Saturday, May 18, 2013

Check-ups

Last Friday I had a doctor's appointment with my urologist. This was my yearly checkup to get x-rays of my abdomen to check my renal system to make sure I didn't have any problems, like kidney stones. I had my x-rays to take a peek at my kidneys, ureters and badder to make sure everything  looked okay. After the x-rays I met with my doctor so he could review them. The x-ray showed a 2 cm stone in my left kidney. This wasn't anything new because I had this same kidney stone last year. The good news is that it hasn't grown any larger in the past year, but the bad news is that it's still there.

Last year when I was hospitalized with kidney stone related issues my doctor attempted to remove the stone, but found that it wasn't one stone at all, but a dense pocket of hundreds of tiny kidney stones. My doctor wasn't successful at removing very many of them because the instrument that is used for the procedure has holes in it, and the holes were too large to collect the stones. As he put it, it was like trying to collect sand in a colander. SO, I'm assuming that the 2 cm kidney stone that showed up on the x-ray is actually hundreds of little stones. (Although, there's really no way to know for certain from the x-ray.)

The tricky thing is that the stone(s) are located in a part of the kidney that isn't easy to access. Usually they go in through the urethra and up through the ureters to remove kidney stones, but that method won't work with where the kidney stone(s) are located. My doctor said that when the problem needs to be addressed, access to the kidney will have to be made percutaneously, by making an incision in my back to get to the kidney externally, instead of internally. My doctor doesn't do this particular procedure near as often as he used to a few years ago, so he said he would have to refer me to of his colleagues that does this procedure on a more regular basis when I need surgery. I suppose this is the responsible thing to do, but I really like MY doctor! We've been through a lot together in the past nine years! I actually didn't like him at first, but we're friends by now and I love him. (And I think he really likes me, too!)

So right now I'm just trying to maintain the status quo in regards to my kidneys. I'm sure in the not-too-distant future I'll have to have something done, but I'll happily bide my time until then since the procedure of going through my back is much more risky for my particular situation. When my doctor did this procedure on me in 2008 to remove a huge kidney stone from my right kidney there were major complications and I almost died. I'm not saying that to be melodramatic, either. My doctor wasn't sure if I was going to pull through or not and later told my mom and me that I was "teetering on the edge." I'm not ready to die yet, so waiting to do this procedure until absolutely necessary is just fine with me!

Yesterday I met with my cardiologist. I had a pacemaker put in after my accident to help regulate my heart rate. Now that my situation is more stable I don't rely on my pacemaker like I used to, so it's  more of a backup than something I rely upon. The battery in my pacemaker has lasted a good, long time. Most pacemaker batteries need to be replaced every three to five years, but mine has lasted more than nine. I've known that the "gas gauge" on my pacemaker's battery has been getting closer and closer to "empty" since I've had it for so long. When the nurse checked my device at my appointment yesterday he told me that as of April 30 my pacemaker hit the point where it's about out of juice (then you have a three-month window to replace it).

When I had my annual check up last year my doctor changed the settings on my pacemaker to see how often my pacemaker works to see if I could do without it. When my pacemaker was checked yesterday it showed that I haven't used it at all in the past year. That's good news, so my doctor gave me the option of either replacing my pacemaker with a new one with a fresh battery, or just leaving my old one in without replacing it. I decided that I want to try leaving the old pacemaker in since I really don't need it. I don't look forward to having surgeries since it's inconvenient, so I'm going to try this for now. I can always change my mind in the future if anything changes.

Last year when I was in the hospital my friend Steve (a long time friend of the family) told me about renovations that were being done to the ICU at the hospital, and that I should come take a tour of the new ICU when it was finished. SO, since I finished with my appointment at the cardiologist in good time I decided to call Steve and see if he had time to give me a tour. He said that he did, so my mom and I met up with him. The ICU has been expanded from a 24 bed unit to a 36 bed unit, and it takes up an entire floor of the hospital. The new and improved ICU is quite impressive, so it was really neat to see. I don't mind being in the ICU, just as long as I'm just visiting and am not a patient!

While I was there I even ran into two nurses that remembered me. I didn't remember them, though, which made me feel badly since I always try to remember people. Oh well… it was a stressful time, so I guess I get a pass! Anyway, one of the nurses said that one of the things she's always remembered about me was how nice and positive I was and how I was always so appreciative. I'm glad that that's what she remembered about me. Truth to tell, I DID always try to be very positive, cheerful and appreciative. I know that being a nurse can be a thankless job, so any time I've been in the hospital I always try to express gratitude to the people that care for me. I've found that showing a little gratitude goes a long way and can really improve the kind of care you receive.

I really don't enjoy going to doctor's appointments since they aren't a fun way to spend the day. When I have to go to the doctor I always make a mental list of the pros and cons of going. Here are some of the ones I thought of during my last two appointments:

Cons:
  • The long drive (nearly an hour each direction).
  • Looking for a parking spot in the parking garage.
  • Waiting for an elevator which can sometimes take forever since the main elevator area is like Grand Central Station!
  • Having to get x-rays. This involves getting out of my wheelchair which is easier said than done since there aren't any lifts and we have to do the old "heave ho" with the manpower of the x-ray technicians. I hate getting tossed around like a rag doll, and then I always feel disheveled when I get back in my wheelchair. I HATE having my hair messed up and looking disheveled!
  • Waiting for the doctor. I fortunately didn't have to wait long at my last two appointments, but more often than not I wait and wait and wait!
  • Being stuck behind people who walk slowly! I guess this is just an opportunity to learn more patience.
Pros:
  • The player piano in the lobby that plays fun music.
  • People watching. Saying that there are lots and lots of interesting people at the hospital is an understatement!
  • Witnessing the kindness of others. (Like when people help you with the elevators.)
  • Smiling at others. I figure if someone's having a bad day and they see me smiling despite all of my physical challenges, maybe it will brighten their day.
  • Getting to talk to new people. I'm always chatty with the people I come into contact with who work in the doctor's office.
  • Having a good book to read while my mom and I wait.
  • Having my mom be the one to take me to my appointments. There's seriously no one else I rather go with!
  • Having a good hospital relatively close to me (although it seems far) with really competent doctors that take great care of me.

2 comments:

Tina said...

Heather,

You are a champ.

Loving you from far away Utah!

Tina

Lisa said...

praying your kidney "stones/sand" doesn't complicate your life ♥

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