Twenty-four hours a day, the WakeMed “Stone Phone” rings with patients from all over the region and country who are experiencing painful kidney stones calling in because they need treatment fast. WakeMed Kidney Stone Center team members like Laura Hentz, RN, Karina Meza, PA-C and numerous others take call day and night to help patients get the answers and treatment they need as quickly as possible.
Around-the-Clock Care for a Painful Problem
North Carolina has the highest rate of kidney stones in the country, thanks in great part to our state’s all-too-common high-protein, high-sodium Southern diet of sweet tea plus meat and potatoes, combined with the hot weather and prevalence of obesity – all of which are all risk factors for stone formation.
That’s why in 2013, Dr. Carmin Kalorin had a vision to establish the WakeMed Kidney Stone Center, a dedicated, around-the-clock service for patients dealing with emergent, acute or chronic kidney stones.
While the WakeMed Urology team already had plenty of experience treating kidney stones, this new service would allow patients to call anytime, 24/7 365 days a year, to get advice and access to the latest minimally-invasive treatment options – quickly.
Dr. Kalorin and his partners knew this was a much-needed solution for our growing community for many reasons. First, kidney stones are incredibly painful and often result in expensive emergency room visits. For less emergent kidney stones, patients often aren’t sure where to seek treatment. They may start with a primary care provider or urgent care provider before seeing a urologist, which can cause unnecessary delays in treatment and higher healthcare expenses. Finally, many patients experience recurrent stones and are looking for help preventing future stones, but haven’t been offered the education or further testing needed to do so. While his concept took several years to gain momentum, in 2016, Dr. Kalorin’s vision became a reality and the WakeMed Kidney Stone Center was established.
10,000 Calls and Counting
Since then, the program has grown by leaps and bounds, helping thousands of patients per year. People travel from all over the state, country and even the world to get the care they need from the WakeMed Kidney Stone Center.
“While we handle more kidney stones than nearly any urology group in the state, we’re still able to get patients evaluated and treated in record speed – and we often get referrals from our urology colleagues around the state who aren’t able to get their patients in quickly enough,” explains Dr. Kalorin.
“We run like a well-oiled machine because our whole team is focused on the same goal – getting our patients treated quickly so they don’t have to miss important life events due to kidney stone pain. We see patients from absolutely anywhere, and we even helped one father of the bride make sure he could walk his daughter down the aisle on her wedding day. These are the moments that remind us why we’re here, and how important this service is to our community.”
Today, we celebrate a major milestone – In just five years, the WakeMed Kidney Stone Center has taken more than 10,000 phone calls from patients experiencing painful kidney stones. During this time, the WakeMed Urology team has removed thousands of kidney stones using advanced techniques such as shock wave lithotripsy, ureteroscopic surgery, and percutaneous nephrolithotomy. Every patient is offered a metabolic evaluation to determine the factors in their blood and urine that could lead to future stone formation. Likewise, patients are offered nutrition counseling and dietary counseling to help prevent future stones.
“Kidney stones can be so painful, so it’s not unusual for us to take calls from patients in tears, panicking and overwhelmed because they don’t know what to do,” explains Laura Hentz, RN, the nurse who answers the Stone Phone most days.
“We are here as a lifeline for our patients, even when the office is closed. Patients are so happy to hear a knowledgeable voice talk them through their options and to help them get an appointment for evaluation and/or surgery quickly when needed. Oftentimes, they’ve already called around only to find they can’t get an appointment with a urologist at another practice for weeks or months, so we’re a very valuable resource to our patients.”
Congratulations to the WakeMed Kidney Stone Center on achieving this impressive milestone! Keep on ROCK-in’!