Perhaps you’ve never given much consideration to the importance of your kidneys. But that’s why I’m here.
This weekend our youngest cat named Benny came down with a wicked blockage of his pee passages. His little body backed up and his kidneys took a whack. The vets performed some procedures and he’s making some signs of recovery. But nothing’s assured until we know his kidney function is restored.
It’s a strange thing to look inside your cat when the vet pulls the x-ray up on the screen. First, we studied the bone structure where the little guy had his hip broken as a stray when he climbed into a car engine and got singed and busted up when the car started up. Someone brought him to the vet’s office out of compassion for the creature. The vet put him up for adoption and my fiance Sue volunteered to bring him home. He’s been a sweet part of our family ever since.
He did get away for 10 days when I left the back door open one summer. How he survived out there and what he ate we don’t know. Finally, the twenty-somethings in our household saw him passing through our yard and caught him on a neighbor’s pool deck. He ate like a pig when we brought him back into the house.
I would have felt horrible had we never gotten him back. Sue rightly loves that little cat, so the recent kidney scare has us all a bit on edge. We watch our cats closely for the most part. Only a quick mistake allowed Benny out the door that summer.
So the girls here noticed this weekend that Benny wasn’t acting right. Finally, we found him Sunday morning huddled in a classic LLBean wooden sled tucked up in the crawlspace. We called and his little head popped up, glazed eyes and all.
The vets did a procedure to drain his bladder and stick a catheter in there. That’s familiar territory from my caregiving days with my father. The last 10 years of his life, it was a battle to keep his stroke-ridden body on cue in terms of urinary issues. My dad dealt with more catheters and bags than any person should have to endure. It’s no damned fun.
Back when a friend of mine had a urinary procedure, he called me following his operation to warn, “If anyone ever says these two words to you, “Foley Catheter…run like hell.”
“Don’t let anyone tell you that it doesn’t hurt,” he advised. “It does.”
See, all of us are finely calibrated delicate machines in the urinary department. If something clogs the system, the only way to fix it is to remove the obstruction, reduce the swelling, jam a catheter up or release the pee by otherwise routing it out.
Back in my thirties, I had some prostate gland enlargement issues. The problem turned out to be driven by an acute sensitivity to caffeine. So I quit drinking that, and the problem went away. But not before I had to deal with the onset of a prostate infection that was so painful and disturbing it made me want to die. It also blocked urine flow. When you feel that pressure hitting your kidneys, it can make you panic in a hurry.
So this gives us a bit of perspective, does it not? Sure, having to pee when you’re running or cycling of swimming is a pain sometimes. But not being able to pee, or losing urinary or kidney function, those are far more serious problems. We’re all kidney beings when it comes down to it. If our bodies cannot process or release urine, we can go septic and die.
Four years ago, my late father-in-law went through a heart attack that led to surgery. His kidneys did not stand up well to anesthesia and following that procedure, things got messed up. Ultimately he was forced to do kidney dialysis. And once that starts, there is apparently no going back. By the time he passed away, it was a blessing that he no longer had to suffer all that.
That’s why the poor kitty struggling to pee hits home with me. He’s a kidney being just like you and me. So do not take your kidneys or other urinary functions for granted. When things slow to a crawl down there, or you get a pain in your back or side, that might just be kidney stones. I had one small episode two years ago that taught me how weird that whole thing can be. As anyone that has passed a kidney stone can attest, those are no joking matter.
Which means that diet matters. Here’s a list of foods that have been linked to kidney stones. Then take a tip from our little cat Benny. Prevention is far better than having a catheter shoved up your kitty crotch, and donning the Cone of Shame. Those things can be hell to wear in a windstorm, especially on the bike.