Head injury + Collapsed Lung = Bad News
The Story: While sitting in bed doing physics homework during my senior year of high school, I began to feel pressure and pain on the right side of my chest. I also felt air "gurgling" inside me. The gurgling sensation felt similar to when my stomach growls from hunger, except that I felt it in the right side my chest. An X-ray in the ER of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) showed that I had a significant lung collapse.
My surgeon, Dr. Kaiser, recommended that I undergo a Pleurodesis surgery to repair my right lung. Unfortunately, I was recovering from a serious head injury at the time. Three days earlier I had gotten a bad concussion when I accidentally dove chin first into a diving board while doing an inward dive during competition. I still had significant amnesia, and since it is dangerous to place a patient with a head injury under anesthesia, my doctors delayed plans for surgery. To temporarily patch up my lung, a chest tube was inserted.
Chest tube insertion: Although I've had 14 chest tubes, only four of them were inserted while I was awake. The other ten were all inserted while I was asleep under anesthesia, during the course of my five major lung surgeries. It is very uncomfortable to wake up and feel two chest tubes protruding from your chest, but it is even worse to have a chest tube inserted while you are awake. Each time I had a chest tube inserted while I was awake, it was unforgettably painful. I vividly remember each of the four experiences, and having since talked to many people who have gotten chest tubes, it seems we all do. Since this particular chest tube insertion was extraordinarily awful, I chronicled the experience at length here (warning - the details are a bit grisly).
After the chest tube was successfully inserted in HUP's emergency room, a doctor attached the tube to a "Heimlich valve" which can be used to temporarily prevent a lung from collapsing. I had the chest tube and accompanying Heimlich valve strapped to my chest for two weeks. I even went to school with it every day! After my head injury and concussion symptoms subsided, Dr. Kaiser performed a Pleurodesis on my right lung, just as he had done to my left lung 7 months earlier. As during any Pleurodesis surgery, Dr. Kaiser scraped the surface of my lung with a scalpel and other tools, creating scarring that would hopefully strengthen my lung and prevent future problems. As during every lung surgery I've ever had, the surgeon also removed several blebs (weak spots) from the top of my lung.
Complications: After 5 days in the hospital, my lung healed and the doctors were able to remove the chest tubes. Unfortunately, when a resident doctor removed the chest tubes, he made a very careless mistake. As he pulled the tubes out of my chest, he allowed air to seep into the incisions and therefore into my chest cavity. This automatically causes a lung to collapse, and mine did. A chest tube was again inserted to inflate my lung, but the damage was already done. By causing my lung to collapse 5 days after surgery, the resident reduced the effectiveness of the surgery because he "undid" all the scarring created by the surgery. Years later, my right lung collapsed again, requiring further surgery. I often wondered how things would have turned out if the surgery had been done correctly the first time.
Read Surgery #3
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