At war with the ‘cling-ons’
The UW Medicine Kidney Stone Center helps an amateur artist draw up a plan to prevent the recurrence of her kidney stones.
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Kathy Jones was annoyed to find herself in the emergency room. Usually the picture of health, the 68-year-old went to the hospital last summer with what she thought was heat stroke. Instead, the ER decided she had the flu and told her to go see her primary care physician.
She did. But Dr. Tim Burner, a family medicine physician at the UW Neighborhood Woodinville Clinic, didn’t think she had the flu. He performed an ultrasound and discovered that Jone’s kidney was horribly infected. She needed a urologist ASAP.
So the Port Townsend resident hopped on a ferry and went to see one at Northwest Hospital. He quickly found the culprit: an 8-millimeter kidney stone.
That’s how Jones became Patient #2 at the new UW Medicine Kidney Stone Center, located at Northwest Hospital. It’s the first comprehensive center for the treatment and prevention of kidney stones in the Puget Sound region. She said the smell of fresh paint still hung in the air at the clinic.
Jones admits facing her first serious medical issue was nerve-wracking. But the spotless new sign on the door comforted her.
“I saw ‘UW Medicine’ and knew it would be good care,” she said. “Even though it’s a huge organization, you get personal, small-town care.”
And that extended from the physicians to the nursing staff to the reception desk, she added. “All the little things they do are like the mortar between the bricks, and they made me feel comfortable and safe in a situation that was completely foreign to me.”
‘We want that kidney stone to be their last’
“The UW Medicine Kidney Stone Center takes a team approach to care,” said Dr. Robert Sweet, a urologist and the center’s medical director. Experts in urology, kidney disease and nutrition work together to provide a single point of care for patients suffering from acute or recurrent kidney stones.
Jones met most of them on her first visit, where a CT scan found she also had another, smaller stone in the same kidney and a cluster of stones on the other side. She received antibiotics to fight off her infection and then booked an appointment for surgery. Dr. Sweet used a small scope and a laser to, as Jones puts it, “blast the stone to smithereens.”
She then transitioned to the center’s preventative care program, which she’s still in today. “For every patient we treat, we want that kidney stone to be their last,” Dr. Sweet said.
That’s why Jones meets regularly with Dr. Fionnuala Cormack, a nephrologist (or kidney doctor) at the center. Together, they keep tabs on what’s happening chemically inside her kidneys and what exactly is going on with the kidney stone that’s still there, which Jones has dubbed “Cling-on.”
Jones appreciates the time Dr. Cormack spends answering questions and that she explains complex chemical analysis in a way Jones can understand. (Her advice to UW Medicine: start a comic book series explaining how the body works.) “I don’t feel like a number with her,” Jones said. “I feel like she’s personally involved with my care.”
Jones also met with the center’s dietician, Karen Munger, R.D., to prevent additional calcium oxalate stones—the most common type—from forming. She tries to maintain a diet low in sodium and oxalate-rich foods, but admits it’s tough.
When not keeping tabs on her salt intake, Jones spends her time in Port Townsend tending to her vegetable garden and sketching Raven, her black lab. (The retiree has become an amateur artist, painting, drawing and sculpting images of Raven and other dogs.) Frugal living lets her take exotic trips to places like the Kalahari Desert, her most recent destination. But she’s happy she was close to UW Medicine when her kidney stone struck.
“I live in Port Townsend, and it’s a long way to drive to Woodinville and Seattle,” Jones said. “I have choices here at home. But I wouldn’t consider anyone else besides UW Medicine doctors. They’re competent, and they care. The whole experience has been wonderful.”
For more information about the UW Medicine Kidney Stone Center, visit nwhospital.org. To make an appointment, call 206-520-5000.Facebook Share TwitterTweet