My first pneumothorax happened when I was in graduate school in 1991. I do not know what caused it though the Dr. who treated me thought there may have been some connection with allergies. I was living in an apartment that had previously had a cat (I am very allergic) so I was sneezing and wheezing alot and it was an unusually bad year for seasonal allergies in that part of the country (upstate New York). I had severe chest pain (right side) and went to the E.R. where I was diagnosed (by x-ray) with a 10% pneumothorax. I was sent home with a presription to alleviate my allergy symptoms, cough syrup to avoid coughing and lifting restrictions. An x-ray a few days later confirmed that the lung had reinflated on its own. No further treatment was discussed at that time. A few months later I had a particularly nasty cold and experienced major chest pain again. I was home on break and saw a Doctor in my hometown. An x-ray showed no pneumothorax so he told me the pain was probably related to scar tissue from the original occurance.
Between 1991 and 2001 I had many other episodes of chest pain- as many as three or four a year. Sometimes the pain was accompanied by the feeling that something was shifting in my chest when I leaned over (I thought of it as a "floppy" feeling). I didn't really pay much attention to when or why they happened, but I do recall at least a few times thinking that perhaps I was having another pneumothorax but did not have the time to be seen or deal with the consequences. The pain always went away after a few days. The most memorable time that I had pain and the "floppy" feeling was about a week after my first child was born. The pain was bad enough that I took the presription pain pills given to me for recovery from delivery (I had not been taking them for that). At that time I was pretty sure I was having pneumo but was already feeling post-partum, was concerned about how my family would react (or over react) and thought the treatment might interfere with breastfeeding, which I was just beginning for the first time. The pain subsided after about 5 days. My last episode was in the spring of 2000. I was experiencing chest pain and the "floppy" feeling right before my husband was about to go out of town for several days. Once again I decided to ignore it unless the pain lasted longer than a few days. As an afterthought, I decided to look it up on the Internet. When I read that surgical intervention was often prescribed after the second occurance, I thought I better call my Doctor. (I think I easily had about a dozen occurences since the first one.) I was diagnosed with a 15% pneumothorax. In addition to being under stress because my husband was leaving town, I had also just gotten my period. I was referred to a pulinologist who recommended surgery and then send to see the Thorasic surgeon. I was not initally convinced that surgery was necessary.
All episodes had resolved themselves within a few days and the surgery would be much more painful and inconvienient than any of the episodes had been. The argument that convinced me was that I risked having a complete collapse which could be life threatening in a siutaiton where it could not be easily treated or when I was pregnant. It was the pregnancy argument that won me over. I had surgery on March 29, 2000. The goal was a bleb resection and talc pleurodesis. The surgeon (Dr. Vasales at Northern Michigan Hospital in Petoskey, Michigan- wonderful man!) was not able to find a bleb to resect but he did do the plerodesis. I was in the hospital for three days. The pain was pretty intense but I had great drugs in the hospital. The pain medication I was given to take at home made me extremely nauseous. By the time we found a combination of pain and anti-nausea medication that worked, I didn't need it anymore. When I went back for my check up, I was declared cured. The worst part was a short bout of depression at about a month after the surgery, which Dr. Vasales said was pretty normal. I was complete fine within six weeks. I have had very minor pain occasionally since the surgery, but nohting that made me think I was having a reoccurance. I have never had a problem with my left side.