my ailments.

I got home and quickly showered so that I could go meet some friends for dinner. I was talking to my sister on the phone one the way, and she told me I probably shouldn’t go to dinner if I really wasn’t feeling well. I should have listened to her, but I didn’t. I showed up at one of my favorite taco places, but within three minutes, I left to go to the ER.

I’m becoming all too familiar with that place.

I was given lots of pain meds (after they only blew two of my veins that night), and then I went back for a CT scan. Surely enough, it was a kidney stone. The doctor told me it was a very large one and was the cause of the pain I had been feeling all day. But he said it was far enough along that it had almost run its course, so he sent me home with pain meds and another medication to help it pass. My sweet friend Bonnie had come to the hospital in case I needed a ride home, but apparently I was OK to drive, even after everything that had been pumping through my veins. She was a real trooper and followed me home and even stopped at two different pharmacies with me (we were misled to believe one was a 24-hour pharmacy, but it was not).

When I woke up the next morning, the pain was worse, and it was in the same spot. I was worried that somehow the stone was stuck. Bonnie called me to check on me, and thankfully she hadn’t left for work yet, because she ended up driving me back to the ER. The doctor there found that the stone was indeed an obstructive stone, which meant that it was so large that it had actually gotten stuck and was blocking stuff inside me, and I needed to have surgery to remove it. I told Bonnie to go to work since it was probably going to be a rather long day, and then my mom ended up coming to be with me. It was a rough day—none of the pain medicines they gave me were working, so they finally gave me what they said was the strongest medicine possible, and it sort of helped.

Bonnie and Michelle are keepers.

I was admitted to the hospital, but my surgery couldn’t be done until Friday, so I was basically just treated for pain all of Thursday and the majority of Friday. My mom stayed with me most of the day Thursday, and then my sister stopped by for a bit, and then Bonnie came back with my friend Michelle to help bring some smiles to my rather miserable situation.

I didn’t get much sleep that night, and I had to disconnect the heart rate monitor completely so that the machine would stop beeping at me. (I have a naturally low resting heart rate, but the nurses wouldn’t put it on a lower setting, so I told them I wasn’t going to wear it.)

Finally, the time for the surgery rolled around the next day (at which point I finally put on the hospital gown they gave me), and my mom and sister were both there at this point. Before taking me back to the operating room, the anesthesiologist gave me something that was supposed to relax me, but I don’t remember a thing after that until I woke up. I asked where my Wheat Thins were (priorities, people), and then I said I needed to talk to my sister and my mom. I briefly got to see them, and my sister told me the surgery was not successful.

Say what?

Apparently the stone was so large and in a difficult location that the doctor was unable to get it. He tried multiple times but told my mom and sister that if he had done anything more, he would have lacerated my ureter, which would have led to much worse complications and a much more extensive and invasive surgery to repair it. So, somehow he was able to push the stone back up into my kidney. I currently have a stent inside me that I have to wear for two weeks until I go see the doctor again for a different surgery that will hopefully get rid of everything.

But I didn’t have much time to react to any of that news—I was immediately taken away from my mom and sister because I wasn’t breathing right. They weren’t allowed to come back there with me, and the nurse kept telling me that I needed to breathe. I was still very woozy, but I thought I was breathing. She shoved breathing tubes up my nose and told me to breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth, but I don’t think I did a very good job because she took those out and then put an oxygen mask over my face. It was kind of a scary 30 minutes or so of not knowing if I was actually breathing or not. According to the machine beeping at me and the nurse coaching me, I wasn’t.

When I finally returned to a normal state, I was able to see my family again, and I was taken back up to my hospital room. I really just wanted to get out of there so that I could make it to my niece’s first birthday party the next day. (Yes, I know going was overdoing it, but I couldn’t miss that party for anything in the world—not even surgery.) My precious sister and heart-of-gold mom had bought me a bear while I was in surgery (we named him Bow to go along with my koala named Tie), and my mom took care of me all night and checked on me so many times to make sure I was still breathing.

If I could not go through this again, that would be great.

I don’t like still being in pain, and I really don’t like that the surgery didn’t work and that I have to go back for another one. I don’t understand why any of this happened, and maybe I never will. But I do know that I am so thankful for my people. I don’t know what I would have done without my sister, my mom, Bonnie, Michelle, the caring doctors and nurses, and the multiple people who kept texting me to check on me.

We’re all going to face some crappy situations in life, but sometimes we need our people to help us through—and faith that everything is happening for some greater purpose and that we are going to survive those tough times.

Life sure can be ugly, but love makes it so much more beautiful than we could ever imagine.

8 thoughts on “When you weren’t expecting surgery

  1. Hi, Natalie
    I know the story all too well of not wanting surgery. I recently had a hysterectomy and I could not have made it through without my family. You are stronger than you know, hang in there, feel better soon.

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