On a Wednesday evening as I was driving home after choir practice, I experienced a pain in my left side. It continued increasing in a few minutes until I was laying on the floor groaning. This lasted about thirty minutes and began to subside. I thought it might be a kidney stone because I had seen the same thing happen to my father when I was a boy. I remember him rolling on the floor of the bedroom. Our family doctor actually came to the house and gave him a shot of morphine. He then went to the hospital and ended up having surgery. But the pain subsided quickly, so I didn't do anything about it.
|Most of my pain was like this, not in my back.|
The next day after supper it happened again - a severe pain in my left side, back and front that lasted for thirty minutes. My wife drove me to the ER, but then the pain went away by the time we got there. I had to teach a class that night, so I went ahead and did that. At midnight the pain started again. This was the worst bout that I had. The pain was left side, front and back, and it extended to the bladder and the entire urinary tract (if you get what I mean). We went to the ER, and I was doubled over trying to get registered. I could talk between gasps. They quickly got me to a room and kindly went through all the preliminaries while I was literally shaking and groaning on the gurney. I suffered for about an hour and a half before they were able to really do anything. Since I had pain in my bladder, and it felt like I needed to urinate, they decided to insert a catheter. That's a burning sensation that I don't care for, but it was nothing compared to the kidney stone. There was no urine. Next they gave me a shot of morphine which knocked most of the pain down. They took me for a CT scan and an Xray. They told me I had a 4 mm stone. They gave me a lot of papers, three prescriptions, a urine strainer, and sent me home. They said anything under 4 mm should pass. I should make an appointment with a urologist.
Friday morning I slept about two hours. My wife picked up the three medicines: Oxycodon (pain), Flomax (to "open you up" as the nurse said), and anti-nausea medicine (caused by the Oxycodon). I first took two stool softeners, because I knew from my knee replacement surgery that these pain killers lock up the bowels. I took the Floxmax also. Nothing was happening, and I needed to urinate. This is where my inexperience got me into trouble. I naively thought that maybe the stone had passed, and I was a little worried about what it would feel like when it actually passed out of my body. So I took an Oxycodon in anticipation. Nothing happened.
The next attack started at 1:00 p.m. on Friday. I took one Oxycodon. An hour later it got worse so I took another one. The pain subsided by 4:30 p.m. At 6:00 p.m. I ate a piece of toast (the only food I ate on Friday). All this time I kept trying to drink as much water as I could. At 7:00 p.m. I felt another attack starting so I decided to get aggressive with pain killers and took two Oxycodon and a nausea pill. With the Oxycodon the attacks were tolerable but never pain free. I slept from midnight to 4:00 a.m. on Saturday, and then another attack started. I took two more Oxycodon, and the pain lasted for a couple of hours. I started eating a little (cheese & crackers, pizza). At 3:00 p.m. decided to try taking Naproxen (Aleve) to see if I could get ahead of the pain. This worked on severe backaches in the past, maybe it would work for this? At 6:00 p.m. I had a severe attack, and I just endured it with Naproxen. It wasn't as good as the Oxycodon, but it helped.
At 3:00 a.m. on Sunday morning I noticed a few dark specks in the strainer. At 4:30 a.m. I had another strong attack. One thing that messed with my mind was that the pain was always in the same location. It was not moving. It was also very much in the "front" of my left side. That made me wonder if it could be something else - maybe an ulcer? So with this attack I took a Pepcid tablet and no pain killer. That had no effect at all. The pain subsided at 6:00 a.m. The rest of the morning went well. At 1:15 p.m. I had another severe attack and took one Oxycodon. I discovered that one Oxycodon was enough to knock down half the pain without the side affects (nausea and dizziness). The pain finally subsided at 3:15 p.m. I ate some tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich.
Sometime that evening I felt a little bump in my bladder - not painful, just odd. At 6:00 p.m. I urinated with an unusually strong stream. I felt a little tickle and heard something hit the strainer. It was the stone. It was dark brown, and about 2mm by 4mm. What a relief. Thanks be to God! Altogether I had nine attacks.
The three biggest practical lessons I learned are: 1. You can't prepare for the attacks. It wouldn't be wise to take Oxycodon all day to get ahead of it because that medicine has side effects. I had a headache when I backed off of it. 2. The attacks usually only lasted two hours. If you take an Oxycodon when they start, you have thirty minutes of strong pain until the medicine kicks in. But the remaining hour and half is not too bad. At least you won't be rolling on the floor. 3. The final passage of the stone was not nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be.
I also took away some important spiritual lessons from this experience. All people struggle with the problem of pain. We know that pain is a good thing when it warns us from further harm. Burned fingers warn us not to touch the stove again, etc. But why is some pain so severe? I've seen people suffer severely from cancer. I know some people live in constant pain caused by arthritis or back problems. Some people die almost painlessly. Others die in misery. As far as the "fairness" of those who suffer more and other less, I can only trust that God is just. All people suffer in different ways. Also, we are never sure of the blessings of pleasure that people have in their lives. It is best to let God be the judge of these things.
The most important lesson that pain teaches us is what the Bible confirms: Pain is the result of sin.
Romans 5.12 "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned..."
James 1.15 "Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death."
Romans 8.22 "For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now."
God taught us in the Book of Job not to question why some suffer more than others or whether pain is always connected to some particularly great sin. It's here in this world because of sin. That's what God wants us to know.
Throughout my nine attacks I was continually praying like this:
"Dear Lord, please give me some relief! Please help all the other people in the world who are suffering like this! Please forgive me of all my sins, and help me to endure this! Please let this pass! I will be so thankful to You when this is over! Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy."
I would repeat these prayers over and over and over. I also hummed a hymn that somehow stuck in my head: "O Lord, What a Morning!" It's a negro spiritual about the Second Coming of Jesus.
O Lord, what a morning.
O Lord, what a morning.
O Lord, what a morning, when the stars begin to fall.
You will hear the trumpet sound,
To wake the nations underground.
Looking to my Lord's right hand. When the stars begin to fall.
When we are tempted to get angry with God about what we think is the unfairness of pain, it is because we are forgetting the absolute horror of sin. Too often we brush sin off as a little matter of insignificance. God does not see it this way at all, nor should we. The horrible pains of this life, whether we experience them directly or by watching others, should cause us to be horrified by even the slightest sin. We should constantly remind ourselves that we need to avoid all sin by God's grace. Above all we should rejoice that God forgives sin and promises us ultimate relief from all the effects of sin through the innocent suffering and death of Jesus. One of the greatest mysteries of this life is to wonder about the suffering of Jesus. I remember reading about Pastor Wurmbrand, who was tortured in communist prisons. He met a priest there who had been tortured. He cried to Wurmbrand saying that he had suffered more than Jesus! I'm sure he might have suffered more than Jesus physically. I'm sure some have suffered more than Jesus. But the suffering of Jesus is very different because He suffered as the Son of God. Since He was without sin, He of all people must have struggled with the "problem of pain." Not only that, but the pain was being inflicted upon Him by the people He was trying to save, and even God the Father, who was allowing Him to be a sacrifice. I shudder to think of the depth of that suffering. It was a bottomless pit with no painkiller. But, like our suffering, it didn't last forever. It was "finished," as Jesus said. He rose from the dead, and He raised us from the suffering and death of sin through faith. One day we will all have our last "attack" because of sin, and then "O What a Morning!" Amen.