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 3 more weeks. Needless to say, I was back to work 4 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 were not stable at all, as anyone would've guessed.

Nothing could comfort me at the 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, and 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 entire 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 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 6 months, and on February 28th, I graduate from taking 3 (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 6 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 us. 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 10-15 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 6 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 pnemothorax. 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 3 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 6 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 at 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.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Pusakalye Alley Cat Race April 2012

I don't know how to ride a bike. When my fiance asked me to come with him to the Pusakalye Alley Cat Race at The Collective a year ago, I took it as an opportunity to photograph something different. Of course I know nothing about fixed gear bikes, more so the mechanics of an alley cat race, but I welcomed the sight of a different culture than what we are used to seeing everyday. The racing event was topped with some good barbecue, music and fixed gear (no brakes) bikes. Here are some of the photos I took of the race:

I have more photos from the event that I uploaded on my Facebook page: Pusakalye April 2012. Maybe one day, I'll learn how to ride too.