The Monday morning of the day on which I was catapulted into my first experience of kidney stones, I had been pondering a blog post on irritation and another on discernment.
At 1:30 I went to the clinic hoping for an explanation to the growing pain I was experiencing in the right side of my gut. The doctor on duty said, “You have kidney stones. Take three of these prescription anti-inflamatories a day until the stones pass. If it gets too bad, you may need to go into emergency.”
I ask, “How will I know when it is too bad.”
He replies, “You’ll know.”
The rest of Monday and all through the night I spend in gut-wrenching pain and nausea, mostly writhing on the floor and trying to find some way to escape from the monster inside me that my body wants to get rid of and yet at the same time seems unwilling to surrender.
That’s the problem with discerning the way forward. We are seldom of absolutely one mind about anything. Looking up kidney stones on the internet it seems that one of the culprits is the victim’s faliure to drink enough water. I never drink enough water But I don’t feel like drinking water. At no time does my body ask for water. I may need water but nohting inside me compels me to drink.
At 7:30 Tuesday morning it seems clear the time has come to go to Emergency. Everyone agrees I am suffering from kidney stones. I am given massive doses of morphine, anit-nausea drugs, and anti-inflammatories by injection. When I am able finally to sit still, I am shipped off for a Cat Scan to locate the stones and find out how big they may be.
I feel hopeful that we have a clear diagnosis and a hopeful course of action. The Cat Scan results return with no sign of any stones.
Next I am sent for ultrasound on my gallbladder to see if the stones are hiding there. The ultrasound finds nothing. Now I am officially classified as a “mystery.”
The physician sends me home at 2:30 on Tuesday with more drugs and instructions that if it gets “too bad” I should return to Emergency. Again I wonder, but this time don’t bother asking, how I will know what too bad is.
Too bad seems to arrive at 7:30 Tuesday evening so we make our way back to Emergency, where I am filled up again with massive doses of pain killer and anti-nausea drugs. Fortunately because of my tenacious wife, I am granted the privilege of the final stretcher in the hallway under a bright flourescent light to spend the night. I sleep off and on through the night thanks to the drugs and feel a little more settled in the morning.
The Emergency room physician is convinced I have kidney stones despite the fact that they have not shown up on the Cat Scan. I am sent home at 7:00 Wednesday morning with more medication and proceed to sleep away the rest of Wednesday through the night and most of Thursday morning.
Now the pain has mostly subsided. I am still nauseated, have a dreadful headache, and feel terribly weak. I have eaten nothing since Monday. And I am still a “mystery.” I do not actually have an official diagnosis. I have not passed a visible stone and so cannot say for certain that kidney stones have been the problem. But no one has come up with a more likely suggestion.
The problem with finding our way forward in so many situations is that the advice we receive is often conflicting. The evidence for what might be the best way ahead is seldom as clear as we might hope. In three days, we are scheduled to get on to an airplane for fifteen hours and fly to New Zealand. How can we know what is the right decision? How do we discern the proper way forward?
We can only go one step at a time. I must start eating a little and drinking more. Perhaps things will be more clear by the time Sunday arrives.