Anyone for a Nephrectomy?


You will most likely never meet someone who has had a Nephrectomy. The secret code comes from the word ‘nephros’ (kidney) and ‘ectomy’ (removal).

As we were blessed with two kidneys, removal of one does not spell the end of the world, but it isn’t an easy road to hoe. I speak from personal experience.

My kidney and I decided we were not compatible in November 2018 when I looked in the toilet after the morning motion and a bowlful of bright red blood was staring back at me.

No other symptoms had me confused. If my urinary symptoms were threatening dire things, then I would have expected some pain. But none. I plugged on that day until I was no longer passing any urine at all, but now the discomfort of an over extended bladder was making itself evident. I staggered into our Urology department begging for help to decompress my bladder.

Modern technology is amazing. In less than five minutes a catheter was passed into the bladder, complete with mini-camera and the inside of my bladder lay open for medical scrutiny. Amazing.

This showed us that blood was coming down the right ureter (tube from kidney to bladder) and that the next step would be an X-Ray scan of the kidney, scheduled for the next day. In the meantime a catheter was passed into the bladder and we waited for the scanner.

A scan is a painless procedure (just like an X-Ray) and my urologist Dr. Pornchai, asked me if I wanted to look at the scan, to which I eagerly agreed. After all, I had already decided this would show a calculus (stone) in the kidney itself. Dr. Pornchai sadly turned the screen in my direction. There was no calculus, just a mass of cancerous tissue where the kidney used to be. There was also involvement of the arteries and veins in the region. This was not going to be a simple procedure.

Much discussion with the specialist surgeons ensued with BPH vascular surgeon Dr. Sujit joined by other colleagues from Bangkok and Dr. Pornchai. There would be precious little elbow room at my surgical table.

The plan was that Dr. Pornchai would remove the kidney while vascular surgeons removed the diseased artery and vein and grafted where necessary. Several hours work. And exacting work too.

On the appointed day I was anxiously admitted to the ward, dressed in surgical clothes and on a gurney, transported to the Operating Theatre.

By the time I was pushed into the theatre proper I was no longer anxious, but just wanted it all to begin. Let’s get the show on the road! I’ve never been good at waiting.

My next experience was a sort of magical mystery tour. Morphine can take you anywhere, and in my case it did. I was in an ICU with no idea of what I was doing there. I had no real sense of even where I was, and why! For a while I was in the UK, and the next, Northern Thailand.

Angels in white hovered around which seemed to have a calmative effect to counteract latent panic, which unfortunately did break through on several occasions (I am told).

I have recollections of calling out for somebody, anybody, to tell me where I was as I thought I was back in Australia. My big son, the doctor who practices in Australia, became a kind of life line to reality. In retrospect I’m sure I must have been a right proper pain in the A for him.

From there it was assistance to get out of bed and help with the agonizing trip to the toilet that was the most pressing need. (I have never been able to pee in a bottle while lying down.)

The pee shuffle is so important as it is necessary for the Urologists to ensure that the remaining kidney is doing its job, and volume of urine passed is the best measurement. By the way, it’s not easy standing there holding onto the wall with one hand, and the pee bottle with the other and not saturating your feet. So far, so good! Carpet slippers remained dry.

After one week it was time to fly solo and bundling all the grapes, chocolates and other edible goodies together it was off home and walking around the walls to get to the toilet after either of the children helped me up from my sofa, a task with 40 odd stitches running north to south not being easy, nor pain free. However, I can now get out of the chair unaided. Another giant step for mankind.

At the time of writing this, it is now three weeks post-operation. I can drive my car (slowly) and even toast some bread while standing in the kitchen. All very mundane, but all part of the rehabilitation.

Life actually revolves around the abdominal scar. Everything you do is connected to your belly button. The pink one button is far more important than you imagine. No matter what you do, the belly muscles are needed to stabilize the body and contract. Not fun.

And so I approached 2019, one kidney short but high in hopes. I am walking, albeit slowly. I am watching my diet to restrict salt (note: chips without salt are not worth eating), my racing car sits under a cover getting ready for me to get behind the wheel and I get ready for the fifth pee of the day and it is only 10 a.m.

I thank all my friends and those who have helped spur me on. You have been appreciated more than I could tell you.