March the 23rd 2015…

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On March the 23rd 2015 I was walking home from the tube in East London when I suddenly experienced an excruciatingly sharp pain in my chest. I stupidly tried to ignore it thinking perhaps I’d somehow pulled a muscle or had indigestion. Unfortunately the pain continued to get worse and worse. That night I found it impossible to find a position I could sleep in – lying flat felt like my chest was being crushed in a vice. By the next morning it had radiated into my back, left shoulder and arm and I began to wonder if I was suffering from the early onset of heart failure. Finally, after some persuasion from friends and an aborted trip to Superdrug to buy Gaviscon (I could barely walk) I called an ambulance.

In A and E tests were initially focused on my heart function, which seemed to be fine so it seemed likely I was going to be told I’d pulled a chest muscle, given some ibuprofen and told to go home and lie down. I was embarrassed at wasting their time, yet even though they were saying my vital signs were good and there didn’t seem to be a problem the pain was very intense, I couldn’t stop shaking and I was starting to feel nauseous and dizzy.

Then I was told there was just my chest X-ray to check then if that was fine I’d be free to go. The lady doctor said she would be five minutes. She was a lot longer than that and when she did return she looked grim faced and had two more senior doctors with her.

They explained I had suffered what’s called a Complete Spontaneous Pneumothorax on the left side – in other words my left lung had completely collapsed. 100%. They continued that there was a possibility of a Tension Pneumothorax because my X-ray showed my heart was being pushed into the right side of my chest by the mounting pressure. They explained they were going to have to immediately sedate me and insert an Intercostal Chest Drain through my ribs into my chest cavity to relieve the pressure and give the air somewhere to escape. I suddenly got very frightened and asked if I could phone my mum…

And so began an 18 day hospital stay which involved, a lot of bad food, a lot of needles, a lot of commodes, a lot of morphine, many many contradictory prognosises from many different doctors, umpteen X-rays, a Cat Scan, two Intercostal Chest Drains, two Suction Machines, a transfer to a specialist Chest Unit at a different hospital and finally after two weeks of uncertainty, VATS surgery to patch up my poor left lung…

This is my blog about my experience of Primary Spontaneous Pneumothorax and being an in patient at The Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel.

 

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