The Agony of Kidney Stones

One Patient's Story

By Angela Generoso

Reviewed by William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

It all started on a typical Maui fall day, with beautiful trade winds and sunny skies over the Kapalua Golf Course. Tom Stokes* and his wife Teresa* were about to start the ninth hole when Tom had to go to the bathroom.

"I was standing over the urinal and noticed blood in my urine," Stokes says.

Confused as to what he should do, Stokes decided to just finish playing golf without mentioning anything to his wife.

"Needless to say, I didn't have a good score from that point on," he says.

Back at the hotel he was still urinating blood, but decided it could wait until he returned home to California the following day.

"There were no other symptoms," he says. "No pain, no other indications."

Upon returning to California, Stokes went to see a urologist who asked him to have a kidney ureter bladder (KUB) x-ray done, which documented that he had a kidney stone.

Stokes' stone was so big it couldn't pass from the kidney to the ureter (the tube from the kidney to the bladder). The stone was approximately 8 mm, while the average inner diameter of the ureter is 4 mm.

Stokes' doctor scheduled a lithotripsy, a treatment where shock waves are used to break up the large stone into smaller pieces that can then pass through the urinary system.

"It's about an hour of pounding, so when you wake up, you're sore," Stokes says. "It feels like someone has been punching you in the kidney a couple times."

Upon waking up, Stokes was told the procedure was successful. He was given a prescription for Vicodin, which he decided was unnecessary, since he had been through surgical procedures before without pain medication. He was told that his situation was different, but Stokes left the hospital at 4 p.m. anyway without filling the prescription.