That’s what I’m going to try to do—catch you up on what’s been happening.
Back in November, my doctor sent me for a chest x-ray because I was coughing, short of breath and unable to lay down (without losing my breath). The x-ray showed a pleural effusion in both pleural cavities. This meant fluid was building around my lungs (NOT in my lungs), putting pressure on them; making the lungs unable to expand fully. The doctor sent me to the hospital for a Thoracentesis, a procedure where a needle and catheter are inserted through the ribs to the pleural cavity for the purpose of draining excess fluid. The procedure itself wasn’t too bad until the end, when two liters of fluid had been drained out and my lung was trying to re-expand after having been collapsed under the weight of the fluid. I coughed, struggling for breath for at least 15 minutes. I was given another x-ray. After waiting for the results, I was told I had a pneumothorax—a perforation of the lung. The doctor told me the perforation most likely happened during the Thoracentesis. He recommended I stay overnight in case of any complications and have another x-ray in the morning. I agreed. At 8:00 AM, I went for another x-ray. Several hours later a physician’s assistant came to my room to say she had reviewed the x-ray—on her phone—and it looked fine. She said I “was released to go home”. I’m not sure how she could make out anything clearly on a cell phone, but I told her I wanted to see a doctor and get their opinion. A couple of hours later, around 2:30, a doctor came in and said she thought I should stay. She showed us the 8:00 AM x-ray and said the pneumothorax had not improved and fluid had filled the pleural cavity again.
Many things with this hospital experience had been upsetting. I chose to go home and consult my doctor. After consultations and some research, I decided to go to a different hospital. My doctor was now recommending a surgical procedure to relieve the excess fluid called a Pluerodesis. A pleural effusion can occur in cases of heart disease or cancer. If excess fluid was going to keep occurring, we were going to have to take additional steps to deal with it.
I went to the other hospital to have the Pluerodesis procedure. I sat in a hospital bed and walked the halls for exercise for a week while they ran test, brought various doctors in for consult and obtained medical records. Finally, I went in for surgery the day before Thanksgiving. I recovered in ICU for three days before they transferred me to the Step Down Unit. There I had begun breathing treatments to help my lung expand again. Due to the invasiveness of the procedure, doctors typically only do one side at a time. My right side had the most fluid, according to x-rays. Four days after surgery, the surgeon removed the chest tube. A large tube had been stitched into my side to allow the fluid to drain.
A day and a half later they sent me home. Six weeks later, I’m still recovering. My lung capacity is slowly increasing after being under so much pressure from the fluid. This makes talking an effort. I try to keep my breathing slow and regulated so my lungs aren’t stressed. I start coughing when my lungs are working harder; trying to keep up with heavier breathing. Also, the cold weather and wind makes me cough. My right side is still sore where the chest drain tube was. The surgeon said many nerves had been cut for the procedure and I’d most likely have some degree of pain long term.
We’ve been busy since I came home from the hospital trying to get to a cancer treatment center in Atlanta. You’d think it would be a fairly simple process, but we’ve had to take step, after step, even to get where we are now. Currently we are going back & forth about insurance. Please keep us in your prayers as we go through this process.
I want to thank all of the people who have blessed me during these things. Without naming names, I’m so grateful to each person who supported my GoFundMe account (setting it up, sharing it, contributing). When I was in the hospital, my Husband was able to be there with me instead of having to work and we were still able to pay our bills from the funds coming in. If you contributed money in any way, we are so grateful. Thanks to those who check up on us, send sweet cards, steadfastly pray, run errands, encourage us, visit us, make food for me, make liposomal vitamin c, sit with me, and bring me fresh squeezed orange juice and clothes that fit better. I could just keep going. The list is so long. I’ve also enjoyed visits from family from Northern Alabama down to central Florida and many messages and texts from friends all over. The kindness and love poured out on me is overwhelming. My words are fewer these days, but please know I love you right back!