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Karla's Personal Experience

Five years ago when I was a sophomore in high school, I remember walking along and feeling this strange pain. I couldn't understand what it was, and was to afraid to tell my parents. But after a day or two it went away. I would ask people now and then, and some people would say that it sounded like I had pleurisy. This went on sporadically for about 3 years and I told my doctor. He listened to my chest, but just told me it was nothing,
or one time gave me a prescription for an inhaler. I knew it was more but as long as it wasn't hurting, I didn't think about it too much.

This past July 2000, I started feeling the pain again. This was a whole six years since the pain initially started. I decided to go see a new doctor, cause my insurance switched and I had to pick a new one anyway. So one morning I called in sick to work and went. The doctor was great, and told me to get a chest x-ray. I went downstairs to get it, and then brought the film back upstairs. After waiting for what seemed like forever, the doctor came in. He told me that we have a problem, I was thinking cancer ... heart attack ... not collapsed lung though! He said, "your right lung is over 80% collapsed!" I almost did have a heart attack then. I couldn't believe it! He told me that I'll go to the emergency room and they'll insert a very small tube in my side. This will drain the air from around my lung causing it to re-expand. Sounded simple ... but that was just the beginning!

After the procedure, I was pretty sore. I was never hospitalized, so I have nothing to compare it to. It wasn't so painful that I was crying though. The worst was watching all of my friends come to visit and then having to stay when they left. I am 21, almost finished with college, and have a great job. This was going to be such an interference. I was admitted on a Wednesday, and by Friday my lung was back up. So they took out the tube and kept me over night for observations. Saturday morning before I was about to leave they did one last x-ray. It collapsed back down to 80%. I was so disappointed, I wanted to run out of the hospital. I wondered if my lung would ever re-infalate. They put me on oxygen and kept me again. Maybe it would heal on it's own. Sunday morning it went up a little and so a pulmonologist came in and did a thoracentesis. They used a catheter to aspirate some of the air, hoping this would cause the lung to heal. it looked good and Monday morning they let me leave. The instructions were simple, rest and come back Wednesday for another x-ray.

Wednesday I went back to the doctor and got an x-ray. I felt great! I asked the radiologist to see the film right away, cause the doctor told me to take the x-ray and go home. He would cal me if he felt I was in danger. So
they didn't mind letting me look, and it was horrible! My lung was almost nonexistent. I was so shocked, I couldn't tell at all. I was breathing fine ... no pain or anything. So it was back to the ER. They admitted me and kept me over night. The surgeon came in to tell me that this was the only permanent answer. Thursday morning they did the surgery. Friday and Saturday I was out of it.. by Sunday I was up in a chair. Monday morning my surgeon came in to tell me that the x-rays showed much improvement and he could take out the tube. The drainage tube was quite big. Much bigger than the tube for my initial pneumo. it felt so strange coming out, but it was only for 1 second. Right before my release, one last x-ray. It collapsed again! This was it for me... I told my parents to move my bedroom to the hospital. I thought, after surgery, what's next? They kept me over night tough and the next morning it had gone from a 30% collapse to 10%. The doctor assumed that air had gotten in while he was pulling out the tube. I left Wednesday.

Waiting for the follow-up x-rays was definitely worse than the pain. I had one Friday, and it was fine. But the anticipation was the worst. Then a month later I was still fine. After that I needed no additional visits,
unless I felt pain. Sunday night, Feb 18, I felt my other lung collapse. I went to the ER and they did an x-ray. It was only 2% and so they sent me home. I went this morning and there is no sign of a pneumothorax at all. I was so relieved! It could of course happen again, but I am not going to think about it now. I am just happy that i am breathing with 2 lungs ... and they are working as usual!

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