About a year ago, I began experiencing very sporadic pain in my left side. This would range from simply uncomfortable, to absolutely unbearable, searing pain. One time, it felt as though whatever it was in my side would rupture. I made it through that night with a huge dose of Ibuprofen, and thought that whatever the problem was, had passed.
Fast forward to June of this year. I had extreme pain in my left flank for four days, coupled with what had been diagnosed as Strep Throat, but what was later diagnosed as Mono. Feverish and in pain, I drove up from New York City to my hometown of Bridgewater, CT. My mother drove me to the emergency room, and with the help of some very strong pain medication, I began to settle out. The pain had never lasted over a period of days before, so I had to know what the problem was. Many, including me, assumed that it must have been a kidney stone.
At the emergency room, they did a CT scan and discovered the real cause of the pain: a narrowing of the left ureter, which was causing the pelvic area of the kidney to swell to immense proportions with a backup of fluid, even backing up into the tissue of the kidney itself. The only real solution: surgery. It’s a congenital defect that typically doesn’t manifest until your early to mid-20’s. So they sent me home with some Percocets, and my pain was finally under control. However, my Mono was getting worse, so a trip to Urgent Care revealed that it was in fact Mono and not Strep. Armed with Prednisone, I would start feeling better from the worst symptoms in the next few days.
And so much of the first two weeks of June were lost to the haze of pain meds and the fatigue associated with Mono (which I traced back to getting around early April, as that was when my lymph nodes first started to swell). I did whatever gigs I could here and there, when I was able to go off the meds for a while. July was a very tired month for me, still dealing with the residual Mono issues.
And then this past August happened. I was in consistent pain again. It just wouldn’t stop. From late July through most of August, I was switching between Percocet and Dilaudid. There were three nights when the pain was intractable, which landed me in the emergency room each time. They would give me more intravenous narcotics, along with a wonderful anti-inflammatory that helped immensely with the swelling in my left side. Through all of this, I had been staying put in CT, as I couldn’t drive under the influence of the meds, or do much of anything for that matter. My whole life had begun to revolve around pain management.
Toward late August, my surgeon implanted a temporary stent to open up the ureter and eliminate the backup problems. While this alleviated that issue, it created a bleeding issue for the first week, and that fell within a timeframe when I had to do a Friday and then a Saturday gig very, very far up state in NY. That Saturday, midway through the second set at a wedding, I could feel myself getting worse and worse. At this point I’m going to spare any specifics about the symptoms that were happening, as they are extremely unpleasant. I realized that I had to go to the hospital, so I found myself in an ambulance shortly before the end of the second set, heading to the emergency room. I wouldn’t have made it through that night in without my incredible and supportive girlfriend, Jen. She stayed on the phone with me until the early hours of the morning, and she got me a hotel room so that I could crash there instead of sleeping in my car or stubbornly trying to start the six hour drive back. I don’t know what I would have done without her.
Now, with the stent still in place and the bleeding under control, walking and standing the amount that I usually do just won’t work, so I’ve been taking it very easy, making sure not to put any stress on my left side. Even walking from a parking spot is taxing at this point. I can feel the agitation in my side. But, it has gotten me off the narcotics, which is a very important thing.
My surgery is finally coming on September 17th. It will be about two weeks before I will be functional after that, and 4-6 weeks to be fully recovered, but I will finally be free of the chronic pain and free of the need for heavy pain medication. I have canceled a lot of gigs this summer, and missed many opportunities I would have loved to be part of. I have also spent way too many large chunks of time away from my amazing, loving, and caring girlfriend. But relief is now in sight, and I will be extremely glad to get my life back to normal and back on track. There is a lot of music to be made, suspended projects to finish, new projects to start, and a lot of life to live. I could not have gotten through this difficult part of my life without Jen, and the love, support, and help of my parents.