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How a kidney stone interrupted my life

How a kidney stone interrupted my life

Think back to your first week of work at your current job. I’m going to guess it was filled with typical activities like meeting countless new faces and suffering from information overload.

My first week at my dream job included some other unexpected excitement.

I’ve wanted to work on the public affairs and marketing team at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill., since my sophomore year of college, when I began two summer-long internships, at which I learned firsthand the tricks of the trade. So naturally, I felt thrilled to begin my career there after graduation.

After dinner on my first day of work, that excitement started to fade, or rather, it began to turn into something else—a throbbing pain that left me doubled over on my bathroom floor.

After accepting the fact that the pain was not going to subside (it only got worse), I found myself heading to a local hospital’s emergency room with my parents and sister, where we would spend the night. The pain was the worst feeling I have ever endured. It caused me to be physically sick almost non-stop and fade in and out of consciousness.

As a 22-year-old with a healthy lifestyle, I could only think of one possible cause of all of my pain, and that was the severe endometriosis I have, and I worried that it was spreading again. My dad, however, was forming his own conclusions, and shortly after 3 o’clock in the morning, his suspicions were confirmed.

We left just before sunrise with a surprising diagnosis—there was a one centimeter kidney stone below my right kidney.

I couldn’t believe I was experiencing something I thought only older adults (and predominantly males) go through. I had been sent home with painkillers and other medicines—the emergency room physician was hopeful I would pass the stone. But as I laid in bed on what would have been my third day of work, I had a foreboding sense that things were not going to work out quite that easily.

In an attempt to begin a routine and get back to my new job, I returned to work the next morning, crippled in pain and struggling to accomplish simple tasks. Just two hours into the day, I was at my primary care doctor’s office, waiting anxiously as she made calls to Christ Medical Center to get me admitted; the pain had gotten worse and was spreading throughout my back. My doctor feared the stone was stuck and I was suffering from hydronephrosis, a condition in which the kidney swells due to an obstruction which blocks drainage.

I was soon settling into a hospital bed in the Clinical Decision Unit (just a few short steps away from my own office!), waiting on test results and a visit from a urologist to decide what was next. After another overnight stay in a hospital, I realized I spent more time my first week of work in a hospital bed than in my own desk chair.

The following day, I was whisked away to surgery to have the stone and a blood clot in my kidney removed. The doctor also placed a stent to facilitate healing. When it was time to be discharged from the hospital, I was actually sad to be leaving and nervous to be in charge of my own care. Recovery is taking time, but I am glad to be back to work.

The results of my kidney stone analysis will determine the ultimate cause, but we have confirmed that my genetics played a significant role in this due to the fact my dad has suffered from multiple stones. Even without the results, I still urge you to take care of yourself and always listen to your body. Stay hydrated—no matter what. If something doesn’t feel quite right, acknowledge your body’s signals and get help.

While I can’t say I’m thankful for what I went through, I did gain a great amount of insight from this experience. I can’t begin to express how much the care I received from the nurses, doctors and associates means to me; they made me so proud to not only be a part of the Advocate system, but to work at Christ Medical Center.

As I go about my day-to-day responsibilities in my new role, I’ll always remember that exceptional care is just a “stone’s” throw away.

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About the Author

Holly Brenza
Holly Brenza

Holly Brenza, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator at Advocate Health Care in Downers Grove. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, Holly enjoys reading, watching the White Sox and Blackhawks and playing with her dog, Bear and cats, Demi and Elle.