Thursday, December 20, 2007

Collapsed Lung Redux

Collapsed Lung Card from Dawn

I have to say I'm amazed to be sitting at home right now. It's a testament to modern medicine that barely 24 hours ago, I had multiple holes and multiple tubes in and out of my body, and of course, a collapsed lung to deal with. Yet here I am, watching TV with a remote with more than one button, eating killer cheesy grits, and, most importantly, rocking two lungs at full capacity.

Granted, it's not all gumdrops and lollipops (or whatever kids eat these days... Rock Star and Ritalin?). I feel like a stabbing victim, which I essentially am. I've now got a total of four holes in my rib cage and they all hurt in unique and interesting ways. My stomach is still pretty rocky from all the drugs from anesthesia, and the two helpings of cheesy grits I just ate, while super tasty, are not helping matters.

There is a long list of things I can't do for the next week or two. The highlights include:

  • Lift anything heavier than 10 lbs

  • Drive a car

  • Fly

  • Shower

Actually, I can shower in two days or so, but things are already kind of funky. Amy lit a candle... either she's trying for a candle-lit holiday mood, or the stench has gotten to her. I'm also on regular doses of oxycodone and stool softeners, which is a winning combination, let me tell you.

The collapsed lung has definitely put a damper on my holiday plans, but things aren't so bad. It seems my parents are going to come out in early January to visit. I might try to find my way to Winthrop to see a few aunts, uncles, and cousins, and most likely get stuck in the snow. Finally, Amy has some interesting plans up her sleeve for a very special Christmas Eve to make up for the one I'll be missing back home.

So all-in-all, a collapsed lung sucks, but the possibility that it's fixed for good now, my quick stay in the hospital, and all the support from friends and family makes it all a little more bearable. Thanks everybody. My New Year's resolution is to stay out of the ER in 2008. I'll try my best ;)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Live Blogging Collapsed Lung 2007

Never one to trivialize serious health problems with a little bit of pointless technology, I've decided to live blog my time here at UW Medical as I get treated for my latest malfunction. I'm going to try posting the latest updates towards the bottom of the page, so read from the top down if you want to bring yourself up to speed.

Dr. Collapsed Lung Evil

Tuesday, Dec. 18th, 2007

8:45 am - Crap I've collapsed my lung again.

8:45 am - 1:58 pm - A lot has happened in last few hours from "pop" to "blog", so let's get down to it. If you remember anything about the last collapse, you'll know it happened ~ June 2005, early morning while I was in the shower. Once again, the shower was my downfall. It happened the exact same way... one moment I was lost to lather, rinse, repeat, and the next I'm wondering why it hurts when I breathe.

I knew almost immediately what had happened, even if I tried to deny it to myself at first. Ever the pragmatist, I packed for what I assumed would be an extended stay at the hospital. I caught the bus to the ER, they took a chest x-ray, listened to me a breathe and confirmed what I already knew.


I'm currently hooked up to oxygen, a IV drip, and an oxygen sensor on my left index finger that makes it a pain to type. I met with a thorasic resident and fellow about an hour ago and we talked about "the plan." Last time, the plan was to put in a chest tube to vacuum out all the air that had escaped into my chest cavity and allow the lung to refill and heal. This worked great once they got the chest tube in place (three tubes later), but apparently not well enough.

Now that I've had my second collapse, I qualify for the repeat offender treatment, where in they attempt to actually discover what's wrong with me instead of just patching my holes. Unfortunately, this involves some minor surgery and general anesthetic. The plan is to make a few small incisions on my right rib cage, go in with video cameras, and put it all on YouTube. Depending on what they see, there are a couple options. First, the tall skinny white boy hypothesis: tall, skinny males my age are susceptible to random collapsed, possibly due to a blip forming in the lung that is weaker than regular tissue and prone to popping. If they find such a section, they'll cut it out. If they don't find anything obvious, they'll toss some talc powder on my lungs (no really), which will aggravate and annoy the lungs, causing them to grow back fighting mad, stronger than ever.

Regardless, I'm still looking at 2-3 days with a chest tube here in the hospital. I'm currently on standby for surgery so it could happen any time betwee now and 6pm. I'll keep you posted.

2:17 pm - I need to use the bathroom... where did all the nurses go?

2:38 pm - Need a trusted source of information to tell you all you need to know about collapsed lungs? Why not Wikipedia? See Pneumothrorax.

3:20 pm - Still chilln' in the ER. If you're bored like me, reading back issues of My Year Of Flops on the Onion AV Club is fun.

4:03 pm - I think they are moving me to my room soon. Maybe there will be cable.

4:34 pm - I have been moved: room 4350. You can try calling me at 206-598-6288 if you feel like it. And yes, there's cable. My view was better last time though...

4:40 pm - The TV has one button. It turns it on... then proceeds through each channel in turn... and then turns it off. Oh for another button. Maybe I can have Amy bring in our universal remote.

Pulse Oxygen Sensor

5:01 pm - In a shocking development, my pulse oxygen sensor has been moved from my finger to my toe. Typing just got a lot easier and I'm still rocking 100% blood SpO2 level (and pulse of 72 bpm).

I'm riding a Stryker

8:55 pm - Things have been busy... not really. As I mentioned earlier, I've been on stand-by for surgery. As luck would have it, no spots became available, so I didn't get a spot today. However, I'm officially on the schedule for tomorrow at 1:30 pm, so the odds are good that I'll actually see some time under the knife. In the meantime, no surgery today meant I was finally allowed to eat something. Bonus points to Amy for scoring me a hot dog. Much tastier than what eventually came for dinner. I just did a few laps of the ward with the nurse pushing my IV behind me, which was good to stretch my legs, but now it's back to the bed.

Speaking of the bed, to answer Penney's question I seem to be sitting on a Stryker. Thanks for saying hi everyone. I apologize for moving from LJ to blog land, but ever since they sold LJ to the Russians... ; )

Wednesday, Dec. 19th, 2007

9:33 am - Glory be, I have survived the night. Not that there was ever much doubt, but it's mostly a question of whether I could take all the random poking and prodding that takes place when most normal people should really be asleep. This includes taking my vitals at 1:00 am and 5:00 am, a chest X-ray at 1:30 am and then a consult with my doctors at 5:30 am. Not to mention the fact that I kept dislodging my pulse-oxygen sensor from my toe, which always sets off a lot of annoying beeping (but no calls of Code Blue thankfully).

The situation is still pretty much the same. Surgery is scheduled for roughly 1:30 pm and I'll probably go in two hours early for prep. I'm not sure how long it will take, but my press secretary Amy Wheeless will be handling all questions at that time.

On a side-note, I realized I can see the Allen Center from my window. I can never escape that place.

7:19 pm - I survived the surgery, but I am currently losing the war to stay awake versus my pain killers. I will try to update, but this could be rocky. Actually, it will be a lot like writing an English essay at 3 am back in the days of undergrad... write a sentence... fall asleep at the keyboard for a minute... wake up and write another sentence...

The surgery was a success. They found a bleb, a blister like structures on the surface of the lung, that is prone to popping. They successfully removed the bleb, mechanically scraped up the inside of my chest cavity so the lung would adhere better as it grew back, and patched me up. All told, the procedure probably took less than 45 minutes.

Fixing the bleb is a good thing, because there is a much better chance that this won't ever happ again. My doctors were happy, so I am too.

The downside to the surgery is that my mouth is super dry from anesthesia and the various drugs they gave me. No matter how much water I swish around in my mouth, it still dries out again. It will be nice when that resolves itself. The next annoying thing is that my stomach is a little rocky after surgery. I can eat and drink, but I feel a little weird and get a little burpy. Burping with a couple holes in your chest is not really pleasant. Better than nausea I suppose.

Shout outs to Neva for visiting me this morning, bringing donuts and good cheer. She also helped take care of all my gear while I was in surgery and also loaning us her car for a while. Shout outs to Micah for visiting as well. Whoo just passed out for a bit ;) Micah gets bonus points for putting up with my rambling, morphine-induced conversation.

Ok... I'm going to sleep some more ;) Final shout outs to Amy for taking care of me. She wins.

btw they moved me to a new room: Room 5228 with a phone number of 206-598-6759.

Thursday, Dec. 20th, 2007

12:47 am - I'm waiting for my 1 am check up and a last shot of oxycotin before I head off to bed, so let me take this opportunity to answer a few frequently asked questions:

Does it hurt? Yep. They're big fans of rating your pain on a 0-10 scale, where zero is feelin' good, feelin' great and 10 is frowny face on fire. Though it's all subjective, I was rocking a 2 for most of yesterday and I'm currently hovering around a 4 or 5. The pain is always the worst when I breathe... so I try not to do that. The pain is mostly from my chest tube... a rubber hose about the size of my thumb running through a small incision in my rib cage to a vacuum pump on the wall. The vacuum sucks out any air that has escaped into my chest cavity, allowing my lung to re-inflate and heal up.

When will you be better? My doctor seems pretty optimistic, saying I might have the tube out tomorrow, which would be much faster than last time. Possibly discharged on Friday and mostly back to normal by Saturday. We'll see how it goes.

Can you fly after a collapsed lung? No... probably the worst part about the whole thing. Flying after a collapsed lung is dangerous because the pressure change can cause trouble for your lung. The no-fly order only lasts a few weeks, but it's enough to put a major damper on getting home for Christmas.

Are you high on pain killers right now? Nah, I'm still waiting on that night cap of a double shot of oxycotin, which should knock me out for the night.

Any crazy accessories you get to play with? The deep breathing exerciser is the strangest by far:

Deep Breathing Exerciser

That's a picture of the one I used the last time I was in here, but my new one looks just the same. The idea is that you suck on the tube for as long and hard as you can, getting the little yellow floaty thing to hover at the top of the column. It's just as inappropriate as it sounds...

What's your least favorite thing on the TV at the moment? Those Comcast big-ole-expensive phone company commercials. I want to set the television on fire when I see them.

What's your favorite way to waste time on the Internet at the moment? I'm a big fan of Desktop Tower Defense, a Flash-based strategy game. Otherwise, Google Reader and all the feeds are my weapon of choice.

Are you high on pain killers NOW? Yep! The nurse just brought me my meds for the night... crazy sleep here I come.

11:08 am - Big news on a busy morning. The odds are looking better and better that I will actually get out of the hospital today. As in the six hours. It's insanity, but apparently I am making a pretty speedy recovery from my surgery.

After my 4 am chest x-ray and 6 am consult with the doctors, they decided my lung was looking pretty good, so they took me off active suction to see if the lung would stay up on its own. The lung seems to be holding strong. I just got back from my most recent x-ray about 10 minutes ago, and if it looks good, the chest tube is hopefully coming out next. That's great news because the chest tube hurts like hell. Who knew cutting a hole in your side and sticking a large tube in there would be so painful? Oh wait, I did from the last time this happened. At least I wasn't awake for the resident wiggling his thumb around the hole in my chest like last time. Seriously.

Since my lung has been doing better, my nurses have adopted a take-no-prisoners attitude to get me ready to go. They kicked me out of bed, made me walk around, and I even had to eat breakfast sitting in a chair. So much for breakfast in bed. There have also been a number of unmentionable acts committed in the name of getting my digestive system back in gear after the surgery. For your sake, I will not elaborate.

Thanks to CC and Jeremy for coming to visit me last night. I was mostly out of it the entire time, so I am thankful they didn't write embarrassing things on my forehead while I snoozed. I'm pretty sure Amy had the Sharpie ready to go.

It feels great now that my mouth is not nearly so dry. Last night was just painful... I needed to eat something so I could start taking Oxycotin without getting nauseous, so they brought me Jello (good idea) and saltine crackers (bad idea). Remember that eating contest where you try to eat three saltines in a row without drinking any water? Remember how that's mostly impossible? Trying to do it when my mouth was not producing any natural saliva was particularly tricky. Thank goodness for the Jello.

12:53 pm - The chest tube is out! Now there's something I'm glad I only have to do once today.

3:04 pm - The latest x-ray is in... the news is good... I'm going home!

Addenum - Read it here.