The trauma and physical pain associated with a collapsed lung understandably contribute to the overall stress level of a patient, as do the fear and pain involved in undergoing any type of surgery. However, the process itself - the "behind the scenes" interactions - can greatly exacerbate a patient's psychological well-being. Treatment and care by doctors, surgeons, nurses, and even family members, largely dictate how large the psychological impact will be.
Unfortunately, at almost every step of the way, a patient with a collapsed lung will run into obstacles. From the initial pain, to the experience in the ER, to the diagnosis and follow-up appointments, chest tube insertions, and corrective surgeries, the process is harrowing. I don't say this to be discouraging, but to express empathy with those who have been through the process.
Two years ago, while trying to learn more about my lung condition, I came across MSN.com's "Spontaneous Pneumothorax Support Group". I was immediately stricken by the great number of people who expressed their fears and frustrations over dealing with collapsable lungs. Many felt dismissed or ignored, many were frustrated by a lack of answers, and some were simply sharing their stories of pain. I include two memorable posts from the group below:
"I just got out of the hospital after having a 35% collapse in my right lung. I had a chest tube and it was successful... but when I first went in to get examined, the doctor couldn't find anything on the x-ray and said it was acid reflux. Now I don't know too much about acid reflux other than it definitely DOES NOT feel like a collapsed lung."
"Why am I in so much pain? It feels like I have permanent chest drain stuck in my lung... Every time I see my doctor she rolls her eyes when she sees it's me. I feel I'm wasting these people's time now. I just don't know what else to do. Can anyone suggest anything I'm maybe doing wrong?"
Nothing is more insulting than a doctor who, because he or she can't explain your chest pain, hints, implies, or directly states that there is nothing wrong with you. Such a diagnosis can be infuriating. Furthermore, if family members or close friends are present and hear the doctor dismiss your concerns, it can be particularly humiliating. Once your opinions have been invalidated by a prestigious thoracic surgeon whose walls are draped with certificates of greatness, it becomes difficult to advocate for yourself.
I have chronicled in much depth one personal anecdote that underscores how frustrating the process can become: "Frustrations From The Front Lines: A Doctor-Patient Interaction"