List of kidney stone formers

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There are a number of documented cases of historical figures and distinguished members of society who were kidney stone formers. This condition is caused by nephrolithiasis, which are more commonly known as kidney stones, or urolithiasis, where the stone forms in the urinary system. These are crystal deposits that can accrete in the urinary system when certain chemical substances become concentrated in the urine.[1] Among the symptoms associated with nephrolithiasis are intense colicky pain, nausea, fever, chills, and the reduction or blockage of urine flow.[2] Historically, the condition of having a kidney or bladder stone was referred to as "the stone" or "the gravel".

In certain cases, kidney stone formation played a pivotal role in history. Most notably, some members of the royalty and military leaders became debilitated at important moments, such as Napoleon III of France[3] during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 and Athenian commander Nicias in the disastrous Sicilian Expedition of 415-413 BC.[4] Despite this condition, artists such as Arthur Sullivan[5] and Michel de Montaigne[6] managed to produce historically distinguished works; providing an example of perseverance in the face of severe and chronic pain. The medical advances of the twentieth century have allowed patients to survive the condition, whereas in the past it may have proven debilitating or fatal (as shown by the examples below).[7]

Kidney stones can reach exceptional size. In December 2003, a kidney stone weighing 356 g (12.5 oz) was removed from the right kidney of Peter Baulman of Australia. At its widest point, the stone measured 11.86 cm (4.66 in).[8] In 2009, a 1.1 kg (2.48 lb) stone spanning 17 cm was surgically removed from Sandor Sarkadi in Debrecen, Hungary.[9] As of August 2006, the most kidney stones ever passed naturally was 5,704 by Canadian Donald Winfield. The largest number removed through surgery was 728, during a three-hour operation upon Mangilal Jain of India, on January 27, 2004.[10]

Actors and media figures[edit]

  • In 1954, movie actress Ava Gardner was hospitalized in Madrid with kidney stones. In her torment, she apparently yelled curses that caused the Spanish nuns to blush.[11]
  • Hollywood talent agent Lew Wasserman was suffering from a kidney stone during the 1970s. As he was about to embark on an oceanic voyage, he insisted that it be surgically removed despite the risk and the reluctance of his doctor.[13]
  • During the shooting of the City Heat (1984), actor Burt Reynolds became debilitated from a kidney stone, and had to resort to medications to continue filming. He also suffered a broken jaw when struck by a metal chair and displayed inner ear problems.[15]
  • Commentator Bill O'Reilly dislikes doctors, and so for two years he avoided medical attention for a kidney stone. It was surgically removed in 2002 and he was back on the air within four hours.[16]
  • On October 19, 2005, while working on the set of Boston Legal, actor William Shatner was taken to the emergency room for lower back pain. He eventually passed a kidney stone, but recovered and soon returned to work. Shatner sold his kidney stone in 2006 for $75,000 to GoldenPalace.com. The money went to a housing charity, and a home was built for a family which had lost theirs in Hurricane Katrina.[17]
  • Buzz Kilman, Chicago radio personality, took leave from the Steve Dahl show while on-air (announcing, "I gotta go") in order to have his kidney stone treated.[19]

Artists and musicians[edit]

Arthur Sullivan wrote the comic opera H.M.S. Pinafore in between bouts of excruciating pain from his kidney stones.[5]
  • In 1549, Italian Renaissance painter Michelangelo was treated for kidney stones by anatomist Realdo Colombo. Michelangelo appears to have suffered for many years from recurrent uric acid stones and may have died from obstructive nephropathy. His condition may account for his artistic interest in kidneys.[24]
  • Five years after retiring because of ill-health, in 1612 Italian composer Giovanni Gabrieli died from an attack of kidney stones.[25]
  • Arthur Sullivan, of the musical partnership Gilbert and Sullivan, began to suffer from kidney stones in 1872. This would affect him for the remainder of his life, although he would continue to write while suffering from pain. He underwent surgery in 1874 in an attempt to treat the condition.[26]
  • Among his many medical maladies, in 1964 composer Cole Porter was hospitalized for the removal of kidney stones. He died two days later, most likely bronchopneumonia in his chest. He was also found to have chronic nephrosclerosis, or degeneration of the kidneys.[28]
  • Tony-award winning composer Charles Strouse became infected as a result of a kidney stone. He recovered after treatment with antibiotics and the removal of the stone.[30]
  • Chart singer Peter Andre was forced to postpone two shows at Plymouth Pavilions in 2010 because of a kidney stone.[31]

Authors[edit]

  • The post-mortem examination of noted diarist Samuel Pepys revealed, "a nest of no less than seven stones" in his left kidney. These weighed a total of 4.5 ounces. When he was younger, Pepys had undergone bladder surgery, pre-anesthesia, for removal of a large stone. He carried this stone with him to try to persuade fellow sufferers to endure the painful surgery.[35]
Michel de Montaigne wrote of his condition that, "I am at grips with the worst of all maladies, the most sudden, the most painful, the most mortal and the most irremediable. I have already experienced five or six very long and painful bouts of it."[6]
  • Michel de Montaigne, the French Renaissance writer who popularized the essay, began to suffer from chronic kidney stones in 1578. His father had died from kidney stones.[6]
  • Mary Ann Evans wrote under the male pen name of George Eliot. She had suffered from various health problems for all of her life, and starting in February 1874 she endured a series of kidney stone attacks that lasted until her death.[36]
  • While visiting Italy, the author Llewelyn Powys began coughing up blood because of his tuberculosis and also suffered from a kidney stone. After he returned home to Dorset, he passed the stone with excruciating pain. He had to take medication for the remainder of his life to avoid forming another stone.[37]
  • American author Jack London used morphine to alleviate the pain of kidney stones. He most likely died at the age of forty from kidney failure and possibly a toxic dose of pain reliever.[38]
  • At the end of her life in 1980, author Ethel Wilson was hospitalized and suffering from recurrent small strokes. The day before she died, she was in physical distress from passing a kidney stone. A doctor injected her with medication to ease the pain.[39]
  • Author Isaac Asimov suffered from kidney stones, and wrote about how his pain was treated with morphine, saying that he feared becoming addicted to morphine if he ever needed it again.[40] During the 1980s, his problem with kidney stones developed into kidney disease, which resulted in multiple hospitalizations.[41]
  • During a book tour, best selling author David Sedaris started passing a kidney stone. He completed several lectures while on pain medication.[46]

Nobility and emperors[edit]

  • James I of England suffered from several symptoms characteristic of kidney stones, including abdominal colic and passing red urine. Following his death in 1625, stones were found in his kidney.[49]
  • While he was alive, King Louis XIV of France frequently voided kidney stones but without suffering apparent pain. A small stone was found in the left kidney of his corpse.[50]
  • In 1722 the Russian ruler Peter the Great began to experience kidney problems. The symptoms grew worse during 1723 and by the following year it was diagnosed as the stone. He suffered from extreme pain in the loins and then tumors began to form on his thighs. Early in 1725 he died.[51]
  • Empress Anna of Russia was known to suffer from kidney stones, and in 1740 her condition became more acute. After becoming bedridden, she died later the same year. An autopsy showed that the stones resembled branching coral.[52]
  • After his death, English King George IV was found to have a bladder stone that had become encysted.[53] A year before his death he had complained of a pain in his bladder.[54]
  • With his health deteriorating, in 1860 Lord Cochrane twice underwent surgery for kidney stones. He died during the second operation.[55]
  • King Leopold I of Belgium underwent a lithotrity in 1862 for the removal of a kidney stone. However, the operation was only partly successful and he underwent a second surgery in 1863. For the latter operation, Sir Henry Thompson was appointed surgeon-extraordinary to the King.[56]
  • Māori Queen Dame Te Atairangikaahu was hospitalized for kidney surgery in 2005, a few weeks after the 40th anniversary of her coronation.[59]

Politicians and military commanders[edit]

  • In the disastrous Sicilian Expedition (415-413 BC), the Athenian commander Nicias was afflicted with kidney stones during the entire period he was in charge.[4]
  • The English military and political leader Oliver Cromwell may have suffered from kidney stones during the 1650s. His doctor said that, "being much troubled with the stone, he used sometimes to swill down several sorts of liquor, and then stir his body by some violent motion ... that by such agitation he might disburden his bladder."[60]
The dangerous and painful surgery used to remove a stone through James K. Polk's perineum may have left him unable to conceive a child.[65]
  • The eleventh President of the United States, James K. Polk, suffered from kidney stones during his youth. At the age of seventeen he underwent a successful lithotomy without anaesthetic for removal of a urinary stone. Thereafter he was sufficiently well to be able to receive a formal education.[65]
  • Colonel Edward M. House was the foreign policy advisor to President Woodrow Wilson until removed from that post in 1919. In that year he suffered through a painful kidney stone, and he had recurrences in 1928 and 1930.[66]
  • In 1959, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi began to suffering from severe pain in the stomach and back. She was diagnosed with a kidney stone and underwent successful surgery in February 1960 to have it removed.[67]
  • Sukarno, the first President of Indonesia, suffered from recurrent kidney stones. He was twice forced to seek medical treatment in Vienna; the second time for removal of a kidney stone.[68]
  • U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson suffered from kidney stones at various times in his life. He was reluctant to seek treatment because of the effect it may have on his political image.[69]
  • Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladić underwent surgery in Belgrade for a kidney stone in 1995, during the final year of the Serbian conflict with Bosnia.[71] He was later indicted by the UN War Crimes Tribunal for genocide and other crimes.[72]
  • Former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove under U.S. President George W. Bush was hospitalized in September 2005 due to kidney stones.[77]

Religious figures[edit]

  • Saint Ailred of Rievaulx took frequent baths and consumed wine to alleviate the severe pain from his kidney stones.[81]
  • The German monk Martin Luther periodically suffered from kidney stones, and he almost died in 1537 from being unable to urinate. During his lengthy journey home, the jostling motion of the carriage released the stone and so spared his life.[82]
  • Cardinal Mazarin, the successor to Cardinal Richelieu as the French King's Chief Minister, began to suffer from kidney stones in 1659. He died two years later while also suffering from gout and deteriorating health.[84]
To treat his kidney stones, John Wilkins was fed, "four red-hot oyster shells in a quart of cider and blistering with cantharides."[85]
  • After surviving the plague year of 1665, English clergyman, author and chief founder of the Royal Society John Wilkins became ill from kidney stones and he was unable to pass urine. He most likely died from the opiates or other medications that were used to treat his condition.[85]
  • Pope Innocent XI survived primitive surgery for the extraction of kidney stones.[86] After his death in 1689, he was found to have a "stone weighing nine ounces in the left kidney and another weighing six ounces in the right side."[87]
  • Mary Baker Eddy was the founder of Christian Science, a movement that discouraged its members from seeking help from doctors for their illnesses. In 1903 she began to suffer from extreme pain and consented to a visit by a doctor. After a diagnosis of kidney stones, she agreed to injections of morphine to alleviate the pain.[88]
  • In 1954, when Billy Graham was preparing to preach at Berlin's Olympic Stadium, he began to suffer pain from a kidney stone. Wondering whether the Devil might be mounting a vengeful attack against him,[89] he chose to continue the public service without painkillers, rather than appearing groggy or undergoing hospitalization.[90]
  • After praying to Mother Teresa, a 12-inch-diameter (13 mm) kidney stone disappeared from the lower ureter of Father V. M. Thomas in Guwahati, India. This occurred a day before the priest was scheduled to undergo surgery for the stone's removal. The surgeon said that, "the disappearance of the calculus (stone) was beyond medical explanation." This alleged miracle was used to support the case for sainthood of Mother Teresa.[91]

Scholars, scientists and philosophers[edit]

  • In 271 or 270 BC, the Greek Philosopher Epicurus died from a stone blockage of his urinary tract lasting a fortnight, according to his successor Hermarchus and reported by his biographer Diogenes Laertius.[93]
Thomas Sydenham began to suffer from kidney stones at the age of 25.[95]
  • In describing his kidney stones, the physician Thomas Sydenham said, "The pain is like that of a dislocation and yet parts feel as if cold water had been poured over them... Now it is a gnawing pain and now it is a pressure and tightening. So exquisite and lively meanwhile is the feeling of the part affected, that it cannot bear the weight of the bedclothes nor the jar of a person walking in the room."[95]
  • Robert Boyle, regarded as the first modern chemist, was troubled for much of his adult life by kidney stones.[96]
  • After retiring from the Lumleian lectureship at Cambridge University in 1655, the aging physician William Harvey was known to suffer from gout and kidney stones. He is noted for his correct description of blood and the circulatory system.[97]
  • In 1686, Danish anatomist and geologist Nicholas Steno became gravely ill from kidney stones. He suffered great pain and his stomach became distended. Shortly before he died, he prayed that, "My God I beg you not to take the pains from me, but to give me the patience to bear them."[98]
  • The distinguished mathematician and philosopher Gottfried Leibniz died from a combination of gout and the stone. Although he was a member of several distinguished societies, he had fallen into such disfavor that only one man came to his funeral.[101]
  • The eminent Italian anatomist and surgeon Antonio Scarpa suffered severely from a stone for several years. This caused a bladder inflammation which led to his demise in 1832.[103]

Sports figures[edit]

  • Nearing the end of his life, in 1985 the father of competitive weightlifting, Bob Hoffman, suffered from a number of physical ailments, including kidney stones.[104]
  • New York Giants football coach Bill Parcells underwent medical treatment for a kidney stone in 1990. Against his doctor's advice, Bill Parcels attempted to coach the next game against the Minnesota Vikings, but a reporter noted he "appeared drawn and in pain".[105]
  • During a 1996 attempt to cross Antarctica, explorer and endurance record holder Sir Ranulph Fiennes was forced to turn back because of kidney stones. He lists it as his most painful experience.[106]
  • Professional golfer Davis Love III had to withdraw from the 2007 Wyndham Championship to undergo surgery for a kidney stone. Afterward he said that, "Except for feeling like I've been punched in the side, I feel fine."[109]
  • Bernhard Langer had to pull out of the 2007 Deutsche Bank Players' Championship to undergo an operation for kidney stone removal.[110]
  • In March 2009, driver Martin Truex, Jr. was hospitalized before the Atlanta’s Cup race with a kidney stone. Because of the NASCAR drug regulations, he decided to forgo medications while passing the stone so that he could compete in the race.[113]
  • During the 2009 National Hockey League playoffs, all-star right winger Mark Recchi underwent surgery to have a kidney stone removed. He said of the pain, "I don’t wish it on anybody.”[114]
  • In December of 2011, Marcus Thornton of the Sacramento Kings suffered a kidney stone.[115]

Baseball[edit]

  • Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was hospitalized while passing a kidney stone in 2004. He said, "that was something I don't wish anybody has, even my worst enemy."[120]

Others[edit]

  • The Soap Lady, a mysterious mummified female on exhibit at the Mütter Museum, may have suffered from a kidney stone or gallstone.[136]
This illustration displays the stone that Jan de Doot claims he removed from his own bladder.
  • Dutch blacksmith Jan de Doot is remembered for having his portrait painted with the "four ounce palpable stone" that he supposedly removed from his perineum using a kitchen knife in 1651.[137]
  • Between 2001 and 2006, 14 American astronauts developed kidney stones during space missions.[141] During long-duration space flights, astronauts are at higher risk for kidney stones because of an increase in the amount of calcium in their blood. This is caused by a loss of bone density in zero gravity.[142]
  • In January 2014, Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon.com suffered a kidney stone. [144]

Fictional[edit]

Fictional incidents of kidney stones have been portrayed in the media on several occasions.

  • On an episode of Seinfeld, Cosmo Kramer (Michael Richards) suffers from a kidney stone. He eventually passes the stone at a carnival, but the pain induced by its passing causes him to scream so loudly that he interrupts the carnival and causes a tightrope walker to fall.[147]
  • In an episode of the TV comedy M*A*S*H, Maxwell Klinger suffers through and passes a kidney stone.[148]

See also[edit]

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