A pain in my… Kidney?!

Backdate Jan 1, 2012

I was so excited to move into my apartment but afraid to be in my apartment alone after spending the last three months always with one my Moroccan host families for the last three months.

I would never say that I am the most social person on the planet but I had gotten use to always having “family,” around.  So although I moved into the apartment – I spent the night at my site mates  host family’s.

I went to sleep in the formal salon with all the other women – as the other rooms were taken by my site mate and other family.  I woke at 2 am with a sharp pain in my stomach and tried to go back to sleep but the pain just kept increasing.

I decided to use the bathroom and see if it was just really bad gas or anything else.

So I waited till 4 am to call the PC Medical Duty phone and be told I should go straight to the hospital.

At that point, I woke up Khadijah – who is a cousin of the host family – and the pain was so bad I literally was nauseous and threw up.

I told them I needed to go to the hospital because Peace Corps wanted me to get checked out – and have some blood work done ASAP.

There were two possibilities – I had my appendix going south or it was my kidneys.  I was hoping for the appendix since the pain was located on the right side of my stomach near the hip bone.

It hurt to walk, it hurt to get dressed to go to the hospital – I felt like if I stabbed myself in my stomach – it would be less painful than what I was experiencing right then – even childbirth – can’t be this bad I thought to myself.

My site mate was woken up by my family and his host dad went to search for a taxi – which at 4 am wasn’t going to happen – and didn’t.

By 5 am – the neighbor had been woken and was willing to drive me down to the Regional hospital located in my site.  I asked my site mate to join me because with my pain level at a 20 – I couldn’t speak Moroccan Arabic if my life depended it on it.

We get to the hospital and I finally get to meet the doctor who is surprised to see me  and find out I am Muslim – all the medical staff a men – which is awkward -but thank goodness my site mate’s host mom came with me.

My site mate chatted about soccer and other sports Morocco and America had in common – while the nurse who found out I have survival Spanish tried to speak to me in Spanish to explain the situation.

They took blood from me after poking me like I was a pin cushion and put a make shift bandaid on me – which when I removed it left a “bandaid” like scar on the inside of my right elbow.

I then had the uncomfortable situation of the nurse eager to be oh so helpful – attempt to pull my pants off without talking to me first – in order to give me some pain killer while we waited for the blood test results.

I was one minute – laying on the formerly white pleather exam table and the next the nurse was pulling at my pants – I swear to god – I was like – Snu? (What?) Blati (Wait!) – I called my site mates name and said – Don’t look!  I told the nurse – I can get my own pants off – Thank you very much.

The male nurse proceeded to stick me in my butt with the pain killer – while my site mates host mom – looked on.

I know in ten years – heck even five this will be funny – but I was mad and told the guy don’t touch me again unless you ask first – in Moroccan Arabic and shamed him.

The pain killer kicked in and took the edge off the pain – which was nice while it lasted – which was maybe an hour – during which time the blood test results came back with higher than normal white blood cell count – which can indicate a appendix about to burst – or an infection else where – such as my kidneys.

My site mate and I were on the phone periodically with the Peace Corps Medical Duty Phone – we called him once we got the results and he said – I really want you to come to Rabat ASAP – this is serious.

Prior to this conversation – the Doctor at the Regional Hospital admited me and I ended up in a room with two other Moroccan women – and learned I never want to end up in a public Moroccan hospital ever again – they are old, questionably clean and in need of major upgrades.

Did I also mention – food, pillows, blankets etc isn’t provided?  Your family has to bring that to you or you have to bribe hospital staff.  Lucky me – host mom brought blankets and pillows for me from her house.  The pain came back worse than ever – so bad I had a cold sweat and I was shivering from the pain level or shock.

Ok.. by this time it was maybe 6am – now to get transport to Rabat – the soonest we could get there by train would be the afternoon – 2- 4pm – so instead my site mate got a Grand Taxi – which cost 1200 DH for a one way trip – with us purchasing all the seats- also it cost more because of the early morning hour.

We stopped by my house – grabbed some clothes and tolietries – stuffed them in a bag and got in the Grand Taxi for what should have been a 4 hour taxi ride.

The taxi trip took us 7-8 hours because the guy refused to pay to use the toll road to get to Rabat much faster – because he was cheap and wanted to not spend as much money has he could out of our fare.

During the journey, I finally fell asleep – not sure if the pain wore off or if exhaustion combined with shock finally wore me out.  We stopped once for a bathroom break and to grab some food since neither of us had eaten yet by the time it hit 2pm .

To top it off the Grand Taxi driver got lost in Rabat.  So by 8 hours in – we ditched the driver and got a Petit Taxi to take us to Peace Corps HQ – where the medical office is located.

During the journey, I finally fell asleep – not sure if the pain wore off or if exhaustion combined with shock finally wore me out.

Once I got to PCMO – I was assessed – and they decide it was my kidney’s not the appendix.  Just great I thought to myself – at least with an appendix I could get it removed and heal up – then be done with it.

Two years ago I got kidney stones – why? Stress and to much spinach – now the question is why was my body making kidney stones again?

I was given Codine – told to drink more water and driven to the local kidney specialist – then the Clinic that only does Xrays, Ultrasounds, CAT and CT scans – to get my kidneys checked out.

Then back to the specialist – who said I had three options – 1. Pass the stone naturally if it isn’t too big 2. Get it broken up using super sonar and then pass it 3. Surgery.

My right kidney had a 5 mm stone sitting on top of my urinary track – oh joy!

BTW – thats HUGE.

So they did all the scans and the expert was like – lets try the sonar but it won’t be till she is on the table that we will know if we can do the procedure.

By this time I had been in Rabat for a 3-4 days.

My mudir from my Dar Chabab decided to give me a call – to complain – WHERE AM I?  WHY HAVEN’T I BEEN TO THE DAR CHABAB?

Umm.. I am in Rabat – I am really sick my kidneys have issues I say – Oh… Well call me next time so I know where you are!

At 28 years old – now 29 – it never ceases to surprise me when Moroccans flip out about where I diasppeared to or not.

I end up getting bright and early at 6 am to go to the 7am sonar appointment – to which the specialist arrives two hours late for.. and does my kidney on the left side.

I go in a few days later – and have the right kidney done.

I pass parts of the HUGE stone – and PCMO ships it out to the Gendarmes – who go figure have a lab for this stuff – and we wait for the report to come in on just what is the make up of the kidney stone.

During this time – I have run out of clean clothing – I am so grateful when a wonderful PCMO staff takes me home like a stray kitten and does my laundry for me.  It was such a moral booster while – shuttling appointment to appointment and being in pain – to have clean clothing – I packed for a day or two – not a week in Rabat.

Finally the results come back after I travel back to Taza – my site – my kidney stones are made up of – tea, salt, excessive animal protein, chocolate aka oxalates and calcuim – so  when I don’t drink enough water my body goes and makes kidney stones of this stuff.

So.. I resolve to drink more water and eat less Moroccan food – which involves excessive amounts of salt and bullion cubes – and tea which is termed “Moroccan whiskey,” because they drink it at every possible chance.

As for protein – I haven’t purchased red meat since I got here – and I only eat eggs for protein since they are cheap and easy to access.

InshaAllah – I don’t get any more kidney stones in Morocco – although PCMO was awesome in taking care of this health issue for me – I wish I could say I got the same level of care last time I used my HMO in California.


3 thoughts on “A pain in my… Kidney?!

  1. Vivid writing. Wow, I sort of knew you’d survived to blog again, but it was tense there for a while. I admire your hanging in. When a few of us were stationed north of the Salang Pass, a long taxi ride from Kabul, one of us went into this pain and shock of kidney stones as you did. It was so scary for us to be in our house with our few resources and confronted with what appeared to be a dangerous situation for her. We too hired a taxi and one of us accompanied her. Later I learned it was a long wait to be seen by anyone, and the facilities were poor. So glad you had people around you who were able to get you to help. And that wonderful soul who took you in for laundry help, etc.

  2. Vivid writing. So glad you had some help and have pulled through. A friend serving with us a long taxi ride north of the Salang Pass in Afghanistan had a similar experience. We were terrified and put her in cab with one of us for the long trip. She survived, but it was no picnic.

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