Back in Action Pt. 1 – Damn the radiation!

As I sit here, I have tubes coming out my back, draining my kidneys into bags on each thigh.

How’s that for an opening?

This is going to be a two-parter to talk about why I’ve been missing in action for the past few months –  there are two things going on, one more recent than the other, and rather than start at the beginning, I’m going to start here, at the end….

Back in August, I went ahead and had the artificial urinary sphincter put in (look here if you need a refresher on what that is…). That all went fine, no post-operative pain, healed up well, and things looked good. They activated it and things were good. Not great, but good. It was kinda leaky. And I had to pee every hour, hour and a half.

But as time went on, I started feeling…unwell. Fatigued. No motivation to do anything but wander around like a zombie. No appetite. And when that didn’t fix itself (as I prefer things do), I finally went to the doctor and found out that I was in acute renal failure. My kidneys were not functioning.

Off to the hospital I went. Here’s a tip –  try to avoid trips to the hospital in the middle of flu season. The hospital here at the University of Alabama at Birmingham has 1500 rooms, and they were almost all occupied. So I spent five hours in the emergency waiting room and then spent the night in one of the treatment rooms, since there were no actual rooms available.

From there, it was on an attempt to put stents in my bladder. They couldn’t do it because my bladder is a radiation-scarred hellscape, all scar tissue, so there was no way to find the openings they needed to place the stents. I was barely awake from that when they sent me off for the nephrostomy in each kidney. They numbed me and sedated me, but did not put me under, so I was vaguely aware as they hammered my back and stuck a tube into each kidney to drain it directly.

Fortunately I was able to get a room after that, and was in there for a couple of days. In the almost-four-weeks since I got out, my kidney function is slowly but surely returning to something close to normal (for me –  thanks to the earlier kidney failure during the prostate cancer, I’m always a little off).

The urologist believes the problem is the bladder. The normal bladder can hold 400–500 ml of urine before it needs to be emptied. Mine, thanks to the radiation and scar tissue, can hold 75 ml. Hence the urinary sphincter was working fine, but since the kidneys were putting out more urine than my bladder can hold, it started backing up, leading to kidney failure.

As soon as my kidney function hits a reasonable level, we’ll figure out what to do next. I’m on medication to relax my bladder, which might allow it to stretch when the time comes. If not, there are other, less savory options. None especially desirable, but ya have to play the cards you’re dealt, right?

As things stand, I feel pretty good (except for the tubes in my back), appetite is back, motivation is back. And once I figure my way out of the little writing problem that initially brought my forward progress on the Blood for Blood to a screeching halt, I should starting moving forward rapidly.

But more on that tomorrow….

 

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