Hi everyone! I'm 20 years old and I had my first pneumothorax sometime last month. I'm a bit of an atypical case: I'm a short, thin female as opposed to a tall, thin male, I had one giant bleb as opposed to a few smaller ones, and I had to have surgery after my very first collapse.
Around the second week of May, I started feeling really tired and short of breath while walking between classes or just around campus, which I initially attributed to the fact that I'm a lazy bum and never exercise. There wasn't any pain so I just ignored the fact that I was panting and wheezing my way to class everyday, which, looking back on it, was a pretty dumb thing to do. At the end of that week, I went to a stand-up comedy show with my friends, and after about 15 minutes of laughing, I suddenly couldn't anymore, and spent the rest of the hour-long show having a giant coughing fit. I went to my family doctor the next day, and he couldn't find anything wrong with me except that I 'might' have asthma. He prescribed me some cough medicine and told me to come back in two weeks if I didn't get better. Exactly two weeks later, I came back because things were definitely not getting better. He listened to my chest for a really long time, but he still thought that I had asthma. He took a blood test and told me to go to the hospital for a chest x-ray as soon as possible. That was on a Friday and I didn't go until the following Tuesday because I had two finals on Monday and needed as much studying time as possible. Over the weekend, the condition go about five times worse and I ended up losing two or three pounds even though I didn't do anything except study and eat cookies all weekend.
On the morning of Tuesday the 5th, after all my finals were done, I had my dad take me to the hospital for the chest x-ray. Who both thought that it was going to be a quick, in-and-out procedure confirming my 'asthma' and were planning to go out for lunch afterwards. Unfortunately, if that were the case, I wouldn't be here writing this entry on this community right now. About two minutes after the x-ray as taken, the nurse beckoned me back in and a doctor showed me my x-ray, explained what a pneumothorax was, and said that he had sent all my paperwork down to the ER and that they were expecting me there. My dad and I walked about a block down to the ER (my friends always laugh when I tell them that I walked to the ER) and I guess it was a pretty light morning because I was admitted right away. While I was sitting there in the little hospital gown, with one of the nurses trying to start an IV line in my arm (it took her three attempts because I have really small veins), all the techs and interns kept popping into my little room, looking a bit sheepish and saying that they had been told to come and listen to my chest. Since it had been about three weeks since the initial collapse, I was told that my x-ray was the fullest collapse most of the younger doctors had ever seen in person and better than some of the stuff they'd seen in textbooks, so I guess the word had gotten out. Two doctors came by and they both explained some more stuff to me about what I had and what the procedure for it was. Exactly two and a half hours after I came to the hospital for the 'quick' chest x-ray, an anesthesiologist was hovering over me with the gas mask thing and the surgeon was putting on his gowns in preparation for the insertion of my chest tube. Everything happened so fast that morning, I barely had time to register it all.
After I woke up, most everything had been sorted out and I was told that I had spontaneous pneumothorax and I would be spending "a few days" in the hospital. The next few days were spent with my two friends percocet and morphine, 7am chest x-rays, and chest tube drainage that looked exactly like fruit punch. The third day I was there, the doctors took out my chest tube and told me that I could go home. Yay? Not quite. They took one last x-ray before they let me go and it turned out that my lung had collapsed again, they had to put the lung tube back in, and I had to stay for "a few" more days. I think that night was the closest to depression as I've ever been in my life. Three days after that, my lung still wasn't sticking even though they had me on the highest possible suction and the best option now was surgery. The surgeon made three 1-inch incisions on my left side and back and did the procedure with the computers, and also the thing where they create some abrasion to force scar tissue so that my lung would finally stick. They even gave me some pictures afterwards of the bleb being cut out. I spent the next few days in the hospital, was released on the 13th, and have been at home recovering ever since.
I ended up spending 9 days in the hospital, with two lung tube insertions, one surgery, four scars, a gaggle of wonderful nurses and surgeons, and enough hospital food to last a lifetime. It was an interesting experience that had helped me grow a lot, but it was also the most painful experiences of my entire life, so *crosses fingers* here's to hoping that it never happens again!
Also, my mom has been out of the country visiting relatives for the past five weeks, and we decided not to tell her anything about what happened to me while she's still away since she can't do anything about it anyways and it would only worry her and ruin her vacation. She comes home next week, and we're all hoping that she doesn't get too mad when we finally tell her the story.