If you want to start at the beginning, click the "Ken's Ordeal" link at the bottom of this post or in the sidebar.
In early December, Ken was having several "episodes" a week. Work was becoming impossible. He didn't tell me just how bad it was. However, he looked more and more ill. He also seemed stiff, and one morning he said, "Every joint in my body is hurting." He was frequently dizzy and had difficulty concentrating. He told himself, and me, that he needed a break from the stress of his job, and he looked forward to taking time off to spend with the family at Christmas. We went to the clinic two times, where he reported that the episodes were increasing in number and intensity, but no answers were forthcoming.
By Christmas it was obvious to everyone that something was very, very wrong. Ken's face was a yellow-grey. He almost passed out several times. He began to have pain in his back and shoulders--pain which increased to an excruciating point between Christmas and New Years. We went to urgent care one weekend, and the doctor was unbelievably rude. He did prescribe Vicodan and suggested Ken follow up with his doctor.
Episodes were happening multiple times a day, and I tried to convince him to go to the Emergency Room. He refused (I still don't know why) and told me he would go to the clinic the following week. But then one night he called me into the bathroom and pointed at the toilet bowl. Weakly, he asked, "Is that blood?" Yes, it was blood, and lots of it. The water was not pink. It was a deep, dark red. A stab of fear made me breathless for a moment, and then I began, "Ken, you have to do something....this is really serious...." "Yes," he said, "I'll go to the doctor tomorrow."
The next morning, New Year's Day, his back pain was extreme. His shoulders hurt too, and he could barely move his arms. The bloody urine continued. Another visit to urgent care with a different doctor led to suspicion of kidney stones, and they did a CT scan. As we waited for the results, Ken sat with his head down, silent and withdrawn. His face was lined and dark circles rimmed his eyes. When I asked him if he was okay, he replied softly, "I hurt." I looked at his hands, which were clasped in his lap. His right hand looked puffy. "Your hand is a little swollen," I said. "Is it painfult?" "A little." I touched his hand. It felt warm. "Yeah," he said listlessly, "that hurts a little."
The doctor returned and gave us the news. "You do not have kidney stones. But we did discover a small tumor on one of your adrenal glands." We looked at him, and then each other, in surprise. "A tumor?" "Yes. But don't worry. Most of these tumors are asymptomatic. Lots of people never even know they have one." He handed Ken a paper for scheduling a follow-up appointment at the clinic. "And the reason you have blood in your urine may be because you have been taking too much Warfarin. Your blood is pretty thin. Don't take Warfarin until you can follow up with your doc." He patted Ken's shoulder gently. "I'm sorry you are in such pain. I don't know the source of that, so make sure you see your primary doctor soon. Stop at the desk and they'll get your appointment set."
Ken never did keep that appoiitment. The next morning he got up, telling me that his vacation was over and he was going back to work. He stood at the bathroom sick, preparing to brush his teeth. I started to tell him that there was no way he was going to work, but then I realized something strange was happening. He was bent over the sink, shaking almost as though he were having a seizure. It was terrifying. After a moment the episode passed and he headed towards the bed, looking like a ghost and weaving from side to side.
"Ken, we are going to the hospital. Right now. And I'm not taking 'no' for an answer, and I am not bringing you home. They will admit you or I will sit there till they do."