Prior to undergoing a pyeloplasty, (a surgical procedure to correct a urinary tract obstruction) I was informed that a stent would be in place for about seven weeks. I also recall being told, or perhaps reading, that such stents cause “discomfort” in some patients. In my mind the term “discomfort” equates to nothing more than an annoyance or a nuisance, so going into the surgery I was not overly concerned. For the first couple of days following surgery, perhaps because of post-surgical pain killers, it seemed the stent would be absolutely no problem. I could hardly feel it. “This will be a piece of cake,” I thought.
Then, shortly after going home, I became increasingly aware that some apparently sharp object was attempting to drill a hole through the wall of my bladder. In fact, the image of a shish-kabob skewer came to mind. At the same time, there was the sensation that something was tugging on my right kidney, trying to pull it down from its usual location. It was difficult to find comfortable positions…and it felt as though gravity was becoming my worst enemy. Urination was frequent and painful, and my urine continued to be bloody for the entire seven weeks. Involuntary tears came to my eyes and waves of nausea were common. Finally, I discovered that sitting in a recliner and tipping it back approximately half way seemed to relieve the worst of the pain, and that allowed me to get a little sleep at night.
After seven long weeks, I welcomed the removal of that first stent. A generous application of lidocaine made the procedure entirely tolerable, and I watched on the monitor as the stent was grabbed and the upper curly-cue began its descent down through the ureter. Once I was free of the stent, the relief I felt far surpassed the minor discomfort associated with its removal.
About a month later, I accepted a second stent with guarded optimism. This one was placed following lithotripsy for a 1+ cm stone in my left kidney. It seemed logical to me, since this ureter was not compromised or swollen, that this stent should not hurt nearly as much as the first. Unfortunately, I was wrong about that. Once again, the same familiar painful and distressing physical sensations returned. And once again I sought relief in the recliner. The stent allowed stone fragments to pass, but I was elated to be rid of it after only three weeks.
The second stent experience left me with a new determination to do everything I could to prevent future stone formation. If making a few adjustments, such as drinking much more water each day, can prevent new stones and another stent placement sometime down the road, then I was ready to change old habits. Accepting the inevitability of new stones, then treating them as they become problematic, is no longer acceptable. My new plan is to be well-informed and pro-active and do all I can to discourage new stone formation. In fact, it’s the vivid memory of previous painful stents that continues to be the most powerful motivator. In a way, then, those stents are still serving a most valuable purpose, and I should remain grateful for them.
Editors note: Bonnie writes about her experiences as a stone patient in her posts. If you have experiences as a patient you would like to share, feel free to add a comment or send her an email at: email@example.com