Excruciating pain post surgery

So the surgery happened yesterday. I’ve got three small cuts (largest about an inch) on my right chest. One of them was for a camera (as operation was VATS) and another for an instrument. Both wounds have been sewn up using dissolving stitches and are covered by bandages. The other one has a drain tube in it, about the diameter of a pinky finger. It’s uncomfortable and I’m in quite a lot of pain and feeling dopey from the pain killers. I’m told that walking around helps the healing process so I’m doing laps of the respiratory ward grandpa style!

Edit: I found out from the nurse that actual operation only took 45 minutes. I had a chemical pleurodesis as well as a lung resection. Some of my right lung was removed but wasn’t told how much. I was administered 18 milligrams of morphine in recovery. I’m not sure whether this is much, but all I can remember when waking up with excruciating pain. I just kept asking for morphine and for my mouth to be rinsed with water. When I was released from the ICU the pain was manageable enough to get by with just regular doses of Panadol. I was given a morphine pump, but didn’t use it as I could withstand the pain (but not the light headed and dizziness side effects that morphine had on me).

Lung surgery

Today is the day! After putting up with numerous pneumothoraces I’m about to surgery to fix my troublesome right lung. I’m about to have what is known as a Pleurodesis. It involves spraying talc between the lung and chest wall. The talc causes inflammation. When the lung is re-inflated it sticks itself to the chest wall. Once healed, the lung can’t collapse (at least in theory)! I was due to be operated on this morning, but an emergency popped up but I’ve been rescheduled for this afternoon. I’ll sit on my hands until then. Dad’s also driven up all the way from Wellington for moral support. Cheers Dad!

Last 42km for a while

Yesterday’s consult with the surgeon went well. It seems like it has come to the point where surgery is vital and might be in a fortnight from now. Since my condition is non-life threatening, I’ve been put on an elective surgery list. Fingers crossed that there are no torrential downpours and other crazy sub-tropical Auckland weather storms to create motoring mayhem over the next few weeks!

I was advised that after the procedure it would be at least six weeks until I could resume exercise. In light of this I decided to do a long run today. The full 42.2 km! No half measures. I started early and did my usual run (Mairangi Bay to Devonport return). I came back, refuelled, and then headed out towards Northcross along East Coast Rd until the total run would work out to be 42.2 km. Even though I did it at a leisurely pace (it took me 3 hours 35 minutes) I felt a little drained at work today. I put it down to not running with sun glasses and getting the morning glare and dehydration.

Enough is enough!

After a handful of spontaneous pneumothoraces something had to be done. The probability of reoccurrence increases substantially the more pneumothoraces you have. It felt like I was getting one every fricken fortnight! Today I have an appointment with a surgeon at Auckland Hospital. I’ll come prepared with questions like:

  • What are my options?
  • What is the typical time I’ll spend in hospital after the procedure?
  • How long until I can resume exercising?
  • How long until I can fly again?

Any long term health affects?

A history of my spontaneous pneumothoraces

I did a 29 km run (145 minutes) today and a core workout. Feeling great but later this evening I suspect I’ve got a slight pneumothorax. This one isn’t big enough to affect breathing but it is unsettling getting these this often. Or am I being too sensitive about my lungs? Either way, makes it hard to focus on training!

Pneumothoraces have plagued me for some time. I had my first punctured lung back in 2006. It was the last week of my first semester ever at university. Admittedly I was feeling homesick and had already booked my flight home. It wasn’t to be and I spent the entire two week break confined to a Christchurch hospital bed. One day, out of the blue, I felt a sudden onset of sharp pain in my chest. I was in a chemistry lab at the time. I know. Clearly it was due to all the excitement of titrations! I left the lab to get some water. I started to feel light headed and dizzy. At this stage I knew something was not right and gingerly made my towards the health centre. I made it to the doctors and was rushed to the hospital as I was now having trouble breathing. A chest x-ray confirmed that my right lung was well collapsed. I had a chest drain inserted and a bunch of x-rays. It took longer than expected for my lung to heal itself. I was offered the option of surgery, but cannot remember why I decided against it. Things soon returned to normal, or so I thought…

My second pneumothorax happened sometime in October 2011. I had just wrapped up my Master of Engineering and was staying at home in Wellington for a week prior to moving to Auckland to start work. I was just walking and felt a pain I knew all too well. Unfortunately there wasn’t too much I could do about it. I soldiered on and eventually got it checked out. Yep. Another spontaneous pneumothorax! It was too small to warrant a drain and soon fixed itself.

Another one followed but this time was brought on by a run. I recall struggling to run anything more than 50 metres without having to stop and catch my breath. It was very concerning and I stopped exercising completely for a month. This was before my Ironman training.

From what I can gather, I’m of a particular build where pneumothoraces occur most often: Male… Check. Tall and slender… Check. Young… Check. Fit… Check! FYI I am not a smoker nor do I hang around smokers.