POSTSCRIPT / October 11, 2007 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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It's true, I've had a kidney operation

USUAL CHISMIS: My friends have texted me that my circle in Manila is abuzz with chismis that I have also undergone a major kidney operation like my late publisher Max Soliven, blah-blah.

I’m a very private person, but before the talk goes out of hand, I better give a first-person account.

My kidney operation at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center last Thursday (Oct. 4) was amazing — at least to this spartan soul who, like his mother, refuses to take medicine as long as he can bear the pain.

I don’t deserve it, but it seems the Lord is still kind to me.

* * *

STAGHORN: A hole as small as a straw was bored on my right back, and a tube inserted to reach my right kidney. Through the tube a small camera was worked in, ballooning inside and giving the doctors using a TV monitor a good inside view.

Small tools were inserted. Using them, renowned urologist Dr. Mantu Gupta extracted the stones, tore them up by laser and vacuumed out the debris through the same tube. Any fine dust that may have spilled went out with my urine.

The biggest stone, a staghorn with tricky branches, had a body that was more than an inch before fragmentation. (My left kidney has no stone, so it was not involved in the procedure.)

The stones were slightly blocking urine flow, taking up space, promoting risk of infection, and reducing the efficiency of my right kidney.

Despite this condition dating back many years, I have been mostly asymptomatic, unaware that a staghorn calculus was slowly destroying my kidney.

* * *

O.R. EPISODE: Before the procedure, I was thoroughly briefed and told what the Gupta team would do. They also checked my photo-ID to make sure they were working on me and not on my tocayo from GSIS. I signed the usual papers.

The team knew in advance what they would find, because I have had a series of tests (CT-scan, urine analyses, blood works, X-ray, etc.). They also studied my St. Luke’s and US medical records, including negatives and CD files, of previous years.

As I lay myself down on the operating table, I saw the big clock at exactly 1 p.m. (that was Thursday a week ago). Before I could run away, I was promptly given general anesthesia. That was the last thing I remember of that operating room episode.

* * *

NO TRAUMA: I woke up three hours later, already in the recovery room with five tubes connected to my body: suero (intravenous), oxygen, the drain tube through the hole to my kidney, a catheter to help me pass urine, and leggings that massaged my lower legs to prevent blood clotting there.

With all those tubes, I could not eat nor get up from bed. But I was sipping a lot of water.

Late the next morning, the tubes were removed. The only trace left was a small wound on my right back where the small tube was pulled out. The scar is now covered by gauze.

There was no pain, no nausea, no trauma, no stitches, no fever, no external bleeding.

I was sent home after a late lunch, my first meal since I started fasting at midnight prior to the operation.

* * *

BACK TO NORMAL: The only indication that I had an operation is the blood (expected) in my urine, which is now paling in color. Para akong may regla!

There is no post-operation prescription except for three antibiotic pills, 500 mg each — one pill taken each day for three days for a total of 1,500 mg. I’m not taking any more medication.

My routine and diet are back to normal without any food restrictions. I was immediately working as soon as I reached home. I delved into my materials, wrote a column early Saturday and emailed it to the Philippine STAR.

Dr. Gupta simply advised me to keep drinking plenty of water and to walk around, but not to lift heavy things. Before I was processed for release, he patted my back and said I was all right. I believed him.

* * *

AETNA COVERAGE: The stones taken (in bits and pieces and some pulverized) were flown to Utah for analysis. I will get them back in the mail, for souvenir. I expect them to be calcium oxalate, which is common.

I was told there was a perfectly round black stone, like a marble. That one I want to see and keep.

Actually I was an outpatient, because by definition if one is sent home within 24 hours, even if he slept in the hospital, he is an outpatient and is charged less.

My Aetna HMO insurance took care of the entire bill, including the tests and pre-surgery consultations (except for a $30 “co-pay,” which is like our “deductible” when making a car insurance claim).

* * *

STENT REMOVAL: Three weeks after the operation, I will go back to Dr. Gupta for him to remove a “stent,” a smaller tube he had attached to my bladder to help drain it. He will pull it out in a 10-minute routine. (I tried locating its tip, but could not find it.)

Dr. Gupta, who does nothing but stones, teaches the technique, including the use of the tiny tools. He told me he had been to the Philippines. The procedure he uses has a long name that I cannot remember.

I’m not good at guessing ages, but this specialist must be in his late 40’s or early 50’s.

Those who want to know more about the procedure can browse the Internet, look for the Columbia Presby website ( and/or search for Dr. Mantu Gupta. I highly recommend him to those who have the same problem.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 11, 2007)

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