Pop Goes my Lung: The Post-Op

[ Pop Goes My Lung Part 1 // Part 2 // Part 3 // Part 4

It was somewhere shy of 4AM when I came to. I blinked a few times to register my dimly lit surroundings. SICU5127 I read on the wall. Surgical Intensive Care. I was in a post-op room. The surgery was over. I wave of relief washed over me.

And like that, the relief disappeared, instantly replaced by misery. The pain was nothing I had ever experienced before. Breathing hurt, lying still hurt, simply being alive hurt, moving... ha... moving was out of the question. The incisions on my side were throbbing. The weight of the blanket on my chest was unbearable. The oxygen tube in my nose itched, my lips were so dry, I was so thirsty. Vaguely remembering the device tucked into in hand, I pushed the button to administer pain medicine as I shifted ever so slightly and let out a moan of agony.

Mom jumped out of her chair and immediately came to my side. "Pain," I told her, "I hurt... so... bad". Without missing a beat she pushed the call button on my bed and a nurse hurried in with two pills in hand. Mom tried to gently massage my neck and shoulders, any wince would cause my entire core to tense up, bringing me to the worse pain my body had ever felt.

"The surgery went well," she proceeded tell me, in that soft, comforting voice that only a mother can maintain. "They found the hole at the top of your lung." She paused to tuck a strand of hair behind my ear. "You have your own room! Luis made sure you got your own room, they brought you up here around 1:30 this morning" she smiled, and continued to rub my back. Thankfully, at some point within the story the pain pills started to take over my blood stream and I dozed back off to sleep.


Pop Goes My Lung: Into the Operating Room

[ Pop Goes My Lung Part 1 // Part 2 // Part 3 // current post // Part 5 // Part 6 ] 

I think the first time I really cried was in that tiny, 8x10 room.
Seven days.
It took seven days for it all to sink in. I was about to undergo a pretty major surgery. Someone was going to be inside my rib cage, messing around with the very thing that keeps me alive, that allows me breath. That's pretty terrifying once you let it sink in.

And I cried and cried. The whole time. I think my mom even cried with me. And then my dad showed up and did the typical dad thing and was all "ohmyyoucrazywomen. I'm going to go get a milkshake" Which made me cry even more, because I was on an NPO (nothing to eat or drink). They both just kept reminding me that this was the hard part, and after this I would get better. This was the clicking as we climbed to the top of the rollercoaster.

We waited and waited. Somewhere around 7:30 that evening the phone in my room rang, it was my surgeon, she briefly explained the surgery and said she would be on her way to the hospital soon and they would take me down as soon as she got there. I shot LT a simple text saying I was heading to surgery soon, then stared at the blank walls trying to calm my mind.

One of the resident doctors came in with a sharpie and began detailing surgery spots on my rib cage and back. He wrapped up his sketching session, and smoothed my gown back into place. Luis was his name. He had an accent, and somehow his quirky demeanor momentarily helped me feel at ease.

The clock closed in on 8:30 as the nurse walked into my holding cell and told me it was time to go.

It's funny the things I remember. Being stopped in the hallway to sign a handful of forms. The head anesthesiologist being very upset that I had not been given a pregnancy test the entire time, and having to sign paperwork saying I was aware of that and would not sue the hospital. The girl going over the entire surgery with me step by step, detailing that I would be put under full anesthesia, a breathing tube inserted down my throat, an art-line placed in my wrists for monitoring my heart, two incisions on my right ribs - one under the breast for tools, one a bit further down for a camera. The tools would act as sand paper, tediously used to scar up my lung.  The bottom incision would then encase my new chest tube, a bigger chest tube, a more painful chest tube. They warned me of the pain multiple times that evening but it wasn't until I was laying there just a few yards from the operating room doors that it hit me.

I was so nervous the muscles in my left leg were twitching to the point it looked like I was tapping my leg. I gave a half-hearted "brr!" but I know no one believed it.

Reliving this now as I write it actually has me in tears. I remember my mom and dad kissing my forehead as they headed into the waiting room, with a simple "See you in a little bit kiddo. Love you" And like that I was on my own. Wasting no time, I was wheeled into in the operating room, lifted onto the operating table, the nurses piled warm blankets on me to control my shivers but they had no effect. They were nervous shivers, not cold shivers.

I remember a lot of people in the room. At least 6 or 7. I remember being so, so cold, and wondering why operating rooms were so sterile and white, couldn't they just add some cheerful paint. I remember commenting on everyone's bright, colorful hats. I remember one girl slipping a pale blue hair net on me, gently tucking the stray strands of hair behind my ears. I remember the anesthesiologist began messing with my left arm, inserting the art-line with a quick but painful prick in my wrist, and another girl rushed up and took my right hand, holding it and squeezing it. She kept telling me softly that I would be alright, she would be here the whole time.

I remember being so.freaking.scared.

I never even saw my surgeon. The nurse to my right was talking with me, just fulfilling her job description I'm sure, calming the patient and ensuring their comfort. I began blinking more, and longer. The anesthesia was running through my veins now. The blinks became lazier and my mind began to blank. I let my eyes stay closed as my grip on her hand loosened. I remember her thumb gently stroking my hand as I faded away from the reality of that cold, white room.



Pop Goes My Lung: The Persistent Leak

X-Ray was taken when I first got to the ER.

The hilarity here is that I shot my boss an email that Sunday evening (yes, two days after my lung spontaneously combusted) saying I probably wouldn't be into work Monday but I'd be back Tuesday. In retrospect, I crack up at how naive I had been. In reality, I did not return to work for 6 Mondays following that email.

(the next part of the Pop Goes My Lung Saga continues below. Click here to catch up on part one and part two!

After the ER doctor inserted the chest tube, her little optimistic self assured me that my lung would re-inflate and heal itself and I'd be out of the hospital on Monday.

(This is the waterseal that my chest tube connected to, don't ask me exactly what it did... besides something to do with monitoring breathing and sucking out air)
Little did she know that not once in my life has any aspect gone the "easy" route. So naturally, when my lung refused to re-inflate and heal itself time and time again in those following days it really came as no surprise to me.

My life that week was a constant hypocritical, anxiety-inducing battle. One minute I'd be telling everyone I was getting out of the hospital the next day, and the next minute I was discussing surgery with my doctor. Having never spent any time whatsoever as a hospital patient, I was uneasy and restless, but quickly settled into some semblance of a routine.

Every morning involved an x-ray, every meal I would get the fresh fruit cup, every passing hour involved HGTV, every four hours was pain pills, every afternoon was sprinkled with visitors, and every evening my mom would pull out the recliner and sleep by my side.

Somehow in the grand scheme of things I was graced with a little bit of luck on my side, and my doctor who was assigned to me once I was settled into an inpatient room, had wifed up a thoracic surgeon. Which means he would hurry home every night and tell her thoracic surgery-loving-self about my lung's activities for the day. (At least that's how I imagine it in my head. Why wouldn't my organ be the thriving topic of their dinner conversation?!)

After six days of that roller coaster ride, it finally became evident to all parties involved that my lung was not going to heal on it's own using the traditional method. And surgery became inevitable. The moment that sealed the deal was when I began to squeak. Hinting that not only was my chest tube not doing what it was supposed to,but also that air was leaking out of it. If I laughed, sneezed, breathed in deep, my chest would squeal like a dying dog toy.

So while my doctor wrote up the transfer orders to send me to the hospital where his wife did her surgeries, Mom and I packed up six days worth of flowers, candy, balloons and other random goodies and I got to experience my very first (and hopefully last ever) ambulance ride.

The laughs and smiles ended shortly after the paramedics wheeled me into my new hospital room. I went from having a new, spacious room to myself to sharing a tiny, cramped, outdated hospital room with what seemed to be a crazy, crack addict. After a few hours of her constant requests for drugs and more drugs, I had a breakdown and asked every nurse, doctor or cleaning person I saw to please, please, PLEASE get me out of there.

[The story continues on with Part 4 here]


Pop Goes My Lung: The ER

Growing up I remember my grandma always telling me to wear clean undies, I never knew when I'd get in a car accident... or something like that. No one ever told me to wear matching socks because I never knew when I'd land in the ER though.

(A continuation of the Pop Goes My Lung story)

I was about 5 minutes out from my parents house when I answered my doctor's phone call. For some reason it didn't really sink in that I had been functioning all day with a hole in my lung, and it still didn't. I calmly pulled up into their driveway and waved at mom as I got out of the car. I chuckled and said "well, I need to go to the ER, I figured you would want to take me?"

It was about that point she started crying, and I started to get cold sweats and light-headed. Once I recovered from nearly fainting, she hurried me into her Trailblazer and off we went. Nearly passing out once more at the reception desk of the ER left quite the impression, and I was promptly put in a wheelchair and taken back and graced with a hospital gown and a whole slew of wires for an EKG.

 That whole night was a blur. Test after test, three attempts to insert an IV, my brother, dad and LT all coming to the ER, and finally... after many hours but yet so suddenly, it was time for surgery. A few pumps of loopy medicine later I had a new adornment, a chest tube and a water seal. A steady hum came as the machine gently sucked the air out of the cavity surrounding my lung, allowing it room to reinflate on it's own.

Somehow I went from spending the day driving myself around, working, swinging by McDonalds for french fries upon leaving the doctors office.... to not being able to move enough to even feed myself. Bring on the pain meds. 

(Let's all take a moment to pause and appreciate the hilarity of LT feeding me like a baby)

Sadly, I wasn't out of the clear. We spent the rest of the evening waiting for the orders to be written up and me to get moved to floor 2. Room 2120 would become my temporary home for the next week. The story continues here!


Pop Goes My Lung.

I cracked ONE joke about needing a LifeAlert button and karma came and knocked me on my ass.

Friday, March 15th. 

I woke up at LT's house that morning, feeling far too nauseous for the few beers I had at dinner the night before. On top of the nausea I had this horrible stabbing-with-a-knife pain in my right shoulder blade.  I remember getting dressed, tossing back a few Advil and rolling my eyes at my weird ailments.

I drove the 45minutes from his house to mine, hopped in the shower hoping the hot water beating on my back would ease up the pain, took another Advil for good measure, and headed on into work.

I spent most of the day whining to Whit and LT about how bad my back was hurting. I realized I could only breath about half as deep as normal, but associated it with the back pain. Pulled muscle was my self-diagnosis.

When I started coughing around lunchtime, I decided to wave the white flag, and called up my doctors office hoping to get in to get some antibiotics for this weird cough/cold. I had a fun weekend ahead planned, LT's birthday, St Patrick's Day, I didn't want to be sick! The nurse told me there were no openings left that afternoon, she would pass my symptoms along to my doctor and see if he wanted to call in a prescription. A few minutes later they called back saying he wanted me to come in.

I left work and went to his office. He listened to my breathing, did the regular tests, listened to my symptoms, and said he was stumped. He predicted a pulled muscle, but ordered a chest x-ray just in case. He said to go ahead and head home and rest after the x-ray, that he would call me if they noticed anything.

I didn't even make it halfway home before Bob Marley started wailing on my phone (how ironic). "Well, I hope you don't have a hot date tonight... I just took a look at your x-ray... I need you to go to the ER. I already sent over your paperwork and informed them you would be on your way. Chelsea, your right lung is collapsed."

[ Pop Goes My Lung : This is Part 1 // Part 2 // Part 3 // Part 4 // Part 5 // Part 6 // Part 7


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