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My Kidney Operation in Thailand

Since 2003, Paul has been an inpatient five times at hospitals in Thailand. All of his stays have been at international hospitals.

Author One Week After Kidney Operation

Picture taken in Bangkok one day after I was discharged from the hospital.

Picture taken in Bangkok one day after I was discharged from the hospital.

Dealing with a Kidney Tumor

After the discovery of a large mass on my left kidney on March 25, 2015, I didn't waste any time scheduling an operation to have the large tumor and kidney removed. About one month later on April 26, I had the kidney and tumor removed in a four-hour operation at Bumrungrad International Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand.

The finding of this large later to be confirmed cancerous mass on my left kidney was quite a shock and surprise to me. I had been experiencing no symptoms such as abdominal or back pain or blood in my urine. There was an occasional strong stench that I smelled while breathing but an ENT specialist who examined me never suspected that I had cancer. The abdominal ultrasound which showed a large mass was suggested by my general practitioner at Bangkok Hospital in Udonthani as part of health screening.

In this article, I recall my thoughts, feelings, and actions before the kidney operation and in the immediate few days following my operation.

Finding a Large Tumor on My Kidney

At the suggestion of my general practitioner at Bangkok Hospital in Udonthani, I had an abdominal ultrasound taken on March 25, 2015. I will always remember this date because the results of this ultrasound revealed that I had a large mass growing on the upper part of my left kidney. I should have suspected something was wrong when the doctor doing the ultrasound uttered the word "yaai" meaning large in Thai as she was scoping my abdomen.

When my GP discussed the finding of a large mass while reviewing the ultrasound results, I was initially in a state of denial. After consulting with another doctor, my GP advised that I have a CT scan done the next day, March 26, to confirm the presence of a mass on my left kidney.

After undergoing a 30-40 minute CT scan on the morning of the 26th, I returned to see my GP that same afternoon to see clear pictures of the size and location of the tumor. There was no denying now that I had a large tumor about the size of a softball on my left kidney.

My GP strongly urged me to consult with a urologist about treatment for the tumor. As I sat conversing with the doctor, it finally hit me that I most probably had a cancerous tumor on my kidney and needed to immediately deal with its treatment. I had no time now to feel sorry for myself.

Taking no action against the tumor was not an option because the mass was quite big and there was no guarantee that it would stay confined to the kidney before spreading to other organs in my body.

A radical nephrectomy or removal of the whole kidney and mass was strongly recommended by the GP as the best and only sensible course of action. Chemotherapy or radiation treatment would most probably not work.

On March 31, 2015, I visited Bumrungrad International Hospital in Bangkok and consulted with a urologist and surgeon who had received the latest training in laparoscopic surgery in the United States. Dr. Kittinut reviewed my CT scan pictures and strongly urged that I have the kidney and tumor removed as soon as possible. April 26 was set as the date of the operation assuming that I passed all of the heart investigations before the operation.

Tumor on My Left Kidney

Left kidney and tumor taken from my body in operation on April 26, 2015

Left kidney and tumor taken from my body in operation on April 26, 2015

Heart Investigations Before My Operation

On April 25, the date before my scheduled operation, I returned to Bumrungrad International Hospital's Heart Center for some heart investigations. Before signing off on okaying me for a kidney operation, cardiologist Dr. Chutikorn had to make sure that my heart was in good operating condition.

Dr. Chutikorn did this by first examining some drawn blood and then determining my bleeding time through a procedure that measured my partial thromboplastin time and prothrombin time. Next, an EKG was taken from my heart.

Finally, due to my age being over 70, I had to undergo the full investigation of an echocardiogram or ECHO which displayed my systolic and diastolic function, size of my left and right ventricle, aortic root size, check of my heart valves, and pericardial effusion.

After the cardiologist examined all of my test results, I was okayed for the kidney surgery scheduled on the 26th.

Pre-Operation Experiences — Morning of April 26, 2015

After a restless night in a Bangkok hotel room, I awoke a little before 4:00 a.m. to have an extremely light breakfast and then take my hypertension medication. I had to get up this early because I could have no food or drink for eight hours before my scheduled operation at noon.

At 7:00 a.m. I arrived at the Admitting Center of Bumrungrad Hospital. Following what seemed like an eternity of filling out consent, insurance, and other forms, I was given a hospital identification wristband and finally taken to a hospital room at 8:30.

During the next two and one-half hours, my wife was allowed to accompany me in the hospital room before I was wheeled down on a gurney to an ICU room outside of the operating rooms on the fifth floor.

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During this time, I had to first take off my shoes and all of my clothes before putting on a one-piece operating room gown. I had to also remove my glasses, watch, and dentures.

Next, I was given an enema of a 1,000 cc solution to clean out my bowels.

Finally, an attending nurse put an IV into my hand and started running a 1,000 cc glucose solution through my veins.

At 11:00 a.m. I finally was moved from the hospital room to an ICU room for final pre-operation preparation. After a nurse measured my blood pressure and put an operating room cap over my head, I had meetings with the cardiologist, anesthesiologist, and urology surgeon who would be removing my left kidney with a tumor.

The cardiologist saw me first and asked me how I was feeling before listening to my heart and lungs. He told me not to worry about anything and assured me that I would easily get through the operation.

A female anesthesiologist saw me next and took my mind off of the operation by telling a very funny joke about males wearing urinary catheters.

Finally, the surgeon saw me and explained what he was going to do during the operation. My first incision would be at 12:25 p.m. Dr. Kittinut then told me to relax and not worry about anything. When not talking to the doctors, I was able to watch TV, relax, and take my mind off of the operation.

Safeguarding Against Cancer

Memories of the Operating Room and ICU

At high noon, I was wheeled on a gurney through a maze of corridors in the operating room complex until I finally reached the operating room designated for my kidney operation. After being transferred from the gurney to a simple flat slab, I remember having both of my arms tied down. The anesthesia must have been potent because that was the last I remembered of the operating room until I came to in an ICU room about three and one-half hours later.

As I regained consciousness, I saw my wife and the surgeon standing in front of me. I remember being in a lot of pain and wanting to sit up. Although I was somewhat disoriented, I can recall Dr. Kittinut showing me a picture of the tumor and kidney on his cell phone. I also remember talking to my mother-in-law on a cell phone held by my wife. It was surprising that the first words I spoke after coming out of the influence of anesthesia were in Thai and not in English.

As I finally became aware of my surroundings, I felt and noticed that I was wearing a urinary catheter, and also compression cuffs on my legs to prevent thrombosis or clotting of the blood in the legs.

I must have been given a painkiller because the only real pain I could feel was in my back caused by lying on a rigid hard slab for three and one-half hours.

An IV was pumping glucose and antibiotics into my body, and I had a cuff on my upper right arm which automatically inflated on the hour to measure my blood pressure.

That night I was unable to sleep very much due to the pain in my back, hourly measuring of blood pressure, and the constant chatter of nurses who had their break room next to my ICU room.

My Kidney Operation

Incisions made during my left kidney removal operation

Incisions made during my left kidney removal operation

Recovery in Room 926 April 27–May 1

At 11:00 a.m. on Monday, April 27, I finally was transferred from ICU to a semi-private hospital room on the ninth floor.

During my first day in the hospital room, I had very little mobility because I was constantly hooked up to an IV and wearing a urinary catheter. Since I couldn't eat solid food until the evening, I received both glucose and antibiotics through an IV.

I was, however, able to stand up early in the afternoon and walk a little through the hospital room and in the outside corridor.

By mid-afternoon on Monday, I was finally able to receive guests and talk on my cell phone. My good friend living in Bangkok came to visit me early in the evening, and I also received calls from my son and a British friend in Udonthani. My wife was also able to be with me all day until 10 p.m.

On the second day, Tuesday, I regained a lot of mobility with the removal of my urinary catheter and the discontinuing of constant feeding of glucose through an IV. I was now receiving only antibiotics through the IV.

My cardiologist and urology surgeon were checking on my recovery and wound healing every day. I was also having blood tests every day to check the function of my good remaining kidney.

Besides taking deep breathing exercises, I was able to walk around the corridor on the fifth floor and also go out into the garden on the sixth floor.

My wound was hurting less; however, I still had not had a bowel movement since the morning of the day of the operation. I was given a laxative in the hope that I would soon start becoming regular in bowel movements.

On Wednesday, Dr. Kittinut had the results of my tumor tissue examination. Although the tumor was cancerous, the doctor was confident that he had removed the whole tumor with the kidney, and that cancer had not spread to other organs.

I was still getting antibiotics through an IV and could not pass gas or have a bowel movement. The doctor gave me more medicine for gas and more laxatives. This did not immediately help because in the evening I requested an enema to relieve the pain and discomfort of not passing gas or stool.

During the day, I was sitting up almost all of the time and getting to know my hospital roommate from Bangladesh. He was a young man who had just had an operation to remove a tumor from behind his eye.

Thursday, April 30, was my last full day in the hospital. The doctor was tempted to release me on this date, but we decided it would be best for me to spend another day in the hospital. I was eating regular food now and finally starting to pass gas. I was still also getting regular antibiotic injections through an IV.

On Friday, May 1, both my cardiologist and urology surgeon cleared me for discharge from the hospital before 11:00 a.m. Both doctors, however, told me to take it easy in physical activities for at least two months and to come back for outpatient appointments and a blood check for kidney function on May 7. I was given several different medications including antibiotics for five more days, a painkiller, laxative, hypertension medication, and pills for my prostate to facilitate urination at night.

Recovery in a Bangkok Hospital Room

Getting an IV injection of antibiotics in my hospital room

Getting an IV injection of antibiotics in my hospital room

Bumrungrad International Hospital's Flower Garden

Walking in the flower garden outside of the sixth floor of the hospital

Walking in the flower garden outside of the sixth floor of the hospital

Bumrungrad Hospital Nurses

Hospital nurses on the ninth floor who attended to me during recovery

Hospital nurses on the ninth floor who attended to me during recovery


On May 7, 2015, I had outpatient appointments with Dr. Chutikorn and Dr. Kittinut. Dr. Chutikorn strongly advised me to monitor my blood pressure twice a day and to double the dosage of my prescribed medication if my readings exceeded 140/80. Dr. Kittinut noted that my remaining kidney function still wasn't normal but that this often happened when one kidney was removed. He also arranged for me to return to the hospital on August 1 for a follow-up whole abdomen ultrasound.

I am hoping and praying that all of the cancer was removed in this operation and that with a positive attitude I will enjoy many more years in Thailand with my wife and other loved ones.

Latest Updates to Summary

On August 1, 2015, I returned to Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok for a follow-up complete abdominal ultrasound. The results of the ultrasound showed that there was nothing suspicious in my body. I also had a negative chest X-ray. A blood test showed that my kidney function still wasn't normal but slowly improving.

On November 21, 2015, I returned once again to Bumrungrad Hospital for another complete abdominal ultrasound, chest X-ray, and blood work. All results were normal; however, my kidney function still wasn't normal but slowly getting better. On May 14 of 2016, I am scheduled for another ultrasound and more blood work. Hopefully, the results will be good and I will be able to help my sister on her farm at the end of May and in June while my brother-in-law has a back operation and recuperates.

On October 7, 2017, I am scheduled for a six-month checkup. The checkup will include blood work, a chest X-ray, and full abdominal ultrasound. So far, I have been feeling well and my checkups have gone well.

My check-up went well on October 7, 2017. In March of 2018, I am scheduled for a complete body PET scan and blood work.

On March 30, 2018, I had a body PET scan as part of my six-month checkup. I passed the PET scan and my blood work was all good.

On September 22, 2018, I had another full abdomen ultrasound and blood work as part of my continuing six-month checkups. The results of the ultrasound were normal, however, my blood work showed that my bad cholesterol and triglyceride level was too high. I am working now to get that level down.

My latest six-month checkup was on February 8, 2020. The results of a full-abdominal ultrasound were normal as well as all blood work.

On January 11, 2021, I had another full-body PET scan and everything is fine.

My latest full-abdomen ultrasounds in January and July 2022 revealed that everything is fine.

This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2015 Paul Richard Kuehn


Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on January 25, 2016:

&Nasser , May I ask when you will be having your operation? As long as you understand what to expect and have a surgeon who has been trained abroad, I am sure you will do fine with the operation. Good luck with your operation and let me know if you have any more questions I can answer for you. Thank you also for your best wishes!

Nasser on January 25, 2016:

Dear Paul,

Thank very much for the detailed story, this what I was looking for. I have been also diagnosed with kidney mass and I am planning to do the surgery in the same hospital, I was worried about the operation but when I read what have been through I got more comfortable to do the operation, again thank you so much and wish you all best


Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on January 12, 2016:

My doctor doesn't want me exposed to too much radiation. Another CT scan will be scheduled on the second anniversary of my operation.

Greensleeves Hubs from Essex, UK on November 18, 2015:

I wish I could give a definitive answer Paul, but my speciality is in treatment rather than diagnosis. Most of our patients undergo CT (CAT) or MRI scans as the main imaging techniques to diagnose tumours, though ultrasound is also used of course. But clearly your hospital is well equipped, and I am sure that they will use whichever technique is most appropriate in your case, where the intent is presumably to rule out the possibility of any recurrence. Do ask the doctor though why they are using US rather than CT if you have any worries. Best wishes for the 21st. Alun

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on November 16, 2015:

Alun, Thank you very much for your comments. Yes, I go in a few days for another full abdominal ultrasound. BTW, is an ultrasound just as good as a CAT scan in spotting masses within the body?

Greensleeves Hubs from Essex, UK on November 14, 2015:

Thanks Paul for this highly detailed and frank report on your experience. I work in a hospital in a radiotherapy department so I do have some experience of cancer treatments and patients, and 'not knowing what to expect' is probably the aspect that most worries patients who are due to undergo treatment. Therefore it can only be beneficial to read an account such of yours of the efficiency and compassion, and the almost routine nature of the operation.

It is also good to receive the impression from you that healthcare at this level in Thailand is of a similar standard to that which one would expect in a leading western centre of medicine.

Finally, unless anything has since changed timing-wise, I see you are due for another checkup on 21st November. Of course I sincerely hope and trust that your news continues to be good. Best wishes, Alun

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on June 29, 2015:

Yes, Bumrungrad is truly an international hospital and evidenced by the number of Arab, Indian, Chinese, and Western patients it has.

Palis Pisuttisarun from Bangkok, Thailand on June 27, 2015:

Yes! It's shockingly expensive and it's great that you had insurance. I'm glad you were satisfied because I know I was as well! I really think Bamrungrad is a world-class hospital.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on June 27, 2015:

Hi Frederick,

I went to Bumrungrad because I had been there before ten years ago and was satisfied with the service. I figured it would be the best place for me to get my operation. I have insurance from the United States which paid for the operation and five days in the hospital which amounted to almost 600,000 baht.

Palis Pisuttisarun from Bangkok, Thailand on June 27, 2015:

Dear Paul,

I found this hub very interesting and I'm happy that you are doing well. Bamrungrad is my go-to hospital and I personally love the facilities there. Kind staff, world-class service and very caring doctors. I really like how they have the flower gardens - a surprisingly helpful facility for me!

My grandmother had a breathing difficulty so she was sent to the ICU and then the private rooms. It was so very nice and we all enjoyed the facilities there. However, it was very expensive! 3 days in ICU costs us 300,000 baht. 100,000/day seems very overpriced but it was well worth it.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on May 15, 2015:

Hi again, Bill! You certainly know how to combat cancer and I have to compliment you for hanging there and struggling over three decades. Yes, humor and laughter is the best medicine!

Bill Russo from Cape Cod on May 15, 2015:

I'm just now finding out about this Paul. Congrats for doing so well in the face of this adversity and by the way, Nice Jammies!

I had my first cancer scare in the 1980s. Another big one in the 90s and then four operations and radiation from 2000 to 2004. . Now here it is 2015 and I am ready for whatever comes along. I follow the advice you gave in another post - humor. I try to find something to laugh about or be silly about. It works.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on May 14, 2015:

&peachpurple Thanks for your prayers and I do intend on living a long life and seeing all of my grandchildren.

peachy from Home Sweet Home on May 14, 2015:

Yes Paul, it is the lap surgery, costed more than the big cut but smaller scar, I hope and pray for you that you will have a long long life with your wife and see your kiddo's kids?

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on May 13, 2015:

Thank you very much for your good wishes. I am also very happy this tumor was discovered now and not later. It's great that you found this hub useful.

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on May 13, 2015:

Hoping for your full and speedy recovery and glad this was discovered quickly. You went through a major ordeal with this. Thanks for sharing the value of prompt medical evaluation and action.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on May 12, 2015:

Yes, both of us were going through a lot of trauma leading up to the operation. I even updated my last will and testament during the week before the operation. I'm happy you enjoyed reading this hub.

garnetbird on May 11, 2015:

Wow! Well done. I imagine your wife was going through a lot of trauma.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on May 11, 2015:

Larry, hopefully this hub will teach people that health screenings such as abdominal ultrasounds are essential to find silent killers like kidney tumors. Thanks for your best wishes on my convalescence.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on May 11, 2015:

Rajan, I knew that I only had the one decision to remove the kidney. If I wouldn't have done anything, I would have been living with a ticking time bomb inside my body. I am recovering in my home now and I appreciate you praying that the worst is over.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on May 11, 2015:

Thank you very much for your good wishes. I was fortunate to have a lot of people who supported me and prayed for me. Hopefully after another 2-3 months, I'll be able to do all of the physical activities I did before the operation. There is a radical change in my diet which I must adhere to keep my remaining kidney operating well. It is also necessary for me to pay special attention to my blood pressure.

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on May 11, 2015:

Very helpful hub for those experiencing or being effected by similar problems.

Great job! I wish you the best on your convalescence.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on May 11, 2015:

It must have been tough dealing with this information out of the blue. But you took the right decision. It's good to note the attending doctors made you aware of what exactly the procedure involved and made sure that your mind was at ease.

I hope and pray that the worst is over and wish you a speedy recovery Paul.

torrilynn on May 11, 2015:

I'm sorry to hear that you had to go through such an ordeal. I wish you a safe and speedy recovery.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on May 11, 2015:

Thank you very much for your good wishes. Bumrungrad International in Bangkok does receive a lot of international patients from India, Arab countries, and many western countries.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on May 11, 2015:

It would have been very difficult to provide the exact medical details about my operation. Oddly, not having regular bowel movements for almost a week after the operation was the most troubling.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on May 11, 2015:

It appears from the scars that you had laparoscopic surgery just like me. Glad to hear that you are feeling fine since the gall bladder surgery. All I can do now is just hope and pray that no more unexpected masses show up on my next ultrasound.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on May 11, 2015:

Yes, Paula, this has been quite an ordeal to deal with. I'm okay now and just hoping that I get through the next follow-up checks on August 1. I was very fortunate to have a doctor who urged me to have the ultrasound in March. Thank you very much for your best wishes!

Rota on May 10, 2015:

Best of luck with ur recovery. And an excellent example for other people considering seeking health care in Bangkok

Nonqaba waka Msimang from Canada on May 10, 2015:

Thanks for all the medical information provided, from the patient's perspective.

peachy from Home Sweet Home on May 10, 2015:

I am glad that you had taken out the big c. Ten years ago, i had an op to remove my gall bladder n six stones. It was painful after i woke up. The procedure are almost the same as yours. Feeling naked was really embarrassing but glad that everything was over. Still got the scar, three of them

Suzie from Carson City on May 10, 2015:

Paul.....Quite an ordeal to deal with, physically, mentally & emotionally. Congratulations for coming out fine and continuing to recouperate well.

How fortunate you were to have had this discovered! Wishing you the very best of health & happiness. Peace, Paula UP++

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