What you see in my hand in the above picture is a kidney stone I passed a couple of years ago. Actually, it's only half of the kidney stone. And this, my friends, was kidney stone #18 for me (out of 20+).
This one in particular was so large it required two procedures to finally get it out. The first one was a procedure called lithotripsy. This is where shockwaves get sent through your body to try to break the kidney stone in pieces, allowing you to easily pass it. Unfortunately the kidney stone was too large to be broken down by the lithotripsy. So the next procedure required my urologist to go through my urethra, pass my kidney, and up my ureter with a scope and meet the little bastard one on one with a freakin' laser beam.
If you've ever had a kidney stone you know how bad it hurts. My very first kidney stone became symptomatic while I was taking a shower. The pain hit me seemingly out of nowhere. It felt like someone was starting a fire inside me towards the back of my body. I didn't know what to do. I curled up in a little ball on the shower floor and actually started crying a bit. The pain subsided after a few hours and I was able to sleep. The next day I went to the hospital where I was told I had an infection (which obviously wasn't the case). Coincidentally that night every single person in the ER with me (about 4 if I remember correctly) were ALL their for kidney stones. Weird, huh? The pain never came back after that, at least for another month. Then on Thanksgiving (the day before, actually) the pain came back even stronger than before. I went back to the hospital, where all they could do was load me up on painkillers and send me back home. That kidney stone stayed in me for a few more weeks until I finally passed it.
Fast forward 17 more kidney stones and you get to the one you see below (and above), number 18.
This one was by far the worst kidney stone I've ever faced (or kidney'd - haha!). It was so large that it couldn't be removed by flushing my system with tons of fluids (like numbers 19, 20, and a few before that) or with lithotripsy. So like I said, it had to be removed via laser. The procedure itself wasn't so bad. I was put under, the doctor then used a scope inserted through my urethra to find the stone and then broke it down with the laser. In order to have all the parts of the stone exit my system (by helping the urine flow freely) he had to put a stent in my ureter. Below are pictures of my stent as well as a diagram of how the stent is placed.
This was the absolute worst part of this entire procedure. I had to leave the stent in for at least two weeks to ensure that most of the big parts of the kidney stone were out of my ureter. Notice the black string at the end of the stent? This is how it is removed later on when I'm done with it, basically a handle for the whole thing. A bit of the end of the string was left hanging out of my penis and taped back up onto my penis (to keep it out of the way in case it gets caught in clothing or something). It was very uncomfortable for a few days, I was dying to get it out. But after those few days were over my body got used to the odd sensation and the only thing that was bothering me about it was the fact I had a string hanging out of my penis.
Here comes the good part.
So finally the day came where I was going to get it removed. I wasn't looking forward to it as I knew the way the doctor had to remove it was literally just pulling it out with a nice and steady tug. I got home from school that morning and decided to take another shower before heading over to my urologist and exposing myself to him so he can yank this thing out of my penis. I take my shower and hop out and start drying myself off. Remember how I said this string was taped back up onto my penis? Well, during my shower it got a bit wet so I decided to change the tape. I carefully remove the wet tape, with the string still attached, while I get a new piece of tape ready. Unfortunately I set the old piece of tape, with string still attached, down on my towel. Before getting a new piece of tape I wanted to dry my hands.....on my towel. As I picked up my towel it also picks up the tape (which was stuck to it) and I yank the entire stent out about two inches. The sensation and pain I felt cannot be described here. At this point I knew I had to yank the rest of this thing out by myself. For some weird reason I ran into my room and put my trashcan underneath me (don't know why I didn't just stay in the bathroom). I took a deep breath and wrapped the string around two fingers and pulled hard but steadily towards the trash can. The rest of the string with the stent fully attached came right out! It was finally over. I pulled this monstrosity out of my own ureter/kidney/penis. I was proud.
I still went to my doctor an hour later with the stent in a little plastic bag. He laughed and said I could keep it as a souvenir, which I did. Over the next couple of weeks I passed small pieces of the stone (sorry, no pictures of that) and finally I passed the giant half of it (which is what you see in the pictures in this post). When it was all out of my system I put all the pieces next to each other to try to imagine how big this thing was before it was broken down by the laser. It was scarily large.
I've had several tests done from blood work, actual analyses of my kidney stones, my urine, etc to try to figure out why I was producing so many kidney stones. Some people even thought my vegetarian diet was the cause of it. But after my last series of tests (done by the leading researchers of kidney stones here in the States) there was only confusion and bafflement. The tests showed that I had a perfect diet, all of my vitals, vitamin levels, chemical levels, etc were picture perfect. No one ever figured it out. Luckily I haven't had a kidney stone in quite some time. And the last two I had weren't even noticeable. The only thing I learned from all of this is to drink lots of water, which I still do to this day.