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.