Monday, August 24, 2009

Breathe in, breathe out

"I went to the hospital and all I got was this lousy chest tube"

Hi everyone. I'm Alex's left lung. Alex didn't feel like writing a post, so he asked me to fill in for him. Strange request, since I'm the one who's all cut up, not him, but whatever. I guess he has reruns of Firefly to watch on Hulu or something. It's been an eventful few days, to say the least. The surgery on Wednesday went fine but recovery has been much slower than last time. This time they took out more chunks, though, and since I've been damaged a little by radiation and chemotherapy, I guess I'm not my usual springy self these days. Well, here's a quick rundown of what's been happening (times are approximate - I don't have a watch):

Wednesday (8/19/09) 11:40am - Showed up and checked in for surgery, which was nominally scheduled for 1:40pm

3:15pm - Finally called in from the pre-op waiting area. Strangely enough an old friend was assigned as the anesthesiology resident on the case, so that's nice though a little bizarre. He traveled with us through Africa in 2003 and was already a PhD in Materials Science at that point with a year of med school under his belt. He asks Alex if he wants someone else to be assigned to the case, but we both think he'll be fine for the job.

5pm - Wake up with pains all over me where they took chunks out and stapled me up. Alex says his throat was numb from the bronchoscope and he was having trouble swallowing for a few minutes. A chest tube is causing the bulk of the pain - it's this pretty thick tube that sucks out the extra fluid, blood, and air from the surgery. The end of the tube is placed between me and the chest wall, and the other end is hooked up to suction.

7pm - Transported to our room. We are delayed because they can't find a PCA device, which delivers morphine directly through your IV when you push the magic glowing green button, or so I'm told by The Fingers and Eyes. Quite a bit of nausea but that will wear off after a day or two. Besides, that's mostly Stomach's problem. . .

Thursday (8/20/09) 8am - In the morning they come and take an X-ray. Apparently there's a little bit of air between me and the chest wall (the pleural space), but they think they can take the chest tube out and the body will reabsorb the air. The chest tube is connected to this container that has some water in it, and another tube connects the container to the vacuum pump in the wall. They shut off the suction and put me on "water seal", which just means the chest tube is connected to the container, which has a bit of water in it.

9am - Another chest X-ray. Luckily they come in and do it in your room so you don't have to go anywhere.

10am - The surgery team comes in to take out the chest tube. They put on a bandage that's supposed to be airtight. I say "supposed to" because of course, it isn't. But more on that later.

10:30am - For some reason we have to be transported down to the radiology wing for another X-ray: what should be the final you-can-go-home verification.

11:00am - Doctors return. The air space is getting bigger - i.e. I'm collapsing. The docs take a look at the dressing, which (surprise!) looks like it may have leaked due to some fluid getting pushed out. So, instead of going home, we get another chest tube inserted through another hole - luckily this one is a little smaller than the last one, so it's supposedly less painful. The procedure is not pleasant. The Eyes said it was because it was all happening in a place they couldn't see, but Chest said it just plain hurt. Tomorrow we'll see how things look.

Friday (8/21/09)
Morning X-ray. I look expanded again and there seem to be no air leaks, so they take me off suction. Later Alex coughs a few times and his heart rate jumps up to the 140s (it had been in the low 100s). Another X-ray reveals I've almost fully collapsed again. Guess what? Back on suction to reinflate me. I guess I still have a hole somewhere.

Meanwhile Alex is supposed to be walking around and getting some activity in, but the suction tube is connected to the wall, so he can't really go very far. The "portable" suction device they bring is not battery powered, so that's not terribly useful. The interim solution is to extend the tubing a bit, which allows us to walk about 10 feet out of the room. It's like being on a leash, or so I'm told. Well the leash is actually a series of tubes in this case, which I'm told is like the internet.

Saturday (8/22/09)
Morning X-ray again. Looks good but there's still a small air leak. They can tell by looking at the water container and seeing if there are bubbles when Alex coughs. There are.

In the afternoon, Alex gets up to pee in the portable urinal (plastic container) and the heart monitor goes crazy and starts beeping again. Nurses rush in and everyone wants to know if he's okay (As I understand it this is a slightly embarrassing situation to be in) . It's not until Alex looks over and sees the end of the tube on the bed that they realize the suction has been disconnected. Of course I could have told them that from the gush of air I felt, but no one consulted me. I'm collapsed again but they quickly reattach the tube and suction. Apparently one of the pieces that screws the tube on came loose and detached.

Sunday (8/23/09)
Same story as yesterday. X-ray looks good but there's still an air leak. They'll look again tomorrow. Bowel starts finally doing some work and pushing stuff through, though we all have to spend a good amount of time in the bathroom waiting for him to get something done. I guess he's fighting the side effects of the pain meds, but man, it's kind of like he just went to sleep for four days. Anyhow as Bowel finishes and we're getting up, the heart monitor goes crazy again. Nurse comes in and checks the dressing and such, but everything looks okay. I guess some bodily functions are just too exciting for all of us right now. Heart seems especially agitated. He's been beating in the 100s even when we're all just sitting around. He seems to be calming down though.

We'll see what tomorrow holds. I'm trying to heal as quickly as I can, but I guess the chemo and radiation hurt me more than I thought.

Hope you're all doing well. This is Alex's left lung, signing out.

1 comment:

Jess said...

A.L.L., thanks for the thorough (and entertaining) report. You and your friends have been through quite a lot! I hope you don't have any more leaks and are back to your "usual springy self" very soon. Best wishes to you and Alex.