Friday, February 10, 2006

Spontaneous Lung Collapse - Part 2

(Read Part 1 if you haven't already. And be sure to go on to the newly-posted Part 3 after you're done.)

Saturday, January 21, I was laying on my side in bed waking up to just another lazy weekend. I rolled over onto my back and felt that now-familiar twinge on my left side - I think I said "uh oh" out loud. I got up and the pain was definitely real. I made some coffee, still hoping I had simply slept wrong but knowing that was probably not the case. I almost cried a little when I finally decided it was almost definitely another pneumothorax.

I went back to the bedroom and told my wife I might have a problem, and that she should get up because we might be going to the hospital. I took a shower because I knew it might be my last chance to do so for a while. All that said, I was not as worried as last time because I knew it was not my heart. Knowing what I know now, I should have been scared to death. The second pneumothorax is always worse than the first because it means surgery - and the surgery is hell.

We actually walked to the hospital - the same one that told me six months ago that I had costochondritis. I told them myself this time that I had a pneumothorax and that they needed to take a chest x-ray. Sure enough, my lung had collapsed to the size of a fist - a total collapse this time, even though the pain was probably a bit less than six months ago. I knew I'd be getting a chest tube, and I knew surgery would be an option, but thought I might skate by without it and be out of the hospital within a few days again. The ER doctor even said as much.

I was put on suction and sent up to a room, where three separate doctors eventually came and all said I should have the surgery. 50% chance of a recurrence without it, they said, and every time it makes it harder to treat with a tube because of the scar tissue. The hole was big this time and probably would need to be stapled anyway. After four days on suction the hole had not healed, and I suffered another collapse when they took me off suction to do a CAT scan in preparation for surgery. I was told I had basically no choice - I was not going to heal without intervention at that point.

The surgery involves making three small incisions in the chest wall and inserting a small TV camera. The remaining blebs are lasered off and any large holes in the lung are stapled closed. The lung and chest wall are then "roughed up" and a chemical powder poured over the lung to make it stick to the chest wall - all so that it doesn't move around as much after the surgery. The last two parts are apparently optional, but I didn't know that - some people do just get the blebs removed (a "bullectomy") and the holes stapled. This buys time but does not cure the problem - but at age 33, a little time may have been all I actually needed. Men over 40 generally do not have this problem.

The operating room was scary. All of my clothes were removed (I did have a sheet over me), and I was not allowed to bring contact lenses or glasses. Even my watch and wedding ring were removed. I felt utterly naked. The OR table itself was hard and barely wide enough to hold my body, with separate appendages to hold my arms - which were then clamped down. It was like something out of a sci-fi movie; not at all comforting. The anesthesiologist gave me oxygen and, after I reached a certain level of oxygenation, told me I'd be going to sleep now. I was out cold almost immediately.

In what seemed like an instant, I awoke in the recovery room in just intense pain and freezing cold. My wife and mother came in to look at me but I couldn't speak - not because of the effects of the anesthesia, but because of the pain. It felt like I had a Mac truck sitting on my chest, and I vaguely sensed a new chest tube somewhere in the area of my back. The recovery room doctors saw that I was awake and put a heater in my bed with me to warm me up, then gave me pain meds to dull the pain - only partially successfully. I was there for about 8 hours before being transferred back to my old floor. Luckily I didn't have to go to the ICU.

The next several days were pretty awful. I had, initially, four tubes coming out of me: a new chest tube, my IV line, a foley catheter, and an oxygen tube. The foley catheter was the worst - or as I like to call it, the "pee pipe". It was like some sort of medieval torture device. The way it works, you pretty much always feel like you have to go to the bathroom, and this gets worse as it fills up. Three separate times somebody almost ripped it out of me by mistake, not knowing it was there, causing me to literally scream out in pain.

I had a PCA pump so I could self-administer my pain meds, and I ran out of morphine by the second day. Now, this is the second time I've had one of these pumps (I had one during my last hospital stay too), and I'm learning that running out of morphine is basically the end of it. Oh, they'll try to get you more, but it takes hours, and then the pumps are designed with so many failsafes to prevent overdose that it almost takes a certified technician to replace the medicine. Forget about asking your average nurse to do it - all you'll end up with is a non-functional machine that incessantly beeps at you to tell you it's not working.

So by the second day my IV line was out and I was on percocet, a pain pill that's far less potent than morphine and that I was only allowed once every four hours. My pain was excruciating, especially in the back where my new chest tube was. And because it was now a weekend, that tube was in for a total of five days.

I eventually got the tube out, had another chest x-ray and was finally discharged. I felt pretty good, considering I'd had major surgery only a few days before. I was still a little gimpy, I couldn't stand up straight because of the stiffness inside my chest and my breathing was not exactly normal - I felt like I had less capacity than before. But I figured this would all get better.

Fast-forward 2 weeks to today. I feel exactly the same as the day I left the hospital. In fact, my prescription for Vicodin has run out and I'm off pain meds completely, so if anything I actually feel worse. My breathing is no better, the stiffness has not improved and my entire left side hurts all the way down to my left elbow. I've seen the doctor for a follow-up and he says this is all normal, and that I just need to wait and not push myself. But I'm getting depressed; I feel no improvement, and all I can do is sit around and watch TV. I'm worried about losing my job (I'm currently on disability) and we're just about to close on our first house - which I'm going to need to drive to do in just a few days.

I'm completely miserable, and feeling like I made a big mistake in electing for the full surgery vs. simply having my lung stapled up to buy some time. Worse, I know the same thing is just as likely to happen on the right, meaning I'll have to go through this all over again. The biggest thing I'm worried about right now, though, is that I will never get back to normal - that I'll have to live like this for the rest of my life. Like I said, I feel absolutely no improvement since the surgery. And that just sucks.

All I can do is wait and see what happens, and if there's still no improvement in another week, I'll call my doctor again. I wonder if there's some way to have this procedure reversed - to flush out that talc powder and unstick the lung from the chest wall. I'd rather live knowing I might need another chest tube someday than going through my entire life basically like an old man, unable to stand up straight, breathing heavily just from walking across the room, and in pain all the time.

I have always believed that as a society we are too reliant on medications and surgical procedures. I would urge anybody with this problem to do as little as possible. Don't make the same mistake I did. Don't let the doctors push you around. Tell them you want the minimum done to you that will make you better, especially if you're older than 30 and getting to the age where the chances of another collapsed lung start to lessen. But so far, this surgery has been a cure that's worse than the disease, and I now regret having done it. A chest tube is bad enough, but this is like 1,000 chest tubes over a one month period. I think it's better to just deal with your lung collapses as they come than making yourself completely miserable; the only way I can see this surgery being worth it is to save your life. And my situation was not life-threatening, yet my life may be changed forever from this operation.


  1. Anonymous11:52 PM

    Jeff, Thank you for your write up of SP. I'm 39 and my left lung dropped 20% while typing my own damn blog 72 hours ago. They wanted to rush me into surg, and put a chest tube in, but I declined with a promise to be back in the ER in 12 hours for another xray.

    I've been worried that maybe I should have had the tube, but the xray today showed that it has shrunk a little, so it may heal on it's own. But I know the chance of reoccurance, and ultimately the supergluing of the lung to the chest wall. After reading your blog, I'll think long and hard on that, should I reach that point.

    Thank you for sharing your story, and I hope you're feeling better.

  2. Anonymous4:20 PM

    Dear Jeff,
    Your story touched me as i've gone through a similar experience. I wont bore you with the details, but my lung collasped twice 3 years ago. I got the surgury, powder and all, and i'm almost fully recovered. the reason i say almost is because there are still numb patches of skin around my chest and in general, my lung just feels different. its hard to explain, but i'm sure you know what i mean. you will be able to tell that your lung is attached to your chest cavity, but i think the horridness of the recovery period will be better in the long run compared to going back to the hospital.

    ps. gentle, i stress gentle, stretching will get rid of the tightness you're talking about eventually.

  3. Anonymous2:09 AM

    Dear Jeff-

    I had my first collapse on Aug 18, and my sencond Sept. 14. I had surgery the 2nd time around and I'm still in the hospital as I type this. Spontaneous pneumothorax is a scary thing. I avoided most physical activity after my first pneumo, but got my second as I was munching on curly fries at Arby's. Just goes to show that you can get one anytime anyplace. So far I've been on Fentanyl for pain with the occasional dose of Toradol. My pain isn't bad at all...more discomfort than pain. We'll see how to goes. Take care.

  4. Anonymous11:19 AM

    Dear Jeff,
    Thank you for sharing your story. I hope you start to feel better, don't give up hope, keeping your spirits up is half the battle. I was wondering if you or any of your readers could provide some insight on something very scary that happened on Sunday. My wife of 4 months was hiking with her mother 2 days ago and had a very scary bout with not being able to breath and chest pain. The ambulance guys said that one lung was functioning less than the other on the way to the ER, however by the time we got to ER she was Oxgyenating 100% on her own. My wife told me the pain in her side and chest was excruciating and that she felt like she was going to die because she couldn't breathe. X-Rays and CT Scan showed no abnormalities and ER eventually released her after giving her Toradol and Darvacet. They also checked her blood for heart attack, etc. all negative. They told us to follow up with her regular doctor. She is tall 5'7'' and slender 130 lbs, good shape, doesn't smoke, runs on treadmill at gym, no history of asthyma, no wheezing, etc. (her total time of extreme pain and not being able to breath was about 2 hours, paramedics spent a good hour giving her oxygen, etc. and getting her down mountain in ambulance down an old fire road. She eventually starting breathing better in ER about 1 1/2 to 2 hours after episode began.) I am wondering if she had a spontaneous collapse or possibly something called a mucus plug in the chest area? She went on a 25 minute hike up a small mountain. After about 10 mins she had chest pain but continued hiking up the hill, after about 15 mins of chest pain she finally pretty much collapsed at top of hill and said she couldn't catch her breath and that her chest hurt like no other and her right side (by lung) also hurt. She still could not catch her breath fully after being put on oxygen and all the way to hospital in ambulance. She also mentioned that while she was having extreme difficulty breathing, she had the taste of blood in her mouth (altough she never saw any in slivia, she just said it tasted like there was blood in her mouth) She finally caught her breath in ER before x-rays were taken. I know when my wife is out of breath and when she is truely in pain and cannot breath, it was definitely very real and very scary. I am wondering if the 15 mins of Chest Pain before the extreme difficulty to breathe started is common with the spontaneous pneumothorax? Also, once in the ER after she was starting to feel better, she started having a cough which has continued for the last 2 days (in perfect health before hike, no sign of cold or cough coming on). Slight chest pain has also persisted for the last 2 days. I am just wondering if these symptoms are consistent to what you have learned about spontaneous pneumothorax? Have you ever heard of a mucus plug in the chest? Any advice would help, we have an appointment with her regular doctor tomorrow and I was just want to be able to ask the right questions and get referred to a pulmonary specialist. we have kaiser. Thanks Jeff and anyone else that might be able to share some info.

  5. Scott:

    If that was a pneumothorax, it sure healed itself up in a hurry if it didn't show up on an x-ray. I kind of doubt that's what it was, but then I'm not a doctor. All I know is a major pneumothorax - the kind that makes you feel like you can't breathe, and like you're gonna die from the pain - doesn't heal itself, and certainly not in 2 hours. (It's also more likely to happen while at rest, when the lungs aren't as full.) So I think it was probably something else.

    There's also something called a tension pneumothorax, which isn't caused by bursting blebs. That's much more serious, though, and I'm sure the doctors would have caught that too. (She'd still be in the hospital if she had one of those anyway - they can only get worse, and quickly.)

    Did the doctors say anything about the possibility of Marfan Syndrome? I would honestly suggest going to a doctor ASAP and asking specifically about it. I say that because you said your wife is tall and slender, which is a Marfan build. My doctors now think I have it and that's what caused my pneumos (though pneumos are not the worst thing that Marfan can do if undiagnosed). You definitely want to rule this out, and you need to specifically ask because a lot of doctors aren't that familiar with it. Call your doctor, say you're concerned about Marfan Syndrome because of the symptoms and what you've read about it, and ask if he can take a look. They can tell a lot just by looking at someone and taking some basic measurements of arm-span and leg length.

    Seriously, though, if she's still got chest pain, don't mess around. I'm not gonna tell you to sit at home and do nothing about it - that's what my first set of doctors did and they were wrong. I don't think it's a pneumo because they show up pretty clearly on x-rays (I saw mine, and even a layperson can easily see the collapse), and honestly, I never really had a cough that I remember. But it could be something else. Get a second opinion and ask about Marfan Syndrome, if for no other reason than to rule it out. If her pain gets any worse, go back to the ER immediately.

    I hope she feels better though, and that the original doctors were right. You just want to make sure, especially since she's still having pain.

  6. Anonymous7:12 PM

    I know this is like a year later...but i just came across your blog...i know what you went through...actually mine was worse. Im 19 years old and last spring my lung collapsed 4 times. The second time they went in for surgery, powder and all, and left me with two new chesttubes. They had me on three epidurals, with the strongest pain medication there is out there,dilaudid, which is morphine times a thousand. A couple days later, they removed them, and lung had collapsed again. The doctors were they went in for a second surgery, and went in even more aggressive (if thats even possible). Again I came out with two chesttubes. After about a week on teh chest tubes, they took them out, went for an x-ray...and IT COLLAPSED AGAIN! The doctors were besided themselves...never have they heard of this happening, let alone to a 90 pound 19 year old girl. Yet again they went in for surgery, this time bringing the chief of thoraxtics with them, and finally after the third time, it stayed up. I was in the hospital for a month, the worst month of my life. I missed a month of college, and so had to take incompletes over the summer. Its been a year, and I still have not fully recovered. Everyday I get chest pains, always scared that it has collapsed again. I have numb patches around my chest, and about 8 beautiful holes in my chest.

  7. Wow, that's some story. I know how bad just one of those surgeries was; I can't even imagine going back twice more. Must have been awful. I know there were times when I was in the hospital I wanted to kill myself. After about 10 days or so, it all starts to feel like a prison. I started losing all sense of being a normal person at around that point. So I'm sure you must have felt that times ten after a month in there.

    It sounds like your recovery has probably been a little worse than mine too, although I also still have numb patches and chest pain too. I'm off my oxycontin now because I started having heart palpitations (which haven't stopped). If it's not one thing, it's another. Oh well. Hopefully the good news in your case is that you've had so much work done to that lung that it couldn't possibly collapse again now.

    btw, I know I didn't reply to some of the earlier comments here - if any of you are reading this again, just know that I did read them and appreciate them.

  8. Anonymous8:04 PM

    Well, not that I can beat any story but mine was unique too I am a 25 year old female 5'5" 140 lbs. Sept 2006 my lung completely collapsed on my ride over to go skydiving with my sister and some friends. The pain kept getting worse and the weather was bad so we reschedules our appointment. I ended up going to the doctor and sure enough I was sent immediately to receive my chest tube. It reinflated and I went home the next day. (If I would have went skydiving the pressure could have collapsed the other lung) My recovery was pretty good and two months later I was back to the gym. My husband and me decided to start our family. When I was two months pregnant I was driving to work and that same wonderful pain came back. I finished driving to work and had a panic attack because I knew what was going on. I went to the emergency room and they just tried to reinflate my lung. Well that was unsuccessful, so they ended up transferring me to another hospital. Because I was in my first trimester they wanted to avoid surgery (but pumping me full of heavy pain medication was ok) but after a week of sitting there they performed the surgery. The day after I started coughing up green stuff and had a threat of getting an amonia. Then My potassium levels dropped, I got a blod clot in my left arm, got dehydrated, my bowels got obstructed, my veins kept collapsing, and this whole time I threw up everyday (imaging throwing up with the chest tubes and pain after the surgery, it hurts!!) Finally after 11 days in the hospital I went home. I am recovering pretty good I think. I have pictures from the surgery and my doctor said it was the biggest blister/bleb he had ever seen. Half of my right breast is completely numb and I still cannot take really deep breaths, and I do get really tired, but pain is pretty minimal, and my insitions are pretty small. I still throw up all the time and the baby seems to be ok, I saw the heart beat for the first time today so that helped with my anxiety! But I would not wish this on my worst enemy!! Reading your experiences almost made me cry cause I feel your pain!!

  9. Anonymous4:24 AM

    Hey I liked the blog.

    Man opiate addiction is sneaking up on America like crazy, and the government doesn't ecen realize how bad it is getting, don't you think?

    I am a recovering opiate addict from a pain killer addiction.

    I just made a site Pain Killer Addiction.

    I basically describe my story, how I got through it, and I give all kinds of informatio and adive on pain killer addiction and any opiate addiction.

    Even if I can help only one person get rid of that horrible diseas I would be happy!

    Well I'll check back, and hopefully you like the site.


  10. Anonymous11:01 AM

    This has not happened to me personally but it has happened to my boyfriend... he had his first occurance 5 1/2 yrs ago. He didn't go to the hospital for over a week after it happened as he wasn't sure what had happened. When he finally went to the hospital they put a chest tube in and he stayed there for over a week. He had no problems with his lung for 5 1/2 yrs. That all channged last Tuesday, he woke up with a chest pain but ignored it for the first half of the day. By evening he was really uncomfortable but told me not to worry about it and that if it hadn't gone away by the next morning, he would go to the Doctor's. well it was still there the next day so he went to the Dr's and sure enough... Spontaneous Lung Collapse. This time the tube was really small...some new study the Dr's are doing. The chest tube was insterted and we sat at the hospital for a few hours to get x-rays and to see the lung specialist. He was sent home that same day with his little chest tube (no suction machine just a little hard plastic thing at the end of the tube.) We had to go back the next day and get another X-ray and to see the lung specialist again... everything looked good and we were told to come back the following day for another x-ray and have the tube clamped off to see if the lung would stay inflated on it's own and if it did, the tube would be removed and he was free to go. Everything went fine that day and the tube was removed, an appointment made for 6 weeks post to see how things are and an appointment with the lung surgeon was made to discuss options for surgery. He has been taking it easy, which is not normal for him... he can't play baseball which is killing him and not being able to go to work... he was really taking it easy... then last night after dinner and doing some running... he had the same chest pain and the gurgling returned... to the point that I could hear it while he sat beside me. Back to the hospital we go... against his wishes but I wanted him to at least get a x-ray. While sitting in the Emergency room, he started to feel a little better but I wouldn't let him go home... that was till we sat around for 3 hours in the emergency waiting room... some people had been there for over 12 hours and still no bed for them (we live in Canada)at that time he said he wanted to go home and he promised that if it got worse during the night that he would tell me... he is at home still and I am at work so we made it through the night. He will be going back to the doubt about that but hopefully it won't be such a wait. Reading about your surgery has really got me thinking... the doctors make the surgery seem like it is no big deal... obviously it is and I will be doing some more research on the surgery today and be prepared to ask some questions when we see the lung surgeon. Thanks for sharing your story, I hope you get better soon!!

  11. Anonymous11:05 AM

    Correction... I wrote "last night after dinner and doing some running"... I meant to write running around... grocery shopping... mind is racing right now worried about him!! Sorry!! :(

  12. Hey there,

    Thanks for sharing. I actually do feel quite a bit better in terms of the lung, almost back to normal now. Just a little stiffness. So recovery is possible, but yes, it can take QUITE a while. This is going on 19 months now.

    Your boyfriend's doctors may have a different type of surgery in mind than what my surgeons did to me. There are some optional things that they can do, and I had basically everything... but without all those extras, it may be true that it's not quite as big of a deal. Just ask what they're planning. I unfortunately have forgotten most of the technical terms at this point, but your doctor will hopefully use plain English anyway. They *can* just laser the blebs off and staple the holes closed and call it done. In my case, they also removed the lung outer lining, scraped the lung surface and poured in the talc to further irritate it and create scar tissue. None of that's an automatic, though.

    But if that is what the doctors are planning, then yeah, I would really think about that and make sure they think it's absolutely necessary. I still think it was a mistake in my case - I lost basically a full year of my life and may never be 100% of what I used to be. I mean I still don't do heavy exercise, my movement is somewhat limited and my lung capacity not quite what it used to be. It's like prematurely aging by 10 years. Ask them what they think the minimum is that they can do that will help your boyfriend. It doesn't sound like he's the kind of guy that's going to want to be out of commission like I was.

  13. Anonymous10:50 AM

    Hi, I had a right lung collaspe. It happen twice back to back. Now that I am back to work my left side is starting to hurt. I hope it does not happen again.

  14. Anonymous4:44 PM

    Half way through 2007, I had a spontaneous pneumothorax. I'm 5'11 and weighed about 140 pounds. The doctor said it was typical in people of my stature. It was a 20% deflation in my right lung. The first doctor said I was going to need surgery but that I should wait one day to see what happend. The next day, I was feeling slightly better. This time there was a new doctor in the ER and he said that 20% wasn't that bad and that it might reinflate itself naturally. I went to 2 more tests over the next few weeks and the pain had definetly subsided. I occassionally feel like the collapse is coming back but it usually goes away. I am running long distance track this year and I'm hoping I'll be fine.

    Note: My pain was tolerable at first but then as I went through school it got worse and worse until I could barely walk.

  15. Anonymous10:26 PM

    wow that is harsh! I've had 3 in the last year (first one I had a small tube, then it happened again within a month but that healed on its own, then a third time in may) hopefully I dont have to have surgery, but i heard that they have now a procedure where they pour alittle bit of acid over the "bumbs" on the lung so scar tissue forms and prevents it...

  16. Anonymous12:43 AM

    just came home from the hospital where i left my 18 year old with a 25% collapsed lung. I read both of your blogs which is very helpful to me but also very very scary. he is very athletic and went sky-diving that day it happened. Dr. stated one more chest xray,then possibly a catherter inserted to inflate lung. I am very scared

  17. Anonymous10:18 AM

    i had a collapsed lung and am at home trying to recover they put a chest drain in at my local hospital but when i saw the specialist he said it was to low down and was pretty pointless so off i went to another hospital were they put a second chest drain in affter 4 days they took one out and left one in for a futher 2 days then they put the powder inn and in my opinion that hurt more than my collapsed lung im home now but feel like an old man brethless and in pain hopefully i will recovr soon but am worried about future problems.

  18. My dad who is 74 years old has had his left lung collapse now 3 times......twice since Thanksgiving this year alone. He is currently back in the hospital again. They have done the TALC procedure and reinflated his lung and sent him home about a week after Thanksgiving.....but his lung collapsed again yesterday and he sounds horrible and has a horrific cough and all kinds of nastiness in his chest. The doctors originally told him they would NOT do a third chest tube and NOT do surgery....but last night they DID do another chest tube. He has emphysema and COPD...and his lungs are covered with blebs.... At this point we are all pretty worried this we are not sure what if anything they will be able to do to help him

  19. Anonymous6:18 PM

    I know how you feel about thinking you're going to have to live with disability your whole life. I'm not even in my twenties yet, and my lung has already collapsed twice (50% the 1st time, 10% the 2nd). I'm pretty depressed by the fact that I've hardly lived my life and I'm already going to be extremely limited in my activities. It's just nice to know that there are others out there who know what you're going through.

  20. Anonymous12:09 PM

    Well i feel most your pains, apart from the op, ive got a meeting on thursday with the surgeon in london(im from england)

    my first collapse was in june last year, i had been out watching the carnival with my friend and suddenly had that horrible pressure on my chest. We rung an ambulance as i couldnt breathe or move, and i was taken in, the doctors scanned my heart and my chest and decided i had an infection in the wall of my heart and i was sent home. The 2 days later i received a phone call from the hospital and they said i had found an abnormality on my x ray and wanted me back in. I immediantly started to panic thinking of cancer, they said id had a 60-70% collapse of my lung and said i'd need a tube(they called it a lung drain). so i had the drain in and it was the worst pain id ever felt, the pushing and the prodding was agony! i was kept in for 2 days and was set to be sent home but my lung collapsed again when they took the drain out, i then, cowardly prehaps told them under no circumstances i was going to have another drain in and thankfully they did it under sedation. i recovered slowly and felt i could push myself early, it took around 6 months to get back to normal. just 4 days ago it collapsed again and i really relate to jeff when he said he almost cried when he realised what it was, you hope so much that it will go away or think your over reacting but deep down you know whats happening, i was given a small drain in the top of my chest as it was only a small collapse and sent home the same day. Now after an out patient visit they have decided to operate with the exact type as jeff has had and now im scared...i was very positive innitally and thort this would be good for me, they even told me id be able to travel to tanzania in 12 weeks time to trek the rain forests but surely i cant if you all feel like this, im 18, 6 foot 4 and around 11 stone. any advice on recovery would be great!

  21. Anonymous6:08 PM

    Im 19 and having just read what all of you have written I now feel extremely lucky at this moment in time. My left lung collapsed first in December 2005, then my right lung collapsed in March 2007. My left lung collapsed again in June 2008, at first I was in denial about it and convinced myself that it would go away, but after a day of being in pain I eventually went to the hospital. This was just 5 weeks before I was due to go on my first lads holiday to Malia. I was advised not to fly because of the air pressure but flew anyway as the pneumothorax had been healed for 3 weeks and I just couldn't miss the holiday. Thankfully I was fine on the holiday but was worrying about it and didn't feel quite 100% for the 2 weeks. When I got back I was advised to have surgery on my left lung. I met with the surgeon and had the operation booked for Jan 2009. I was slightly relieved after booking the surgery as ever since my forst pneumothorax on the left side I'd always had chest pains on the side whereas the right side never bothered me since. Then in December 2008 after a night out I felt a pain in my right chest and was like 'oh no, please god don't let it be another pneumothorax' as I knew if it was then I'd have to have my right lung operated on as well. Thankfully after having an x-ray it proved not to be another pneumothorax. So I went in for my operation in Jan 2009, I was nervous but also couldnt wait for the chest pains that I had been gettin at least once a week to go away. After the operation I stayed in hospital for 4 days and had the chest drains removed after the second day. The first week or 2 of recovery was very slow and I did begin to wonder whether my lung would ever feel 100% again. However after building up my recovery with gentle 2,3 then 5 minute walks I began to feel an improvement. My chest pains had gone and 3 weeks after the op I was out celebrating a friends birthday and hitting the dancefloor. It's now almost 2 months since the op and over the past week or so I've been back at the gym doind cardio work and feel fine. However the only after-effect from the op I still feel is the numbness and tenderness around the lower part of my stomach which is nowhere near where the incisions were made, hopefully this will go away soon as it is rather annoying. Has anyone else had this problem?

  22. I wish I had seen this blog before I was told I had no option and had this done on my left lung...the doctor told me that I had the beginning stages of emphasize and I was doomed if not dead shortly if I didn't have the surgery's the thing I don't have a car or a license and I rode a bike to work 5 days a week it is a month after the surgery , I was told that I could go back to work and I am not sure how I am going to fair ..I have to lift things at work and work at a fast pace...there is another problem I can't wear a shirt cause my skin is so sensitive that it hurts, when the wind blows on my chest it hurts the skin is numb and my nipple hurts to touch , without the hydrocodone ( vicodin) its worst oh god I have only a few pills left and this is my third refill they my not help the morning I can hardly breath in or out it is painful and I need to get the meds in me before I can even function I like you wish I never had this surgery I am 47 and this is the worst feeling and time of my life and I hope to god it gets better or I just die.

  23. George12:36 PM

    Im 17 and my right lung collapsed a week ago. there was no injury or diseases it was just spontaneous. i played football for 4 years of my life and never had this happen before. they told me it could happen again. i had to get the tube and stuff and they told i would need surgery if it happens again. im worried that it will happen again and i have to go through what you whent through and it will mean the end of football for me.

  24. George: Yep, it will probably mean the end of football for you if it happens again. Though in all honesty, football will be the last thing you're thinking about at that point.

    That said, they told me after my first time that it was about 50/50 that it'd happen again. So hopefully it won't with you. There's really no way to predict it. Some people are prone to it, other people just have it happen as a fluke once in their lives. They don't know which group you fall into until it happens twice.

    Paul C: I'm not a medical expert, so if they told you there was "no option", they may have been telling the truth. They didn't exactly tell me that - they just said things like I "should" have the surgery, because if I didn't it would probably happen again, and each time it'd be harder to fix. But I know enough to know that not every case is exactly the same, so maybe your early stage emphysema affected things.

    Anonymous: I have pain (still) down around the stomach area as well. It feels like a pulled muscle. Shortly after the surgery it actually was keeping me from standing up straight - I was always hunched over. Nowadays I can stand up straight and move around fine, but I still feel the pain and tightness down there sometimes. Also, if I do things like bend down and try to pull something up (like if I'm pulling weeds or something), occasionally that muscle will cramp up out of nowhere and it's excruciating. This is years after the surgery now!

  25. Anonymous12:12 AM

    My 24 yr old husband- both tall and thin- had a Spontaneous pnemo. He did smoke, but was otherwise pretty healthy, never even really got a cold. Of coarse it freaked me out, as I had never heard of this, and couldn't stand seeing my husband so helpless. The pain from the chest tube seemed to be unbearable. After a few days the tube was removed and he was releaseed. The Dr. gave us the rundown as they released him: A fairly common occurance among men his height/weight, chances of round 2 about 40-70%- smoking increases the chance. Anyway, he never quit smoking. I as a smoker tried to quit, but I guess my reasoning for being weak- was that it was he who was at risk, and he had decided to keep smoking reguardless. This brings us to the really twisted part. Three weeks ago I awoke one morning with a stabbing pain in my chest. It seemed as if I had slept the wrong way. The throughout the day it only got worse. I had similar feelings in the past. Felt like an airbubble in my chest, then an attack folloewd that seemed to feel like a heart attack- I imagined. So I did what anyone would do these days, I looked up my symptoms online! Of coarse the first internet diagnosis was a heart attack as my pain was on my left side, all the symptoms were similar, but I still wasnt convinced, and ready to head to the ER, so I decided I had Precordial Catch Syndrome -which is a fancy word for an air bubble, that cant be explained , but eventhough it feels like a heart attack it usually goes away soon- and I should try to take a deep breath. So much for self diagnosis, so day two I go to the dr. The Dr comes in takes a listen, says I have a heart murmur. He tells me this can sometimes cause pain. He then sends me for a chest x-ray, on my insistance of some air bubble. Comes back in says everything looks good, says I shouldnt worry until further testing(he would have the receptionist schedule an ultrasound),and sent me home. I of coarse was really upset. I had fully expected him to tell me I was fine, but instead now there was something wrong with my heart. On the other hand at least I wasnt crazy.The next day I was more miserable. As a mother of 3 children now I was extremely anxious to get to the bottom of this heart murmur ASAP, and get on with it. Two days later I called to find out about the appointment for the testing, and they proceed to tell me they had no such orders, and the Dr was out of town . So the next day, now 4 days after my inital "attack", I convinced my husband to take me to the ER.

  26. Anonymous12:14 AM

    cont....After an EKG and ruled out a heart attack-I finally got to talk to a very snappy nurse. She informed me that they wouldnt do the ultrasound there. She goes on to tell me an ER is for emergencies, they are ther to keep people from dying, and otherwise I should wait until Monday, and get an appointment for the diagnostic services that I needed. I felt so embarrased, and at the same time hopeless. I felt like something was terribly wrong, but no one was gonna help me. Another nurse then came in and said she was taking me to x-ray. I knew I had just had this done, but at least they werent kicking me out the door yet, maybe they would do a few tests to find out what was going on. Sure enough after the xrays, someone came for blood. Finally the original nurse came back and said shed like to see another chest xray, as she thought my lung may have collapsed. I was shocked- I think my heart may have actually stopped at that moment. It was my husband who was at risk not me! It had to be a mistake. He was rushed to the ER within an hour of his lung collapsing. I had been walking around for almost a week, and they already said my oxygen level was fine. But sure enough after the 2nd xray(3rd total )they confirmed a spontanious pnemo with my left lung being about 60% collapsed. I immediatly started crying, The thought of them shoving a chest tube between my tiny ribs( I weighed all of 110) can you say panick attack? They couldnt put me to sleep fast enough! Needless to say I lived, and after a few days in the hospital I was sent home. My doctor however had a different set of statistics. He told me my chance of reoccurance was 5%, however I've yet to find any studies to support that #. I also read a few articles on catamenial pnemo, which is related to endemetriosis, and a lung collapses aon or near the menstral cycle. This could fit for me as I had been told I may have the condition, but had not had the scope to confirm it. The Dr. pretty much shrugged that theory off, and said the chances were extremely small. He went on to say how rare that condition was- almost unheard of. Again my research contradicts my doctor. I guess the thing Ive learned is statistics mean very little, what are the chances of both a husband and wife both have the same condition, which neither had ever heard of before? I also learned to trust my gut, not always my doctor, and not to be afraid of looking foolish if nothing happens to be wrong, because sometimes something may be wrong. I still have so my unanswered questions though, and it seems people with past experiances have more answers than doctors. I still feel like I'm not healing as fast as I should, I still have terrible back pain that I never had before, although my doctor says everything looks fine. Shouldnt my insides be healed by now? Its been over 3 weeks. I also worry about my children as they are all tall and thin, and I wonder if ther is any preventitive testing that can be done. Ive heard of this happening to children as young as 13, and I couldnt imagine my baby going through it. Anyone out there with any information that might further enlighten me would be greatly appriciated. Its nice to have a place to vent and read stories that help my family through this.

  27. Thank you for telling me your story.
    Just recently ive gone through two pneumothorax's in the past month where 50% of my lung colapsed, and i had another pnuemothorax that took 70% of my lung 3 years ago.
    The first two times i had the surgery and i can understand how your feeling completely.
    I am still currently in recovery and feeling very low, but as ive been through the surgery once before, i know that it gets better and easier to deal with. The numb feelings still havent quite left my chest though, but in time ive gotten used to it and think of it as kind of cool. I feel that that is possibly the best state of mind to be in given the circumstances.


About This Blog

This is increasingly not a blog about Alphabet City, New York. I used to live in the East Village and work on Avenue B, but I no longer do. Why don't I change the name if I'm writing about Japan and video games and guitars? Because New Yorkers are well-rounded people with varied interests, and mine have gone increasingly off the rails over the years. And I don't feel like changing the name. I do still write about New York City sometimes.


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