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Kelsea came out of karate yesterday pale and in pain.  Class hadn’t hurt her – she had been having terrible pain in her right flank, in short stabs, for over an hour.  I quizzed her, took her home, tucked her in, took her temperature, forced fluids, gave her Tylenol, fed her mac and cheese. She rated the pain a 9 on a scale of 1-10, and asked me if this was what it was like to be in labor.  Of course, I remember labor, but I can’t be in her body to tell what she’s feeling.  Regardless, it was bad pain.  I have come to realize that Kelsea has inherited my father’s legendary high-pain threshold, so when she says it hurts, you can believe it hurts like the devil.

It was still bad this morning – she couldn’t move without intense pain.  And she’d had some nausea.  Time to call the doctor!  Dr. R. agreed with my preliminary diagnosis – it sounded like the dreaded kidney stone.  Kidney stones in kids, while still rare, are dramatically on the rise.  But that meant that our next stop was the hospital for an ultrasound.  I’ve been in the hospital with Kelsea when I had her (contrary to the insurance company’s bizarre statement that I had her at home) and when she had her bad shoulder x-rayed.  Pat’s been there with her when she had an MRI on the same shoulder, and when he accidentally let the shopping cart she was sitting in tip forward, resulting in a parking lot faceplant when she was a baby.  (I’m glad I missed that one and glad she has such a hard head – figuratively and literally.)

But today, when the Hmong ultrasound tech, who mispronounced Kelsea’s name, and scolded me about her having had cereal three hours previously, told me to sit in the corner and watch, it was like an awful movie.  What was playing through my mind was worse. Looking at the complete and total mystery of the ultrasound pictures – is all black bad? or is fuzzy bad? – my mind went everywhere: to her being really sick – like kidney cancer sick, to her being in even more pain, to her having to stay alone in the hospital, to any and all kinds of unknowns that are as bad as they can be.  My thoughts spun out of control.

Despite Ms. Hmong’s protests, I got up and went to stand beside her, to hold her hand, and stroke her hair.  Because that’s all I could do.  That’s all any mother can do sometimes.  It made us both feel better.  Her beautiful blue eyes looked into my hazel ones and we spoke without words.  We both felt that eternally powerful bond of love between us that made us smile.  It was one of the deepest gazes I’ve ever shared with her.  She lay on that table, in that darkened room, looking like a teenager, looking like a woman, looking like my little girl, and being just an amazing, strong human being.

The ultrasound was inconclusive.  We’re waiting for blood work results.  She’s still in pain, but now instead of me, she has her dad and her dogs and cats for comfort. I’m hoping that she’s not an early third-generation victim of the female kidney stone curse that runs through the women in my family.  But if she is, we’ll deal with it.

As a Mom, you never want your child to hurt, to suffer.  You’d do anything to spare your child pain.  And it’s heartbreaking to feel helpless when you can’t fix their pain.  When I can’t fix her pain.

To pee or not to pee, that is the question. 
It hurts either way.

This could already be TMI, but I have to expel something about kidney stones, even if it’s not the actual stone itself yet.

The combination of pain and painkillers has me walking around work like one of the undead.  It started two days ago, with a familiar twinge, a pressure that I remember all too well from earlier this year, when I had my first stone.  That one started with back pain – this one didn’t.  I guess it’s a case of  ‘to each stone, it’s own’.

My Mother used to get kidney stones.  I remember her first one.  Her friend Nancy picked me up at school and told me what was going on.  We drove past the doctor’s office where she was being treated.  When she passed the stone and came home, she told me how awful it was.  A tough woman – childbirth hadn’t hurt, but the kidney stone sure did.

In my experience in January, passing the stone was the easy part.  It was all the pain leading up to passing it that was intolerable.  But once it was gone, I felt miraculously, immediately better. 

There’s no average amount of time, as far as I can see, that it takes to pass a stone.  One source says the typical time for passage is from 4 to 30 days.  Kind of a wide range there.  Again, each stone to its own.

To distract myself, I did a little research for some kidney stone trivia that I’d like to share with you:

  • Carnelian stones are said to help heal kidney stones.  I am going to assume that means wearing carnelian stones as opposed to eating them.  Diamonds are also said to help prevent kidney stones, which begs the following question – Do married/engaged women have kidney stones less frequently than single women? 
  • Saw palmetto, rose hips and dandelion tea may be helpful in healing kidney stones.
  • Scottish Highlanders believed that drinking the blood of wild goats could dissolve kidney stones.  An English remedy from the 1700s involved roasted hedgehog skin and powdered pickle.  (How do you create pickle powder?)  I am very glad that those treatments are not currently in vogue.
  • Muslim folklore believes that the ash of a scorpion will cure kidney stones.  Again, I am not exactly clear on what you do with the ash, and I’m not in the mood to go around setting scorpions on fire just now.
  • The Indians used watercress to cure kidney stones, but in Crete, watercress is considered an aphrodisiac.  Kind of a conflict of interest, eh?
  • The largest kidney stone ever removed was 2.5 pounds and the size of a coconut.  All things considered, I feel quite fortunate.
  • William Shatner auctioned off his kidney stone for $25,000; Gene Simmons kidney stone only fetched $15,000 at auction.
  • Chris Pollman has written a parody of the AC/DC song “Givin’ The Dog A Bone” called “Gettin’ A Kidney Stone”.  The lyrics are available here:
  • And finally, according to, global warming will cause an increase in kidney stones.  Isn’t it wonderful how we can blame everything on global warming?  And the Kidney Stone belt (of which I was unaware) that currently encompasses the southern states, will raise up north like an old man’s trousers.

Well, those are the stone-cold facts. 

Maybe if I sit very still and am very quiet, it will go away.

But probably not.  Oh well.  Time will tell.

August 2021


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