Thursday, April 8, 2010

Pop Goes the Air Leak

Once we got to the hospital it didn't take long to get checked in and get comfy in my room. The nurse was quick to get me settled and ready for the Physician's Assistant who had been called in to take care of me. When he came in the very first thing I wanted to know is what happened and why. I really liked the way he explained it. Your lungs are held within your chest cavity much as they would be held in a glass jar. Your lungs should always be pressed firmly against the inside of the jar (or chest wall). In my case somehow there was an air leak from my lung into the chest cavity and since there is no place for the air to escape the chest cavity it forced my lung to collapse. In order to get the lung re-inflated we have to remove the air from the cavity. "Makes sense to me" I said, "so can I belch or something to remove the air?"

Obviously that was not the answer so the PA described to me the process he would use. First I would get some "Happy Juice", a combination of pain killers and anti-anxiety that would relax me to help me through the procedure. When those have kicked in he would start anesthetizing the area where the tube would go in between the 5th and 6th ribs on the left side. To do this he would insert a needle and inject a little anesthetic in the area which BURNS for 5-10 seconds, then work it in by rubbing the area, then inject a little more. Further and further in he would repeat this process until I was deadened all the way in to my chest cavity. When I was good and deadened he would drill a hole and insert a tube the size of a garden hose (almost) all the way through my body (or so it seemed). After the tube was in place they would hook it up to a water box, which acts as a one-way valve, allowing air and fluid out but not letting back in. The tube would stay in place for a day or so, allowing all the air and the small amount of fluid that was in there as well to escape. And so he went ahead and did everything the way just the way he had described. I will confess this was not the most pleasant medical procedure I have ever gone through but I will also confess that he did a good thing by giving me the Happy Juice first because I can recall very little of the actual procedure right now. What I do remember is it hurt like a son-of-a-gun.

Jessica was at my side while they did this, holding my hand and basically trying to keep me from squealing like a baby. She told me that when the tube pierced the chest wall and entered the cavity they heard a "woosh" of air coming out. That was the clue the PA was looking for - he was in the right spot. Once he was there it was a matter of securing the tube in place with a couple stitches and a wad of tape. After they had me wrapped up they attached the valve box to suction so that it would work more efficiently for a while. Then I was told "We're all done" and I could sit back and relax for a day or so. Relax - yea right. You try to relax with a garden hose hanging out of your side that is attached to a valve the size of a tackle box. Fortunately they only kept it attached to the suction line for a short time, then it was only the valve box I had to move around with me.

That's it for now - Next Episode coming shortly. Ken goes home again.

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