I spent the last day of winter break at the Urgent Care. Four hours of waiting for the Doctor to give me some Ibuprofen.
Twenty years ago (still amazes me that I can actually say– twenty years ago– only to emphasize that I am getting older), but twenty years ago I had a pneumothorax, that is a fancy medical term for a collapsed lung. I remember it like it was, hmmm, twenty years ago… a sudden feeling on my left chest that something big sunk down. In other words, it felt like when you swallow something big, with out chewing it, and you can feel it go down your throat. Well, it was something like that. It didn’t hurt. The pain came after.
As each hour passed it became harder to breathe. Every breath I took there was a sharp pain. Of course I didn’t rush to the hospital at this time because it didn’t occur to me that my lung collapsed. I mean, all I was doing was fixing my hair when I felt something weird and then slowly, and very slowly did I finally realize that something was seriously wrong.
THREE DAYS! That’s how long it took me to get into the ER, and even then it took an ENTIRE day to finally get a chest tube in there to inflate my lung. I was living in Las Vegas, New Mexico at the time, and my daughter had just turned one year old.
To make a long story short, I was first diagnosed with walking pneumonia and was given a decongestion and codeine for the pain. I requested a chest x-ray and was told that they were booked and to come in the next day. I refused, walked into an empty waiting room and had my chest x-rayed.
Turns out my left lung had collapsed and it was soooo painful, every little move I made was torture. I stayed in the hospital for five days to get that lung inflated and back to normal.
Five days with a chest tube in your body gives you a lot of time to think. I kept thinking how lucky I was that I didn’t go into cardiac arrest. I also thought how lucky I was that I lived in an era where technology can help diagnose and treat symptoms like pneumothorax. In a lot of ways, I felt like I was given a second chance to live. So I became a religious zealot for the next five years (that’s another post for another time).
Needless to say, after my run yesterday I started to have some chest pain in the same area as my pneumothorax twenty years ago (it’s actually a fun word to say out loud and it makes you look smart) and when I woke up this morning with the pain still there, I decided I better make sure nothing serious was going on, because if it was another pneumothorax, I wanted to take care of it right away.
Due to walking in to Urgent Care with “chest pain” you get seen right away. Within minutes I was poked, hooked up, and x-rayed. I’m happy to report that I do not in fact have another collapsed lung (wanted to spare you the fancy word usage). Instead I have inflammation on my lung lining. The fancy medical term is pleurisy.
Once we realized I was out of danger, I had to wait four hours to get Ibuprofen and the IV taken out.
All this to say, please don’t take your health for granted. I know what it is like to not breathe, and I will never understand why people smoke and put all kinds of shit in their bodies on a regular basis, that will harm them. Although, let’s be clear, having wine does not harm you if you don’t abuse it, if you know what I mean.
Our bodies are amazing! Unfortunately we live in a society that body image matters more than healthy bodies. In some cases, it is frowned upon if you want to eat healthy and live an active life style. What we do to ourselves to try and fit into this image is terrifying and ludicrous!
We can make fun or snub our noses to the experts about what we need to do to live a healthy life style all we want, but when we are faced with an illness of some sort, we may regret not taking better care of ourselves.
At the same time, there are illnesses that can’t be prevented, and when that is the case, we should be extra diligent with our health.
For now, I have to figure out the cause of the inflammation and seek treatment to reduce/eliminate it. That will probably take longer than a four hour Urgent Care visit.
So friends- take care!