Holidays and Kidney Stones and ER Visits, Oh My!

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by Kevin Schaefer |

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I didn’t plan on spending the majority of the day after Christmas on the toilet with a sharp pain in my side, but it was a rather fitting end to 2020. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t escape this year without at least one visit to the ER. 

Oh, the joy of kidney stones.

My adventure began on Christmas Eve. After a visit to my sister and brother-in-law’s house for my niece’s birthday, I felt an intense pain in my stomach. At first I thought it was the result of my ongoing digestive issues, so I instantly regretted eating a cupcake that morning.

Once my mom and I got home, the pain exacerbated to the point that I had to put my “Lord of the Rings” marathon on hold to go to the bathroom. Part of me still thought it could just be a bad stomachache, but the more logical side of my brain knew there was a tiny, very irritating rock lodged near my bladder.

I looked down at the bathroom floor: the color of my urine provided evidence for the latter.

Nevertheless, I started feeling better midafternoon. I was still determined to get through at least two movies in my marathon. I took it easy that evening and managed to get some food and water into my system.

Christmas Day did turn out smoother, and I was naively optimistic that the day before was just a fluke. I spent the day with family, got some great comics and Baby Yoda merchandise, and I was in the minority of my friends who thoroughly enjoyed “Wonder Woman 1984.” All seemed blissful.

The next morning, reality reentered the picture. Within an hour of waking up, I was once again wailing in pain on the toilet. Even after I had a bowel movement, the fiery rage in my insides persisted. It was as if I had been stabbed by a Morgul blade and was turning into a wraith.

At this point, I was well aware that a trip to the ER was inevitable. I spent the majority of the day in the bathroom, so my dad and I packed up that night for a potential overnight stay. I was still hurting on the way to the hospital, but the thing about kidney stone pain is that the slightest movement will change everything.

By the time I arrived, the pain had temporarily subsided, which was great because it took another four hours to get a room. Due to current hospital health restrictions, my dad wasn’t allowed inside until I got a room, adding an additional layer of stress.

Is 2020 over yet? This thought cycled through my mind throughout the night.

Since I could do nothing but wait, I spent the next few hours scrolling through memes on my phone, striking up conversations with other patients, and trying to stay awake. At last, I perked up when my name was called and texted my dad to come inside.

It was a long night, but I felt an overwhelming sense of relief once I got checked out and the doctor ordered a CT scan and other tests. I’m aware of the irony that I was excited to do an X-ray and have bloodwork done in the middle of the night, but I was pretty delirious at this point.

Alas, the results confirmed a 5 mm ring of power bumbling its way through my insides. I should also mention that I’ve had one kidney stone in the same spot for the past four years, so I’d wondered if this one was the culprit or if a new one had emerged. The following Monday morning, my urologist emailed me and confirmed that it is the same kidney stone, but had moved slightly. Now it’s my mission to send this little beast back to Mordor.

My central takeaway from this year is to expect the unexpected and adapt accordingly. That principle applies to life with SMA, no matter the circumstances of the world. I didn’t want to spend a night in the ER on a holiday weekend, but there’s also beauty and humor to be found amid chaos.

Still, here’s hoping 2021 is a little bit calmer.


Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today, or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.

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