If you don’t already know then let me reiterate: I AM NOT A DOCTOR.
The following is a tale of my OWN experience.
Have you ever had a kidney stone? It hurts like a mother fucker. I should know as I am trying to pass one as I write this. The damn thing won’t let me sleep so why not jot this down for the curious types out there, right?
I thought it would be a quick process, but no, I’ve been dealing with this for close to 4 weeks. I’d say the pain is anywhere from a noticeable but painless twitch in my side to a holy-shit-someone-give-me-a-bullet-to bite-on kind of sharp stab. The ER staff kept asking, “scale of 1 to 10, where are you?” I’ve been mostly floating between 1 and 5, but today I shot straight up to a modest 9. Also, because saying 10 is too attention-seeking for my taste.
Apparently, there are 4 different kinds of kidney stones. I have 2 stones and no idea which I have. Maybe it’s a variety pack and I’ll be surprised with each delivery. One is on the move, currently making a clumsy exit down my right ureter while the other is still lounging about in my right kidney. I know this because I just got home from the ER.
I was confused when the doctor ordered a CT scan. Two weeks prior I had gotten an ultrasound as recommended by my primary physician. Didn’t they have the results on file? If she had looked at them, she’d know it was not kidney stones but I was having a gallbladder attack. The nurse who called me this past Wednesday with the results said very clearly that my kidneys are fine and that I have gallstones and a fatty liver. I knew that, why didn’t my ER doctor? Maybe because she’s a doctor and knows the differences between the two and can tell them apart just by looking at you; whereas I, not a doctor, was going by hearsay on the internet and the results from a different medical exam.
I won’t say I was given the wrong test, because it did find the gallstones and fatty liver. Neither of which, as it turns out, was giving me hell. But they said specifically that I had perfect kidneys. Four days later, I have a new doctor telling me I have 2 kidney stones. And even more confusing, there were no signs of gallstones. Uh…What? How? Well, the CT scan apparently gives a better picture of your kidneys. The doctor explained, “this machine is better at picking up kidney stones than an ultrasound could. That doesn’t mean you don’t have gallstones or that your other exam was inaccurate, but this test didn’t seem to pick them up.” I wanted to know if every doctor knew that bit about CT scans being better for kidney stones. My primary doctor didn’t know. To be fair, I should say she didn’t seem to be aware of the difference.
As frustrating as this situation has turned out to be, I want to clarify that I’m not angry. I don’t think anyone is at fault or that anyone is lacking. Both doctors (and nurses) did what they believed to be the best for my health and I’m grateful to them. But sitting there for close to 2 hours waiting for results to come back, I became curious as to how many times this must have happened. How many people prolong their medical issues by never questioning their doctor’s word?
I was taught that you should always do as the doctor says. For the most part I do. Sort of. My neuroses keeps me from strictly adhering to medical rules. That’s neither here nor there. Anyway… In that moment of sitting on the bed in the hallway of the ER, I started thinking about the ordeal I went through for my teeth when I was a teen. My dentist said to pull my wisdom teeth. My orthodontist said pulling my wisdom teeth would cause my teeth to float which could lead to a life of braces. My periodontist, caught in the middle, basically said, “pull ‘em or don’t pull ‘em. You have enough room in your mouth to accommodate either decision. Wear a retainer if you’re concerned about floating teeth.” I was under the age of 18, so ultimately, the decision went to my mother.
But it got me thinking about how in medical science, there is no one way to do things. Each professional you speak with will have their own take on a matter and we are taught to never question it. Except that it is okay to question your doctor. If I have taken anything away from the kidney experience is that it’s okay to question your doctors word. Have them explain their decisions. Ask about the medicine going into your body. Find out more about the machines they are using on you. And when they give you an answer, question that too! When I asked the nurse what she was putting in my IV, she simply said “nurofen’ and left it at that. Oh! Okay. And what exactly does that do? What should I expect? Is it possible to have an allergic reaction? ASK! It’s okay to make sure you understand the process.
Also, it’s okay to say NO. If you’re not comfortable with something the doctor recommends. You CAN say no. Now, it’s important to really consider the consequences of denying certain treatments, but just know that if you don’t want to follow through you can say no. As someone prone to addiction, I had to say no to the prescribed hydrocodone. “It’ll really help with the pain,” she said. I get that. But it could also leave me popping pills once this is all over. I had to say no and ask, “what else you got?” Instead, I got non-habit forming ibuprofen. Sure, not as strong, or as effective some would say, but it’s a compromise that we, me and my doctor, could agree on and, honestly, it’s been working just fine.
It should be a priority to know what your getting and what your options are. You should always ask about alternatives or even second opinions. Any doctor (or nurse) who becomes annoyed or impatient by your questions is a doctor you don’t need to be seeing. You have every right to know what’s happening to your body, what’s going into it, and why. It’s easy to become intimidated by the doctors insistence, thinking, “well, they’re the doctor and they now best.” But if you’re not comfortable with something they are recommending then say something. Say No or ask why. I can’t help but wonder if I could have cut this 4 week hell in half if I had just asked more questions or spoken up.
Let me just throw this out there for all my phobics: If you’re like me and you deny treatment out of fear (which i did during my first ER visit, I’m embarrassed to report) then maybe try a conversation. Even just talking about a certain treatment has made me become more open and more comfortable. Talking about it, getting the facts, and understanding the procedure usually eases my fear or skepticism and I’m more willing to say yes to treatment. As phobics, we are more than comfortable saying no to, well, LOTS of things. It is of utmost importance that in a moment of health crisis that you weigh your fears against the possibility of feeling better.