Jun 21, 2012

My experiences with the latest Pneumothorax, VATS and the healing process directly after surgery

Here's the update since having the surgery on Monday. They pulled the chest tube out today and what a relief this was! I don't know how much longer I would have been able to stand having this tube protruding from my side and being tethered to the Pleur-evac chest drainage system device. Not to mention the amount of constant pain that having this tube in has caused, at the incision site, deep in my chest and in my middle to upper back also. Every breath was painful. Just the act of repositioning my body a half inch on the bed was painful and basically everything else I did while it was in was equally as painful. So yes, I'm so happy it is finally out and not to mention that it actually stayed in during this whole process so that it could actually do it's job properly! Btw, at least I know I'm not just being a whiny-wimp by my reaction to the pain that I've experienced lately, cause my nurse did tell me that her chest tube patients seemed to have suffered the most pain of any of her patients, including those undergoing major surgeries.

Since this was my first real surgery I was feeling extra anxious about it, but as I got the first glimpse of my prep nurse as they were wheeling me into the surgery prep room, I started to feel some relief from the anxiety with the sight of her genuine, warm and caring smile. I felt that it was a blessing to have her as my prep nurse and that she definitely met her calling with this particular career path because she was as sweet and helpful as could be. So pretty much immediately they started giving me pain meds and anti-anxiety meds as well and her nurturing voice helped guide me through this process. Then they injected the general anesthesia, but I wasn't really aware exactly when they did this. All I remember is my prep nurse's smiling face, along with some other staff walking around, then waking up in a complete state of shock and  shivering probably worse than I ever have. Not sure, but it almost felt like a form of convulsions cause I do remember, not only a severe shaking, but flailing around on the operation bed and feeling extremely cold and confused, then my God....there was the PAIN. As I was just waking up and having these experiences, it seemed that everyone around me were also freaking out, and I kept asking if the surgery went OK and if I was OK, I was assured that everything was fine as they put warm blankets over me. I asked for more pain meds but they said they had already given me a tremendous cocktail of meds and they couldn't give more right then yet. So I sat there slowly waking up and warming up and finally quit shivering, but the pain was so intense in basically my entire upper body that I could not move or even budge at all. During the Video Assisted Thoracic Surgery, otherwise just called VATS, they didn't find any blebs or anything else suspicious, but they did perform a Pleurodesis, which is mechanically irritating the parietal pleura. In other words, they rough up the linings of my lungs and the lung cavity with a gauze, to make it bleed, which helps the lung stick to the cavity walls as it heals and scabs up.  By now it was late at night and obviously I was their last surgery for the day. Eventually they moved me back to my room, but I didn't have the nice "luxury" room where I had been in the ICU, but a regular private room on what they simply to referred to as "The Floor". 

Pleur-Evac lung fluid evacuation system and my chest tube

That was 3 days ago and like I said, they removed the chest tube today. Basically since they put it in during the surgery, I have not really been able to sleep. This was due to a combination of a lot of pain and the inconvenience of having the tube coming out of my side, plus the fact that just laying down or even inclining a certain amount was entirely too painful. So any sleep had to be done totally sitting up, which is even more difficult for me since I'm a stomach sleeper. LOL these conditions aren't at all conducive to really getting any decent sleep. So after they removed the tube early this afternoon, the first thing I did was just stretch out on the bed, laying down on my stomach and  going to sleep within seconds. I was able to sleep the entire afternoon without being bothered until the room service called to see if I wanted to order dinner. I hesitated since at that particular moment, food was the last thing I was concerned about, but I knew that once 6:30pm came, the room service would be closed and I wouldn't be able to eat anything until after 6:30 the next morning. Since I had been sleeping very well for the first time since before the surgery and was just jostled from a really interesting dream, I couldn't think very well, so I just asked them what they recommend. They told me today's special was butter/garlic angel hair pasta with chicken and green beans, coleslaw and melon/cantaloupe on the side. I said fine, just leave off the chicken since I'm vegetarian...then immediately went back to sleep, on my stomach.

As humans, we often take little things for granted like our health, being able to breathe well and without pain, being able to just freely get out of bed and walk around and sleeping in the position that we find most comfortable. These are things that I used to take for granted and even though I can't promise how I will feel and think in the future, I do know that now, I don't take these things for granted. I also appreciate life, health, tasty healthy food, good nurses and doctors and friends and loved ones so much more too.

Spontaneous Pneumothorax,
Video Assisted Thoracic Surgery (VATS),
Chest Tube,

flowers my friend picked from his yard

my little setup with everything at arms-reach

the food was exceptional & all produce was local and organic

closeup of my salad with computer in background


Anonymous said...

Hi! I'm considering undergoing VATS for my spontaneous pneumothorax too. What made you decide to go through with VATS instead of just having the chest tube? And was this the first time your lung collapsed? Any advice would be greatly appreciated in terms of recovery as well. Thank you!

Tiny Lost Worlds said...

Hi there, well I had the first collapsed lung in early June, just out of nowhere! One day I woke up feeling really tight in the chest and it was difficult to breathe. There was also a very sharp pain in the upper back. So I went to the ER a little later in the day after I realized that it wasn't getting any better. I had a few more since then, so this last time, the doctor decided to do the VATS procedure since it was reoccurring and not getting better. The experience was all painful and right after the VATS, was when I had the most pain, but it gradually got better. They prescribed me hydrocodone, which helped a lot with the pain. Now, most of the pain is gone, although there is still a little bit of pulsating pain coming and going from the left side, which is where the surgery was and still minor pain around the 3 scars that the VATS produced. Also some of the skin along my left chest and running along my under arm toward the elbow is a little numb, but that seems to slowly be getting better. My doctor just cleared me to fly again too! Anyway, I walk everyday for about 30 minutes to as much as an hour and half and I think this is important for the recovery. Let me know if you have any more questions and I wish you the best of luck. Btw, I would like to know how you are doing and what you decide to do, etc... so please stay in touch. You may email if you wish. stacyflower1@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

Hi I ended up proceeding with the VATS after my second spontaneous pneumothorax. The doctors removed 2 tiny blebs and and also performed pleurodesis. I was discharged from the hospital just yesterday after having the chest tube in for about a week. I'm taking your advice and will walk 30mins to an hour everyday to help with the recovery process. Was there anything else you did to help relieve the pain around the surgical incision site? I'm having a lot of pain especially when I try to get up after laying down. And am also taking Tylenol. Thanks so much for your help!

Anonymous said...

Hi, i had VATS procedure 2 months ago. Is it normal that i'm having difficulty breathing for past few days? Not really difficulty breathing, it felt like there's less air coming in. It's tolerable , but just wanted to know if it's normal. By the way, i'm 28 yrs old, male, smoker for 11 years. Nicotine free since after the vats procedure. Thanks

Anonymous said...

Great article Stacy. I love your positive attitude. I'm going in for the same procedure tomorrow and just seeing that you managed get through it and stay positive is very helpful.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry about the lung pleurodesis. The procedure is painful but most of the pain is from the chest tube, once it is removed you feel a lot better. My left lung has collapsed three times and I just had my second pleurodesis done on 22 October. The following has been and is my plan of attack for recovery: Once released from the hospital my main goals are to get off of the oxygen as soon as possible under the guidance of my physician and move around as much as possible. Another thing I found handy was tp purchase a pulse oximeter (amazon) that allowed me to monitor my oxygen saturation. I discovered that although I was feeling short of breath at times in reality I had good oxygen saturation levels. Be patient, complete recovery has taken me about three months.

Evi Andrews said...

I've been at the hospital for 11 days and my lung leak doesn't seem to get better. It takes about the days for my lung to collapse. My doc advised against surgery but there's no end in sight on when my lung will heal. I'm terribly scared of the surgery and the pain that comes with it. I have three kids and I'm worried that I won't be able to care for them anymore. Btw, I'm a 32yo female, non smoker and this was my first spontaneous pneumothorax.

Tiny Lost Worlds said...

Evi, has your doctor discussed doing a VATS procedure instead of surgery? It's a lot less invasive than normal surgery.

Evi Andrews said...

Yes, we have been taking about vats. I am prepared (mentally) to go through with it. It looks like after 16 days in the hospital my lung has finally healed though. No surgery. I just had my tube pulled and will be having another xray later on. Fingers crossed that I get to go home tomorrow.

Evi Andrews said...

And my lung collapsed again, so we went ahead and did the vats. It's all good. Not as painful as i expected. The chest tube is uncomfortable and my arm hurts but other than that, I'm feeling pretty good.

Anonymous said...

Hi Stacy Sorry you had so much pain. It was good to read yr. account, as another patient. I recently had a chest tube, then, VATS procedure in OR. No cause for fluid was found. But, no cancer or infection.

Luckily, had excellent surgeons, docs and and staff, and virtually no pain.But then I didn't have a collapsed lung. Lots of draining, so was in 2 weeks!

People, every case is different, but you won't necessarily have pain. Doing o.k., hiking, etc. now.

Fingers crossed new x-ray will reveal no more fluid.

Be well and good luck. Best,


Neil Mason said...

Hi all

Sat in a hospital bed right now after VATS three days ago.

It's very painful taking a deep breath or coughing and I have had a bad reaction to morphine, but, the pain is beginning to subside.

It was my second pnemothorax on the left side.

Hopefully that's the end of it as it is very life disrupting.

Best to all fellow sufferers


Anonymous said...

Hello I had a pneumothorax 4 weeks a go spent 2 weeks in hospital had infection cos of the air box thing thay put in my side but now I don't no if this is normal my stomach fails like its bean punched it's so painful and most of my left side fails numb ? Philip-work-statham@hotmail.com
If som one can drop me a line to let me no if this is normal thanks

Anonymous said...

Hello I had a pneumothorax 4 weeks a go spent 2 weeks in hospital had infection cos of the air box thing thay put in my side but now I don't no if this is normal my stomach fails like its bean punched it's so painful and most of my left side fails numb ? Philip-work-statham@hotmail.com
If som one can drop me a line to let me no if this is normal thanks

Tiny Lost Worlds said...

I did have a lot of pain for many weeks after the procedure but it was more in my chest, shoulder and upper arm... not my stomach. Since you've had an infection too, if I were you, I would get it checked out by a doctor right away... just to be safe.

I wish you a full recovery!

Evi Andrews said...

It's been 10 months now that I had the procedure and healing was very quick. I was in no terrible pain after surgery. The worst were the breathing treatments I had to do every day but that pain subsided quickly too. I'm back 100% with no issues whatsoever. I hope it stays that way.

I recently received the bill for my 3 week stay with multiple xrays, MRI, one surgery, three chest tubes etc and it was close to 100.000 Dollars.

Tiny Lost Worlds said...

Evi, thanks for this update! I'm happy that it went well for you and that you are back to 100%.

James Harding said...

It's interesting to read people who have had similar experiences. To date I have undergone three Vats procedures including lung pleurodesis on both lungs. My left lung started collapsing when I was 18, my right not until I was 25. However when they started they never stopped until surgery. My first Vats procedure failed after I was discharged but the second two have held well. For anyone in a similar boat thinking of having this procedure. It is no pleasant but as others have said it is more the chest drains that anything else. If you get offered the epidural it does make it a lot more comfortable. I have this on one of my procedures as it was a complicated one, I had the epidural for three days and during which I didn't feel a single thing. After that it was more discomfort until the chest drains were taken out.