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  • ericaanne

Hiding the Percocets: Part I

Updated: May 27, 2022

Around this time, Nick had started mentioning thoughts of driving his car off one of the Colorado mountain roads with hopes he wouldn't survive. In response, I started hiding his car keys at night and was hardly sleeping - listening for every little sound to make sure he wasn't about to do anything life-threatening. So, when I woke up to him screaming at 4am, I was immediately terrified I had missed something.

Before I go on, let me preface with Nick had been sick. Like physically sick, on top of mentally sick. We believed he had pneumonia and he was coughing a lot.

I ran into the bathroom to find Nick on the ground, screaming, and holding onto his side.

"Nick we need to bring you to the emergency room," I tried to convince him.

"No babe, I'll be fine! We don't have insurance and we don't have the money to go to an emergency room!" He screamed through gritted teeth.

"Nick, you're rolling around on the bathroom floor screaming out in pain. We don't have much of a choice."

I got him in the car and we darted for the nearest emergency room. When we walked in, Nick started vomiting in the waiting area. They took him back as I finished giving the front desk his information.

As I joined him, he was crouched down on the scale as they were trying weigh him.

"Kidney stone." The doctor said casually as he walked by Nick.

"100%. I've had one before," Nick replied, clutching his side. He'd had a kidney stone the year before I met him. He knew this pain well. This time, though, we believe that he was coughing so hard that it caused the kidney stone to dislodge and get stuck in his ureter.

When they got him into a room, the doctor said, "we'll shoot a CT to confirm the diagnosis, but when it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's usually a duck."

The CT was done almost immediately and they started him on morphine quickly after. The morphine made him drowsy and vomit more.

"It's one thing after another," Nick cried to me with his face in a vomit bag. I couldn't help but feel the same way. It felt like we were being challenged around every corner since his dad was diagnosed with cancer in 2017, then passed away in 2018.

"We'll get through this too, babe," was the only response I could offer.

"I don't want to get through this. I just don't want to live anymore," he said as he was drifting in and out of consciousness.

We were there for hours. I already told our boss what was happening and that Nick wouldn't be in for the day, and I probably wouldn't be either. The ER gave us a prescription for Flomax, to use off-label in hopes that it would dilate his ureter enough to pass the stone without other intervention. Then they told us to use Tylenol for pain and sent us home. As soon as we walked through the door, the morphine wore off and the pain returned. He crouched down onto the floor and begged me to bring him back. I got him back in the car, darted back to the ER, and they gave him more morphine. This time, it helped enough to get him home and put him in bed. The whole ordeal would put us $14,000 in medical debt, with no health insurance to cover any of it. Remember the several times I've referred to being broke? Yeah. We couldn't afford any of this.

Nick was out of work for the rest of the week. The pain made it impossible for him to adjust patients, let alone concentrate on anything else. He slept most of the day, which seems like a natural thing for someone in his physical condition, but sleeping was another one of his OCD avoidance behaviors. The increased sleeping concerned me. I couldn't tell if it was due to the kidney stone or his OCD, or both. He kept telling me it was the kidney stone, but I wasn't so sure.

The pain only progressed as the week went on. I found us some health insurance that week (albeit, not great coverage, but some). Eventually, at 1am, he decided he'd had enough and wanted to go to the hospital. He was in so much pain when I got him in the car, he started screaming to run the red lights. Nobody was around, so I did. (And no, I don't condone this behavior).

We got to the hospital and they ran another CT. The blockage from the stone had caused his kidney to double in size. They told him he'd be having surgery tonight as they prepped a room for him to sleep in until then. I was exhausted and curled up on the bed next to him, but the beeping from all of the machines was making it impossible for me to get any sleep. His surgery wasn't for another 4 hours, so I asked the nurse if I could head home and sleep for a couple of hours before returning. When she said yes, I warned her about Nick's mental health and that he'd been suicidal. I asked her to keep a close eye on him and she promised she would.

I got home and I was exhausted. But I wasn't just from the events from that night; I'd been exhausted for months. I didn't even change out of my clothes before crawling under the covers. I remember crying before I fell asleep.

When my alarm went off, I jumped out of bed, gave Daisy a kiss and fed her. I had no idea how long I'd be gone. When I got to the hospital, they brought me in to talk with Nick and the urologist.

"Okay, Nick. Here's the deal. 9 times out of 10, I can get the kidney stone removed on the first shot. The one other time I have to put a stent in the ureter and the patient has to come back in 2 weeks to have the stone removed. I've done 17 of these this weekend and my track record has been pretty good."

I liked the stats he was telling us, but I was still pessimistic about our luck.

"With our luck, he'll be the 1 out of 10," I thought quietly to myself.

I kissed Nick goodbye as they brought him to get prepped for surgery. I went out into the waiting room and laid down on a couch, with hopes that I'd get a little more sleep before they finished up.

The doctor came and got me less than 30 minutes later. I didn't realize how quick this procedure was.

"We didn't get it," he said. "So, we put a stent in and he'll have to come back. The stent should help pass urine properly so his kidney size decreases. I'm going to write him a few prescriptions in the meantime to get him through the next two weeks." I remember being frustrated. I was frustrated that Nick would have to continue to deal with this, as well the stress of having more medical debt. The first ER visit put us thousands of dollars in debt, and this failed procedure would make it worse. Now we needed to come back, again, for another surgery.

I nodded in exhausted agreement as he brought me back to see Nick. Nick was just told the news about how the surgery went. I could see the frustration on his face. "Of course this happens to me," he muttered.

They got prescriptions ready for us and handed them to me: oxycodone w/acetaminophen. Otherwise known as Percocets.

"Shit." I thought to myself.

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