Friday, December 05, 2014

Responsible Use of Social Media

Social media is a venue where we all come together not only to share our thoughts and ideas but also to share certain moments of our lives. We also feed ourselves with information using social media—it lets us stay in touch with the rest of the world in real time. We benefit so much from this new platform, that’s why it makes sense for us to be responsible users and to keep the online community a good venue for sharing and getting information. Here are a few tips to make our social media experience (as well as that of others) a good one.

Think about what you bring to the site. 

Remember, anything that you share will be seen by all those connected to you. Before posting something, ask yourself if what you are sharing will add any value to the entire online community. The speed of being able to publish your thoughts is both a great feature and a great downfall of social media. Make it a self-imposed edit or reflect. If in doubt over a post, or if something does not feel right, either let it sit and look at it again before publishing it, or ask someone else to look at it first. Think twice; you may be cyber-bullying someone with a post or image you are sharing.

Respect the opinion of others. 

Social media is full of people like us who post their opinion on just about everything. Unfortunately, nobody always knows everything and many of us have varying opinions on topics or issues. It’s fun to troll every once in a while, but when it gets out of hand, social media becomes a venue for fighting, and can possibly damage real-life relationships. Respect your audience, as they are your friends, family and coworkers. Understand that your Twitter or Facebook feed will naturally reflect a diverse set of customs, values and points of view. At the same time, don't be afraid to be yourself, but do so respectfully.

Don’t tell secrets. 

It's acceptable to talk about your work and have a dialog with the community or industry, but it's not right to publish confidential information. These include unpublished details about the technology you use at work, details of current projects, financial information, research, and trade secrets.

Protect your own privacy. 

Be wary of posting information about yourself that you would not want the public to see. This includes your credit card number, employee number, SSS number, passport, bank account and other IDs. Most major social media site update us with privacy improvements but the changes are often too frequent to follow and can get confusing. Review your privacy settings to protect your identity online, and it's best to assume anything you post is fair game — potentially seen by your family, friends, coworkers and even strangers.

Think about consequences. 

The social media is for our own personal use and we can use it sparingly. Yet we have to be responsible for what we post on our accounts, just like how we are held responsible for whatever we do in real life. You will be credited, or worse, blamed for whatever you post. And while using social media can be beneficial in so many ways, we all have seen jobs lost, relationships severed and reputations destroyed through the use of social media. We don’t want to fall victim to that.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Not Again: My Pneumothorax Recurred

Just when I thought I was on my way to full recovery, my world shattered when the ER doctor told me I needed another chest tube. My left lung collapsed again.

It was barely a month after I was discharged from the hospital due to spontaneous pneumothorax. My left lung collapsed because an inborn air cyst ruptured, which in turn caused the air I breathe to leak into my chest wall. After a week of needles, x-rays and a painful tube on my chest, my lung inflated back--I was sent home and advised to rest for three more weeks. Needless to say, I was back to work four weeks after my surgery, though I was still weak and had a bit of cough.

My cough got worse and after almost two weeks of taking the usual cough syrup, I finally asked my husband to take me to the ER for a checkup. I was worried that my pneumothorax would recur, but I have extremely high hopes that it's just a stubborn cough. Of course I was wrong. 

The "non-urgent" family doctor who attended to me at the ER was startled when he saw my chest x-ray, because my only complaint was my cough. I was asked to go the critical area at once. I was the only patient who walked in to this room--everyone else came in stretchers or wheelchairs. Like the first time, the doctors wanted to perform the surgery (close tube thoracostomy) right then and there, but because my vitals were stable, they agreed to wait for my surgeon who will perform the procedure in the OR. My emotions at the time were not stable at all, as anyone would've guessed.

Nothing could comfort me at that moment-- I dreaded the thought of having to go through another half hour or so awake while they insert a plastic tube on my left side. I tried to stop crying because the doctors told me that doing so will make it more difficult for me to breathe. I was worried about the hospital bill. Will my health card still cover this? We have barely recovered financially from the first surgery!

The situation at the OR was more stressful for me now compared to the first time. Maybe because not one bit of myself wanted to be there, but I had no other choice if I want to be well. I was in distress that they had to tie my left arm to make it easy for them to insert the chest tube while I squirmed and cried on the OR table. Well, I can't really feel the pain because of the local anesthesia, but I was aware of everything-- I heard every tinker of the instruments they used (and saw some of them), I knew when the tube passed a rib and I knew when it was in place. My cough was instantly gone the moment the tube was there, and water started flowing out of the tube and into the drain. Apparently, I had water in my chest too! It was creepy. My surgeon held my hand before the nurses moved me out of the OR and told me, "Okay na, ang tapang mo."

The sight of my husband and my friends waiting for me in my room was a relief. It was hard being in the surgery suite not knowing anyone but my surgeon, who also performed my first CTT.

The next few days were difficult. The chest tube was even more painful than I could remember. I had to undergo a CT scan while the tube was still there, which was very uncomfortable. A vacuum was also attached to my tube, to help drain remaining water. However, my left lung never inflated back-- I had a hole on my left lung that prevented it from becoming fully inflated.

Five days after my CTT, I had VATS (video-assisted thoracic surgery) to permanently address my pneumothorax. I underwent a bullectomy (to stitch up the hole on my lung, which was the size of a grape) and pleurodesis (to stick my lung to my chest wall and make sure it doesn't collapse again). The procedures took about an hour or two, I think. If I count the time I spent in preparation and recovery room, it was probably 3 hours. I was fully sedated, if that's any consolation.

I remember being woken up in the recovery room, and I felt nothing but pain and discomfort. I wanted to kick every person I see except that doing so would bring me more pain. I couldn't move much, too, and to my surprise, my chest tube was still there and it's more painful than ever. It's like someone played a bad joke on me in my sleep by pulling the tube out and putting it back in and moving it around.

I felt more sore than ever on my left side where the tube was. I found out later that the doctors actually removed it and put it back in. I still needed the tube to drain out remaining fluid and air. Also, pain haunted me for days-- even painkillers were too painful when administered! I felt every drop of antibiotics and pain killers that were administered intravenously. I had three incisions on my left and I couldn't decide which one was most painful.

The tube was pulled out about 4 days later. It was quick and painless. The only problem was that water leaked through the wound when I cough, laugh or do my thing in the toilet. And I really mean it when I say LEAK because my hospital gown and bed sheets needed to be changed when this happened! I spent about 12 days in the hospital this time, and I was advised to rest longer at home before going back to work.

Surprisingly, recovery at my parent's house wasn't as depressing as the first one. I remember not being able to sleep and crying in bed when I recall the surgery. Now that there are three to remember (one of which I was unconscious), my mind probably mixed them all up or supressed them well enough for me to even think of it before going to sleep. Also, my fears of it recurring have diminished, knowing that I underwent a more permanent solution to prevent my left lung from collapsing again. My doctors are also on the task of making sure that it never happens to my right lung. 

I have been on medications for six months, and on February 28th, I graduate from taking three (huge) tablets a day. I still feel some kind of pain and discomfort on my left chest. Because of this pain, I have never been aware in my entire life that I have lungs, but as the weeks go by I feel better. On March 3, I will have my first chest x-ray in a span of six months, and we'll see how my lung is faring (or sticking). I can't wait!

Friday, July 26, 2013

When My Left Lung Collapsed

I was filled with fear and worry when I read my chest x-ray result that says "collapsed left lung."

My husband and one of our company drivers (using our office van) rushed me to The Medical City. Well, we weren't really rushing. The EDSA traffic on a Monday rush hour slowed us down. I wasn't panting for air like you would probably imagine-- I was simply having difficulty breathing and my chest pain was bearable if I avoided moving and laughing. 

At the emergency room, I was assigned to a bed but it took about an hour and a half before someone finally attended to me. I was scheduled for another chest x-ray, and shortly after that everyone took interest in and paid attention to me. 

Apparently, I have pneumothorax or collapsed lung, as what we already know from my first x-ray at the clinic. In my case, it was my left lung. Doctors explained that although I was not in distress, it's a life-threatening condition because my heart may not be getting enough oxygen. My heart could be in trouble anytime, considering I've been having difficulty breathing for over 24 hours already. I may need to undergo surgery right there at the ER with only local anesthesia, so they can place a chest tube immediately to remove the excess air between my chest wall and lung. This excess air prevents my left lung from expanding and doing its job.

I looked at my husband with teary eyes. I don't want to undergo surgery. I want to hide my fear and be strong but at that moment, it was so hard. Whatever it is that I have to go through, I simply prayed that it would not be painful. I saw in my husband's face how scared he was, too. Will I survive this? He was probably asking the same question in his mind. The people at the ER prepared me for surgery and during that time, my husband did what he does best--make me laugh. 

At around 11:30pm I was brought to the Surgery Suite--thank God I didn't have to go through the procedure at the ER! I was awake the entire ten to fifteen minutes of the surgery and can clearly hear and see the tools they pass around to use. Of course I did not feel anything because of the anesthetic.

Chest tube on my left side
Where the other end of the tube was connected
I stayed at the hospital for six days (Monday to Saturday). My chest tube was removed Friday morning, just when I was at the peak of the pain-- it felt like my lung has expanded and the tube was in the way. My CT scan was also scheduled the same day at 11pm. I was on my way out of the hospital Saturday afternoon. My husband was with me the entire time, taking care of and serving me like a queen--not like a sick person. I realized he's always served me, sick or not. My parents, friends and family who came to visit made it easier for me to bear the pain.

As I wait for my wound to heal, I couldn't help but ask questions. Why me? Will it happen again? When? What did I do to cause this? 

It was a case of spontaneous pneumothorax. It happens even to healthy people. And it's genetic. Every doctor I spoke to after the surgery told me I was born with these air cysts or bleb in my lung, which ruptured and leaked air into my chest. My father and three of his brothers had pneumothorax when they were young. My CT scan showed there is still one bleb on my left and a very small air cyst on my right. It increases the likelihood of recurrence. I'm discouraged from scuba diving and doing any other activity that requires me to exert too much pressure on my body, just to keep the blebs from rupturing. I was even advised to wait six weeks before my next flight, and to keep it to short flights during the first year. I guess it's a blessing that I couldn't afford yet a 13-hour flight to Europe.

So what now? Will I live my life in fear that it would happen again? It's an experience I don't think I'd like to go through again. For the few days since I left the hospital, I've been sleepless. I am angry, scared, confused. What if it happens to my brothers or my nephews? Can they afford treatment? Also, I don't want my husband to spend his life taking care of a weak and sickly wife. I don't want my parents to be worrying about me all the time when they should be simply enjoying life. I keep asking, why did it not happen to someone who doesn't have a purpose in life? But when I pray, God would tell me there is a purpose why it happened to me. I may not understand it completely now but there is a reason and it is part of His always pleasing and perfect plan.

Many people have more life-threatening diseases, and yet I worry about my condition and how it could prevent me from enjoying life. I feel shame that I am on the verge of being depressed-- where has my faith gone? Whenever my spirit is low, I pray for a miracle that God will remove these blebs from my lungs. I'd like to live and tell the story that defies what the medical world has known about this condition.

I claim that my kids and grandkids and everyone else in my family will not inherit this disease-- they will not suffer from it. And I will live a long and healthy life to hear their stories.