Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Rockman's Korean Kidney Stone - Part 1

I walked by this sign in Ajou University Hospital several times every day and would smile at the "Medical Drama" words. Little did I know how prophetic they would become.
On April 22, 2013, Rocketman awoke at 2 am in excruciating yet familiar pain. It had been about nine years since his first kidney stone and subsequent surgery to remove it. I'm told kidney stone pain is similar to childbirth pain but two nurses we met during his hospitalization for his first stone told me that they had experienced both and the kidney stone pain was more painful. Yikes!
He put off waking me up until the pain was unbearable at 5 am. It's not the way one wishes to be awaken and I threw on my clothes, put a comb through my tangled hair, grabbed my purse and off we were to grab a cab. I thought to call 119 (their 911) but we were told that they take you to the nearest hospital (the service is free) and that's not what we needed.
A taxi was amazingly easy to find at that hour of the morning and we were off to Ajou University Hospital which we had used ocassionally during our 3 years of living in South Korea. At that time of morning, there was little traffic and we got there quickly, maybe 15 minutes. I ran ahead to the Emergency Room while Rocketman concentrated on each step and as I entered I yelled for a wheelchair. I received a room full of stunned looks but quickly someone appeared with a wheelchair and we placed Rocketman into the not-your-American-size wheelchair.  His vitals were taken and he was wheeled into the Emergency Department which consists mainly of a room full of 60 beds.
The Emergency Room beds were NOT meant for a 6' 5" man. You should have seen the looks he would get as patients and family members walked by.
              The pillows seemed few and far away but I was able to grab this one for Rocketman.
This is looking across the aisle from Rocketman's bed. The beds were really close together along with only one chair for the family members. Most had multiple family members with them. We found that the beds are pretty empty at 5am but by 10am they fill up.
It took over an hour for an IV and we were hoping for the only cure for kidney stone pain: IV Toradol. We even asked for it by name only to find out they didn't have it. The finally gave him some IV pain medication but it took the pain from a 10+ down to an 8. They also did a CT which found the kidney stone which is the bright blue circle you see in the center of the picture above.

This is when we met the urologist although we are sure he was calling the shots long before we met him. It was just like a Korean drama to me. He walked up to Rocketman's bed in single file line: urologist, his number 1, 2, and 3. We would call him doctor here in the U.S. but at Ajou he was called professor and he was in fact number one, head of the department. His English was really good and he understood and answered our questions correctly.

Back to the kidney stone, there is a descripancy to the size, the urologist always said it was 3mm but when we got home and looked at all the medical records, he had recorded it as 5mm.
Our dear friend, Hellena, had flown in from Doha to spend her vacation with us. She met us at the hospital. This is Rocketman right before he had his first shock wave lithotripsy which is suppose to crush the stone. Back in the States, the patient is sedated for this procedure, but not in South Korea. I was freaking out when it began hearing the pounding of the machine. It must have hurt terribly but Rocketman is never one to complain. Our U.S. doctor was also surprised to find that they didn't sedate him.
Rocketman was admitted to a hospital room just for the Emergency Room patients for observation overnight. Stay in this part of the hospital is only one night.  This was his dinner. He could have had a Western meal for a higher cost but he really likes Korean food.
Ready to leave!

The pain had subsided by morning so he was released. This hospital bed and room was pretty nice. The bed had some cushion and was longer than the one in the Emergency Room. He was bleeding pretty good when he went to the bathroom but that was expected from the procedure he had. We were told the shock wave lithotripsy failed due to Rocketman's "big size." The plan was to have him go back to the hotel, drink more than 2 liters of water a day and to jump up and down a lot. Doctor's orders! He was to see the urologist in a week.

We had thought to fly back to the States but we were pretty worried how he would do if they pain came back.  It takes a total of 24 hours from hotel to our home including a 14 hour flight. Also, Korea seems incapible of prescribing pain killers that did just that, kill the pain. We had used all of our frequent flyer miles to book Business Class and we knew it would be almost impossible to get it going back so soon. I just couldn't imagine Rocketman having kidney stone pain in a Coach seat on a 14 hour flight. It makes me wince just to think about it.

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