Three years ago, Cindy Wingler, now 57, felt nauseous and fatigued, and thought perhaps she was having another urinary tract infection which she had many of in her lifetime. She went to the ER at Hansen Family Hospital in Iowa Falls. What Cindy found out was much more dire. She was in acute kidney failure and had sepsis because a massive staghorn kidney stone had filled her entire left kidney blocking any function or filtering of the kidney at all. Cindy was transferred to MercyOne North Iowa Medical Center in Mason City, and urologist Kevin Rier, MD became her doctor and surgeon.
Said Cindy, “Dr. Rier is the absolute best. He tells you exactly what is going on in ways you can understand. He is honest, you know. He does not keep anything from you.” Cindy’s staghorn kidney stone was bigger than anything Dr. Rier or his urology partners had ever seen. It took five surgeries and seven months for Dr. Rier and his team to fully remove all of the calculi built up in her kidney.
“They worked together as a team. I saw and talked with his partners Dr. Mulholland, Dr. Adams, and the resident Dr. Meyers too. I had excellent care,” said Cindy. “Also, my boyfriend doesn’t like hospitals, but the staff at MercyOne North Iowa and the surgical center made him feel welcome and comfortable sitting through my surgeries.”
“Now I feel great. My kidney function is improving. I still have my kidney. I drink a lot of water and am on low sodium diet. I am taking the full month of July off to visit my son and brother in Washington state. I am going hiking, fishing – taking a much-needed mental break. I am on the road to recovery thanks to Dr. Rier.”
It has been 3 years since Cindy had her staghorn kidney stone operated on.
Said Cindy, “I am doing well. The good news is that my kidneys are still functioning well enough, not at 100% but at 45%, so they are filtering the waste out of my blood. The size and scope of my kidney stone did permanently compromise my kidney, so I have Stage 3 chronic kidney disease and will have chronic kidney disease for the rest of my life.”
“I have been seeing a kidney specialist for the last two years. And I have continued to make lifestyle changes including drinking lots of water, eating a low sodium diet, as well as taking high dose of vitamin C and potassium citrate. I have not had many urinary tract infections whereas before the surgery I had them every month.”
“I went on another trip this past summer to visit my brother and son, and so my quality of life is much better. I have Dr. Rier and his team to thank.”
Kidney stones are a common but painful urinary tract disorder that affects more than three million people in the United States each year. A kidney stone is a hardened mass of mineral and acid salts that separates from the urine and travels through the urinary tract. The urine normally dilutes and dissolves these substances, but when the composition of urine is unbalanced, crystallized kidney stones can form.
According to the National Kidney Foundation there are some key ways to prevent kidney stones. Here are Six Tips To Prevent & Treat Kidney Stones
Loss of water through sweating due to physical activities, summer’s heat or even the sauna leads to less urine production. The more you sweat, the less you urinate, which allows for stone-causing minerals to settle and bond in the kidneys and urinary tract. One of the best ways to avoid kidney stones is to drink lots of water. Stay hydrated. Urinate more.
Most kidney stones are formed when oxalate binds to calcium while urine is produced by the kidneys. It is important to eat and drink calcium and oxalate-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, grains and legumes together during a meal. Oxalate and calcium are more likely to bind to one another in the stomach and intestines before the kidneys begin processing, making it less likely that kidney stones will form.
A misnomer is that calcium is the main culprit in in calcium-oxalate stones. A diet low in calcium will actually increase your risk of developing kidney stones. Work to cut back on the sodium in your diet and to pair calcium-rich foods with oxalate-rich foods. Don’t reduce the calcium.
Passing a kidney stone is often described as one of the most painful experiences a person can have, but it’s not always a one-time event. Studies have shown that having even one stone greatly increases your chances of having another. Without the right medications and diet modifications, kidney stones can come back, and these reoccurrences could be an indicator of kidney disease.
Chronic kidney stones are often treated with an alkali citrate with a mineral(s), such as sodium, potassium or magnesium to help prevent stone formation. People with kidney disease may need to watch their intake of sodium, potassium or other minerals, depending on the stage of kidney disease or other factors.
In addition to calcium oxalate stones, another common type of kidney stones is uric acid stones. To prevent these, the recommendation is to cut down on high-purine foods such as red meat, organ meats, and shellfish. Eating less animal-based protein and eating more fruits and vegetables will help decrease urine acidity and this will help reduce the chance for stone formation.