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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My Darned Kidneys

The weekend was growing near and I was so excited. I knew on Saturday that I was going to go out for lunch with close friends. Afterwards we were walking through a local art festival. It was a day of pure enjoyment and it was coming fast. It was Thursday night and I went to sleep okay, but I had a little twinge on the left side of my lower back. It was right were the kidney was.

I know where my kidneys are because I happen to have a wonderful malady, Renal Tubular Acidosis. When my son was seven months old I started getting aches and pains in my arms and legs. I thought it was just because I was crawling on the floor with him a lot and it was a motion my body just wasn't used to. That was until I woke up one morning and my hand wouldn't work. I couldn't even get my son out of his crib. I called my sister in law in tears and she came over to help.

Of course I went right to the doctor right? No, I went scrapbooking. Try to picture someone scrapbooking when they can't use one arm, then the other. It was an interesting day and the pain was getting worse all day. I also couldn't stop drinking orange juice. After scrapbooking I went to the ER right? No my sister in law and I went shopping. By then I was barely able to walk. What was I thinking? I have no idea.

When I finally got home my sister in law said she was worried about leaving me alone and I assured her I would be okay. I was going to bed and I was sure I would be better soon. I was WRONG! Once home I managed to get upstairs and get online, when I couldn't manipulate the mouse then I called the doctor. That's right it took me not being able to use the internet for me to seek help.

The on call doctor had no idea why I was having this reaction. So they sent me to the ER. I called my husband and waited for him to come home to take me there. I tried to pick up a piece of paper and it was too heavy for me. By the time my husband got there I was in tears and could barely move.

I walked into the ER at the speed of a snail. The triage nurse watched and after accessing me had me take a seat. It couldn't be that bad, when it is real bad they take you right in. The waiting room was almost empty and the wait wasn't very long. I slowly stood up and again walked in super slow motion after the nurse who was walking at a normal gait. It was like the tortoise and the hare. She did realize I was lagging behind and slowed down.

No one thought it was serious yet. We got in the lovely private exam area protected the strength of a simple horribly patterned curtain. Swish, take of your clothes and put on this robe. Such simple directions and I couldn't do it. I tried. I couldn't lift my arms up, gravity had defeated me and I had to ask for help to get into the ugly hospital gown.

They ran the regular blood tests and tried to figure out why I couldn't move and why I was in so much pain. The first thing they found was that my potassium level was low. Now when I saw low, I mean low, one doctor was amazed that I had walked into the ER. I heard whispers that people die with a level so low. WHAT!!!!

I was admitted of course and the first thing they did was give me an iv. The bag was filled with potassium, the nurse said this might burn a bit. She LIED!!! Lava was flowing into my veins. The burning was unbearable and I tried to be brave. Finally I asked for pain meds. The burning was unbearable at this point. Tears were flowing down my face uncontrollably and I just wanted to sleep. They gave me one pain pill. It helped a little, I might have slept a little but the pain would wake me up and I wasn't allowed anymore pain meds.

I think I had the potassium iv filled with torture for at least a day. I was poked and prodded and had test after test. I barely saw the same doctor twice. Finally I noticed one doctor consistently. He was a nephrologist, a kidney doctor. He talked to me about something being wrong with my kidneys. He called it Renal Tubular Acidosis. They had to image my kidneys to be sure.

Lucky me, when they imaged my kidneys they were full of very small kidney stones. Hundreds, maybe even thousands was what they told me. Most would never bother me because they were very small. It was the other ones that worried me. I had a kidney stone about 18 months before, and it was worse than labor. By the way I didn't use meds in both of my pregnancies. I begged for pain meds when I had a kidney stone, now I had HUNDREDS to look forward to. Lucky me!

Basically RTA (renal Tubular Acidosis) happens when your kidneys remove potassium from your body. Potassium is what keeps our muscles moving, the heart is a muscle. So no potassium is very bad. It also makes your blood acidic and that eats away at your bones. What fun!!! So I have to take potassium supplements but I have to be careful because to much potassium can kill you too. I also have to take sodium bicarbonate, basically baking soda to keep my blood from becoming to acidic.

There are some advantages. It is really cool to see people's reaction when I tell them I have blood that is acid. Plus I am hardly ever bothered by mosquitos. Okay I don't know if the mosquito thing is because my blood is acid, but it sounds good doesn't it?

Disadvantages are taking too many pills, some make me gag because they are so big. Luckily now my levels seem to be stable and I am on a lot less meds. The other thing that gets to me is that about every 18 months I get a kidney stone or a kidney infection. Sometimes I get both, what a bonus!

So I went to bed on Thursday with visions of a fun filled Saturday in my head. I woke up very early Friday morning sweating and shivering. My teeth were chattering, I tried to deny it, I took some tylenol and grabbed another blanket and went back to sleep. I was okay in the morning, I almost forgot about the early morning freeze. Then just as the the doctor's office closed the shivering came back.

I was so cold, I was under three blankets and I was seeing my Saturday of fun fade away. I called the doctor and thankfully he knew I was familiar with this and since I wasn't in too much pain all I need was an antibiotic. He phoned in script to my pharmacy and my husband picked it up.

Now my husband is another piece of this story. He is on the couch until he finds another place to live. Friday night he was invited to his sister's house. It was her husband's birthday and they had something planned for my husband, not me, I wasn't invited. I am on the couch shivering and he is instructing our children what to do if Mommy passes out. He is going over 911 and what to say to the operator. Really! If I wasn't so sick I would have yelled at him. If he was that worried then stay home. You don't leave a 8 and 6 year old home to deal with that.

He called twice to check on me, both time before bedtime for the kids. He finally came home well into the early hours of the morning. I was feeling better. The antibiotics were working and my decision to divorce him was strengthened.

I did go out on Saturday with my friends. I had delicious BBQ and even bought my children a toy each. The time spent away from my family was the best medicine. I have been tied to this house and my family for so long I had forgotten what it was like to get away.

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