The Saga Of The Stones (Not a Story About Iceland)

After you go through bariatric surgery, you are warned about a few things. “Take your multivitamins” your nutritionist will tell you. “Otherwise you will suffer from malnutrition.”

“Make sure you exercise 150 minutes a week” you surgeon will prod you. “Lack of physical activity is the #1 leading cause of regain.”

And your whole medical team will tell you “Stay hydrated!” They will give you a long list of things that can go wrong if you don’t drink enough, including this one: “Lack of hydration can lead to kidney stones.”

Turns out your medical team actually knows a thing or two about this.

The Path Paved With Good Intentions

I had thought I was doing pretty well on the whole “hydration” thing. I drink about 40 ounces of (decaffeinated, sigh) coffee over a couple hours every morning. After that, I try to down another couple of 20-ounce bottles of water during the course of the day. 80 ounces of hydration a day, right?

Except…well, a few things have come up in the past few weeks. We’ve started a pretty intense new exercise routine at our gym called “BodyPump”. It involves high-rep (like 70+reps) low-weight exercises for the entire body. Though we only do it a couple of times a week, it is a major drain. And I can’t say that I leave the class feeling like I am fresh and hydrated. More like I am a squeezed-out dishrag, really.

And, then, we have our semi-annual visitor. Our nephew has come to stay with us for a few weeks, which throws our entire schedule into disarray. We spend all our time hanging around with him (we like him), and tend to ignore our regular routine. Between the new exercise program and our break in routine, my hydration habits have probably been less than optimal.

And down that path lies madness.


It began one night late last week. At about 9 pm, I stood up to head to bed. Suddenly, I was aware of what felt like a cramp, deep in the right side of my abdomen. It felt as though someone had inserted a metal bar into me. No matter what I did to stretch, nothing worked to release the pressure.

Finally, I shrugged it off and went off to complete my nighttime routine, hoping the pain would simply go away on its own. However, during my ritual nightly visit to the bathroom, something unusual happened.


No matter how I strained and pushed, I could not pee no matter how hard I tried. I knew I needed to. I just couldn’t manage to get the job done, as it were.

Now, I am a man in his late 40s. I have been through some of the more…exotic…issues that accompany my aging physiology, including prostatitis. But this just didn’t feel the same. I finally gave up and went to complain to Lor. She immediately questioned my hydration for the day.

Now, as it turns out, my fluid intake for the day had consisted of…one cup of coffee. All day. No more. She suggested I down some fluids. I spent ten minutes taking in 20 ounces of water, hoping to get things moving.

Then all hell broke loose.

Suddenly, I was no longer suffering from a sore spot in my abdomen. Now, I suddenly felt as if someone had inserted a red-hot poker into my abdomen and shoved it all the way through my lower back.

The Night That Would Not End

Chatting later with others that have suffered from kidney stones, I was able to determine that this was a pretty normal set of symptoms. At the time, I was positive that no one had ever experienced pain on this level. From 11 PM till 1 AM, I kept up an ongoing argument with myself about whether or not I needed to go to the emergency room. I was quite certain that my appendix had burst, or something equally dire.

However, at around 1 in the morning, I was suddenly able to produce about an eyedropper’s amount of urine. Some of the painful internal burning subsided.

I immediately drank a little more, hoping to flush out whatever was causing this ailment.

The pain returned.

I kept this cycle up, also taking a shower four different times, hoping the heat would help with the muscular pressure. (It did, a bit.) Finally, at 4:30, my exhaustion overcame my pain and I fell asleep on the couch.

At 7:00 AM Lor came and woke me up, ready to take me to the urgent care center. I made one last attempt to go to the bathroom…

And succeeded, producing a bowl filled with an evil-looking orange fluid. I spent the next two days seated on the couch, trying not to move due to how sore I was.

Except, of course, during my frequent trips to the bathroom.

Hydrate Or Die

So, did all this occur due to a week’s worth of bad habits?

Almost certainly not. I have probably been failing in my hydration goals for weeks now. Certain people have suggested to me that downing 40 ounces of fluid first thing in the morning should probably not be counted toward my 80-ounce a day goal. It apparently needs to be spread out over the day, not all done at once.

If I wasn’t a believer in hydration before, by God, I am now. I may never leave the house without a Camelbak again, just to avoid another night like that.

My PSA for the day: Avoid Kidney Stones.

I tried it, and you won’t dig it.

Still Sore, Four Days Later,


One Reply to “The Saga Of The Stones (Not a Story About Iceland)”

  1. That sucks brother. Yes, you were probably wrong to include coffee (even decaf) in your hydration count. Very few liquids besides water will actually adequately hydrate you. Don’t count coffee or juice or anything with caffeine towards your hydration goals. Even Gatorade has its limits because the sugar gets in the way. Anything with additives creates problems for hydration. The best bet is to stick with just plain water. I go through at least 3 liters of water a day, probably more. But the military got me hooked on the clear stuff in basic. But then again, I’ve never had stones or any other hydration related problem, so I think I’ll keep it up.

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