PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — You may know that Virginia and North Carolina are located in what’s referred to as the “Bible Belt,” but did you know that we are also in what’s considered the “Stone Belt”?

That’s an area of the country where kidney stones are more common. On top of that, summer is considered “Stone Season” where doctors see the most cases.

Dehydration contributes to kidney stones, and we have been sweating a lot in the south this summer.
Other contributors are southern favorites including sweet tea, peanuts and colas which contain oxalates, a type of mineral found in kidney stones.

All of these risk factors are things former flight attendant and Chesapeake resident Rebecca Dawson wishes she would have known years ago.

Dawson dove into retirement in August 2020. She served and snacked on peanuts and Coke for more than 30 years. She admits she never drank enough water.

“Because you can’t sit there and go, ‘oh yeah, I need to drink this whole bottle and then ‘Hey — you gotta get out of my way, I’ve got to go!'” she said.

This spring the diet caught up with her in the form of kidney stones.

“Her stones were quite large and eventually made her sick,” Dr. Ilya Sobol, with Urology of Virginia, Dawson’s surgeon. Sobol told 10 On Your Side smaller stones, even less than 2 millimeters, often cause bigger pain.

“If that falls into the tube and blocks the flow of urine coming out of the kidney pain, you’re going to feel immense pain,” he said.

Sobol used laser technology to break up Dawson’s stones and removed the smaller pieces.

Urologists, including Sobol, helped design the new surgery suite at Maryview Medical Center in Portsmouth where he performed the procedure. He showed us how every screen, tool and table are positioned in just the right spot for the team to move efficiently.

“There’s a shorter anesthesia time, there’s a higher stone-free rate, there’s a lower complication rate with less bleeding and issues and patients are happy with less pain,” Dr. Sobold said,

Of course, the goal is for people to avoid the surgical room. The doctor’s advice for avoiding kidney stones is to keep yourself hydrated, choose clear sodas over dark ones and tell your doctor if there’s a family history of kidney stones.

Dawson, who had a complicated case, has had three surgeries since March and is recovering well.