My short bio: I am 35 years old, 5'9", 135 lbs. I was a smoker for 16 years at half a pack a day but quit 7 years ago. Last week I experienced sudden chest pain on the left side which extended through my neck, back, and arm all along the left. Not that I've had a heart-attack before but that was my first thought based on what I've seen on TV :)

The pain went away a hour later so I attributed it to gas pain or muscle strain as I had golfed 36 holes that day. The next day I developed a severe cough and the pain returned for a little bit then went away again. I progressively got better throughout the week.

5 days after the initial pain I was walking to work when I became extremely tired, out of breath, and experienced severe chest pain which would get worse with each step. If I stopped walking the pain would subside.

Lying down on my back was out of the question. The only comfort was to stand straight up.

My father-in-law is a cardiologist so I went to his office which was closer than a hospital. There I had a ECHO(sp) and ECG which both came back normal. He sent me down for a chest x-ray.

My left lung had collapsed 90%. He took me to the hospital, with a copy of my chest xray on CD to give to the docs, and I sat in the emergency room for 4.5 hours before anyone did anything.

Eventually I was given an oxygen mask and then had to wait again for the surgeon to arrive and put in a pigtail chesttube through the front of my chest.

The pressure from the suction on the tube was incredible. I thought my chest was going to explode.

It's now been 4 days since the tube has been removed. I am still short of breath a bit when walking up the stairs, and every now and then I can hear+feel some weird bubbling noise/sensation from inside my chest which Im told is normal while my lung heals but it freaks me out.

I also smoked quite a bit of pot for 20 years. I have decided to quit smoking pot and vaporizers.

I know that reading the internet for medical related stuff is a no no and will only scare the shit out of me but can't help it. All I am reading about is people who've had one, get more.

My Proof: Not sure what proof I can put other than a picture of me with a chest tube

Here is another pic from today showing my face and my logged in reddit session.

UPDATE: I removed the pressure bandage a few mins ago. really sore and tender around the incision. Amazing how small it is.

TLDR; My lung spontaneously collapsed at 35yo.

Comments: 279 • Responses: 38  • Date: 

wnbriz47 karma

I had one too at the age of 20 or so. Right away the doctors diagnosed me with Marfan syndrome which to this day I've done nothing about. I still smoke weed like a chimney. What's your employer think? Still have a job?

gteh42059 karma

I might start making edibles. dont want to mess with my lungs.

My employer has no problems. I've taken the week off work to recoup.

Why would I lose my job over something like this? Do you live in the states? Is it common-practice to be worried about job security when you get ill? Just curious.

pseudocultist16 karma

Go for the edibles. This is when you discover your lungs are worth more than you realized :)

Hope you don't have another. I had this happen a couple of times in February, wound up with pleurectomy and mechanical pleurodesis... was just about the worst experience of my life. Heal up!

gteh4207 karma

thats what I've been told. I do not want this to happen again.

vtjohnhurt2 karma

What are the odds of a repeat given your profile? Is there anything that you can do to improve the odds?

Not to freak you out, but I guess that the unaffected lung could collapse. Good thing that we have two lungs.

gteh4203 karma

the doc said 30% change if re-occurrence in the next 5 years.

No scuba diving :) avoid flying for the next little while, roller coasters, etc...

unwittynamehere10 karma

As for the loss of job, in the US something like this and taking a week off could be a job ender for many. Especially those that are prone to getting sick (of any kind) or have family that they are responsible for (kids).

I worked in a call center for 10 years and we had a point based attendance system. This isn't uncommon in many jobs, but obviously career path and what not probably means a bit more.

In any case, basically if you had 8 points. Every time you called out, it cost you a point. Points would be earned back after a year of the incident (Got sick on June 5th, 2015, you'd earn it back June 5th, 2016). If you had to leave early, you'd lose half a point if it was half of your shift or less, but a full point if it was more than that.

Now, you could stay out a lot of time on 1 point (they don't want you coming back sick, just to go home 2 days later). So if you were sick on Monday, came back Tuesday because you were feeling better, and went home Wednesday because you felt sick again, that would be 2 points.

If you have kids and you had to call out be cause your kids were sick, there's a point. Maybe you had the flu, got sick, felt better, came back, then your kids got sick 3 days later... etc.

Hospital stays and such like this, would still likely get you only 1 point, but maybe you're already prone or have situations in which you're just having a bad time... Doesn't matter. Your time with the company didn't matter either. Being there for 10 years did not give me any better chances in keeping my job than someone that just started, it probably gave me less of a chance.

Yes, if you had sick time, you would still get the points. Sick time was only to cover your pay for when you were sick, not the actual point system.

There are certain laws that would allow you to get around these kinds of systems. One is called FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act), which can be obtained by some forms, doctors recommendations, and other such things. However, it's use was highly discouraged and strenuous at best. You're given so many hours a year and they could only be used under specific conditions related to what it's assigned for. Also, if you used it too frequently, your employer may find another reason to release you from your job. Generally there are so many rules and metrics that if they want to fire you for something, it won't be long before they do.

Source: I worked in an HR like department that set up new hires in the system and remove them when they were terminated including payroll. The only process I didn't handle of an individual was the interview and promotion, but I saw their day to day everything else in terms of performance and health.

gteh42023 karma

That is crazy. I am in Canada and work for a big bank in the IT department. My boss told me to take as much time as I need to recover. Granted I am paid hourly so no real loss to them for me to take time off.

FeelFree2FeelFree2 karma

Not sure if you have access to Aflac. Or other supplemental insurance, but you should get it for things like this. They actually do pay out, and it's worth it if you can afford the monthly payment, for my wife and I it's less than $15 a month and they cover all your bills while you're out of work for a medical issue.

gteh4202 karma

Thanks! I might check that out. Since this will likely happen again from what I've read.

one0three0five2 karma

in soviet facist america injury or illness means poverty

gteh4203 karma

thankfully i do not live there

Turtle4531 karma

Hey, another Redditor here. I've had a pneumothorax, well, four at least. But what did the doctors do to you to fix your punctured lung?

gteh42024 karma

They gave me an oxygen mask for a few hours which reduced it from 90% to about 50%. Then they inserted a pigtail chest tube and hooked it up to suction for 24 hours until my lung re-inflated. The tear/damage to the lung heals itself.

SmellMyDirk17 karma

Did u have to pee in a cup like I did? I had trouble moving initially so I had to pee in a cup rather than walk to the bathroom

gteh42015 karma

Hah, ya... for the first day I could barely move so I had to roll over on my side and pee into a Styrofoam container.

HiddenCucumber12 karma

Sucks, huh? I was bedridden for 18 months after a bad car accident and using the restroom was always one of the worst times of the day. We all take that kind of thing for granted.

gteh4208 karma

thankfully I was only in the hospital for 48 hours and the morphine made me constipated so I didnt have to go #2 in a bedpan lol

virusoflife14 karma

Welcome to the club! It sucks ass doesn't it? I had mine when I was 17. 35 now and no issues since. The week after sucked balls because of the pain, but I am happy, healthy and physically active without any problems since.

gteh4205 karma

Great thanks for posting this. definitely sucks but good to hear that you've had no problems since. I hope the same for me lol. do not want to go through this again.

mattsky7911 karma

Did the doctors/surgeons say how it or why it happened? Are you at risk for this to happen again? I know I sure wouldn't like to have my lung spontaneously collapse

gteh42012 karma

They said that it is not uncommon in tall skinny young males. I am not tall, and am 35 yo.

This was my first one. If you have one, you have a 30% chance of having another one in the next 5 years.

mattsky797 karma

How did it feel having the tube in your chest? Could you move it and feel it moving inside of you?

gteh4209 karma

The tube itself wasn't painful going in. they freeze you. It was SUPER uncomfortable having it inside because you can feel it rubbing against your pleural. Imagine a funny bone in your chest.

I almost puked when they removed it just from the weird feeling.

foliz5 karma

Yeah when they remove it is the worst! The doctor I had pulled it out so quickly, some "lung juice" sprayed all over. Haha.

Wish you a speedy recovery and cross my fingers it won't happen to you again. :)

gteh4202 karma

thanks much appreciated!

djbummy3 karma

Had spont. Pneumothorax at 15 freshman in HS. It definitely hurts and you can feel it. Hurt like hell when I laughed or moved around too much. The morphine most definitely helped though. Once they pulled out the tubes though that was a very uncomfortable feeling

gteh4204 karma

agreed. hydro-morphone IV drip made it much more enjoyable lol.

Id say the worst part was when they turned on the suction. I felt like my chest was going to explode. Screamed in pain for 45 mins.

blankedinmyblank3 karma

Tall, skinny young males.

Those characteristics, in conjunction with a pneumothorax is a dead giveaway for Marfan's syndrome. Check it out

gteh4203 karma

I'm 5'9", 35yo, weigh 140lbs. I don't have marfan's syndrome. spontaneous pneumothorax in young tall skinny males is more common than marfan's. My wife is a physician :)

blolfighter7 karma

You started smoking at age 12?

gteh4206 karma

Started a few cigs here and there at 12.. heavily smoking by 16.

fezzikola4 karma

Coolest kid in middle school!

gteh42010 karma

meh.. may have thought so.. not the case. not because of this pneumo but I should have never started smoking cigs. stupid and disgusting. didn't help that both my parents, grandparents, and brother all smoked.

corvidcorax3 karma

Have the doctors explained to you that likely after two you'll get a procedure called a pleurodesis?

I had two spontaneous lungs collapses recently. For the first one they did the pig tail. For the second one I got the "garden hose". The pleurodesis procedure fused my right lung to my thoracic cavity by spraying talcum powder onto the tissue. So if there is another pop it can't collapse fully and kill me. The garden hose pulled all the blood out of my cavity after the surgery. When the doctor pulled out the hose my sweetheart almost fainted. Not a good time.

Edit: Btw I was 36 yo when I had both of my lung collapses. I've never smoked and have no idea why they happened.

2nd edit: Pleurodesis

gteh4202 karma

Ya it was explained to me.

My wife almost fainted too when they were putting in the pig tail. All was good until some medical student accidentally started pulling the tube out which caused me to yelp.

corvidcorax3 karma

The second time around I had a pigtail put in and they did it wrong. Really fucking hurt. I ditched that hospital and went to another and they said, "Two strikes you're out. Time for the garden hose."

gteh4202 karma

dreading that. lets hope it doesnt come to that.

Fireowl-the-poet3 karma

19 year old female here that just had surgery to correct this. I know doctors thought I had a heart problem at first since apparently it's rare in women. Are you planning on getting surgery to correct this? Or only if it happens again?

gteh4202 karma

not planning on having surgery yet. I have a follow-up xray in 4 weeks. Will see how that plays out. If I have another pneumo then I might opt for surgery but I hear it is very painful and recovery sucks.

jayemdee5 karma

I've had multiple spontaneous pneumothoraxes in both lungs. My left lung was corrected surgically, the second time, with a Vaccuum-assisted thoracostomy. That one took. My right lung wasn't so easily fixed and required thoracic surgery. Not fun. They basically cut you open along the ribs below your shoulder blade, pop you open, and manually attach the lung to the inside of the chest cavity(there are probably technical words for this but I'm too lazy to google them.) Recovery time was 10 days in hospital, 9-days of which the morphine prevented me from pooping and the last day was recovering from finally pooping. This was followed by close to a year of physio to get my right side back in shape. Seven years later I'm still numb along the incision site and my muscles look very weird below my shoulder blade.

Best of luck to this never happening to you again. My understanding is if it happens once, you have about a 30% chance of it happening again, but if it does happen again you have a 100% chance that it will continue to recur.

gteh4202 karma

Thanks! It's called a pleurodesis :) They use talcum powder to attach it which creates scar tissue making it much harder for it to collapse. It's an option for me if I end up with another one of these.

I was on hydro-morphone and happy to be constipated so I didn't have to poop in a metal tin since I could barely walk.

bassmatty3 karma

Welcome to the club. Had 2 (same lung 2 years apart). This definitely sucks but hopefully you only have to hear that the corrective surgery is a lot more painful and you don't have to deal with this stuff anymore. How did you manage 5 days without feeling the need to go to the hospital?

Hope you're feeling better.

gteh4202 karma

well after the initial pain and cough, i actually started feeling progressively better each day. however, I work from home so I was not very active during those days. The day I went to the hospital was a day that I drove into the city, parked my car, and started walking 1km to my office. 30 seconds into the walk I was panting, and had severe chest pain. If I would stop and stand still it would subside. so exertion made it worse obviously, but sitting at home on the couch all day working masked it.

I should have just gone to the hospital the moment I felt the first bit of pain.. but being a male, and stubborn....... learned my lesson.

TG_Alibi2 karma

When it happens again (and it most likely will), be sure you go at the first sign of pain and mention at the ER that you think it may be a collapsed lung. They should get you a chest XRay immediately and get the tube in.

The corrective surgery is excruciating (especially if it is a chemical pleurodesis) but it's worth it. I had both sides done in one go and haven't had any collapses since (well, any major ones...I still get bubbles sometimes). Did the doctor mention anything about not flying in non-pressurized aircraft and not scuba diving?

gteh4201 karma

Thanks for this. The doc did say not to fly at all for a month, and to avoid non-pressurized aircraft and scuba diving altogether, which sucks because I havent had a chance to scuba yet, and never will now.

Regarding the bubbles, can you explain that? I think I've experienced those.. very weird gurgling/bubbling sound/sensation from the chest.. is that it?

RIPDickcream2 karma

Had one at 27, non smoker, 6-2 210. . Left lung deflated 90% as well. Had a pretty bad cough, never had any pain or anything, thought it was asthma. After 2 weeks went to my allergist, who recommended a chest x-ray at the hospital next door. Went in for one, nurse came out looking at me funny, er Dr said hey, your lung is collapsed, and rushed me to the er. Popped in a chest tube, tried to reinflate over the course of 3 days, but ultimately had to have surgery. Spent 11 days total in the hospital, only have some nerve damage and scars. Lungs feel great. Do you have one of those blowy tubes to strengthen your lung?

gteh4201 karma

I know the look you got. I got it from everyone too. They couldn't understand how I was walking around and talking as if I was in perfect health. I think thats part of the reason I waited over 4 hours in the emerg department before anyone saw me. I didn't 'look' sick.

I don't have the blowy tube.. no one mentioned anything like that. Apparently there is no evidence that it strengthens your lung (citing my wife, infectious disease physician)

I've been home now for 3 days and feel great. no breathing problems or chest pain anymore. i sporadically get a sharp pain here or there in my chest but am told it is normal and part of the healing.

jrudz2 karma

Protip: The correct phrase to use at Emergency intake triage is "Chest Pain." Prompt attention will ensue.

gteh4201 karma

haha funny you said that. my father-in-law told me to go in and tell them I had chest pain, shortness of breath, and an xray showing 90% pneumothorax. so I did just that.. they said, "please take a seat and wait to be called"

RIPDickcream1 karma

Haha, the look of "how are you not on the floor"

After telling me the diagnosis though, that's when I almost hit the floor.

Also, dilaudid made everything better.

gteh4201 karma

yep.. when he told me what it was, everyone looked at me.. i think i turned pale at that instant and almost fell over from shock lol. dilaudid definitely made it better

jeffislearning1 karma

Harrowing story. There were many instances where I'm thinking, "How is this guy still alive?" Lucky your dad is a cardiologist otherwise it takes months to make an appointment as a new patient. When you were waiting in the ER, what took the doctors so long to see you?

gteh4202 karma

no shit lol. no idea why it took them so long in the ER. I think they were just discounting what we were saying (thought we were self-diagnosing based on symptoms) although we tried to tell them about the chest xray that we brought with on CD that was done only 1 hour before. We begged them ti put it up on the screen and as soon as they saw the 90% collapse they would move a bit faster. didn't matter. They waited until they did their own xray, then got their feet moving.

awesomefacepalm1 karma

Happened to me when I was 17. I'm 21 atm. Also thought I got a heart attack since the pain spread out to the left arm. I got some remaining issues where my the area on the left part of my chest is numb but hurts really bad when I pinch it. Do you feel numbness on your chest too?

gteh4201 karma

Not sure yet. I am just removing the pressure bandage today so I'll see how I feel later today and later this week.

robo231 karma

Did your father in law really give you a freaking echo before a CXR, or you know, even auscultating your lung?

gteh4201 karma

2 doctors listened to my chest and heard normal breathing sounds from both sides of my chest/back. based on the pain I was experiencing and the fact that I was breathing fine he thought it my be pericarditis first so echo and ecg were done first, followed by chest xray (all done within 30 mins). as soon as the chest xray results came back I was rushed to the hospital, with a copy of my xrays, only to sit in the emerg for 4 hours.

Marathon_Murse1 karma

How were you about pain? What did they give you?

I'm an RN on a cardiac IMCU, and we see a lot of chest tubes. In my experience, guys our age are punks. Dilaudid every 3 hours, Norco every 4. Refusing to get out of bed. Meanwhile 87-year-old granny that just got her lung removed is doing laps with her chest tube canister in one hand and an oxygen tank in the other.

gteh4201 karma

pain was ok. just uncomfortable really. I was on 4mg of dilaudid every 4 hours (pills) for first little while, then IV on 35min drip.

z3r0sand0n3s1 karma

I've had three of these, at 14, 17, and 23. The last one involved internal bleeding to the tune of two pints of blood lost. All three were resolved by thoracotomies, because the chest tubes weren't working - I have two chest tube scars for each incision. The thoracotomies will really knock you down for a bit, they're rough. All of mine were /r/marfans related. If your dad wasn't a cardiologist, I'd say go get checked for it lol.

Do they know what might have caused yours? (Pardon if it's in the post, I'm on like 3 hours of sleep today)

gteh4201 karma

no idea what caused it for me yet. I might get a ct scan, or might just wait to see if it happens again. If I get a 2nd one then I'll opt for the scan and surgery.

dynamicSmurf1 karma

I had one a few years ago at the age of 20. Woke up one morning with some chest pain so I stayed home from work and went to the doctor. She listened to me breathe and said "I think you might just have a little inflammation but just to be sure I'll send you to get an x ray." I got the X Ray that night and 2 days later (during which I went to work normally) I get a call from her saying nonchalantly "Hi, we got your x ray back, your right lung is collapsed and you should head to the ER now. I've already called ahead and let them know you're coming."

Luckily, mine had only collapsed 30% so they did the pigtail catheter and I spent 5 days in the hospital recovering. I've read in here that the catheter caused pain while inside and also when being removed but I didn't have that experience. I didn't feel a thing.

To be honest, the worst thing to come out of this was the anxiety I've experienced in the years since. I did smoke a LOT of weed but other than that I was a completely healthy 20 year old. I played roller hockey weekly and went to the gym. It's scary when something happens to you for seemingly no reason, especially when it has a 30% chance of recurring within a year. I've had a few chest pain scares since then, but luckily (or not?) they've turned out to be nothing.

The good thing to come out of all of this, though, is my new found devotion to being fit. I've almost completely stopped smoking weed, started eating healthier foods, and lifting a lot heavier weights. I've gained at least 15 pounds since the collapse occurred.

My suggestion to you is to be aware of the possible mental consequences of a spontaneous pneumothorax. Getting in great shape helped me deal with the uncertainty of such a condition, and it might help you too.

gteh4201 karma

Thanks! Ive decided the same.. a life changing moment lol. want to be healthier and stop putting contaminents in my lungs such as weed.

SikhGamer1 karma

I sat in the emergency room for 4.5 hours before anyone did anything.

Which part of the world are you from?

gteh4202 karma

Toronto, Canada lol.

Rakudjo1 karma

I had one last summer at 21 while moving chairs and desks at work, but was sent through outpatient (put me on a ventilator to help reinflate it, then chest tube and sent home to heal). What do you think of the coil of the chest tube grazing your lung when you try to shift in bed? Personally, it was one of the weirdest feelings I've ever felt.

gteh4201 karma

ya a really strange feeling. I tried to explain it to someone as having a funny bone feeling in your chest a bit.

shibbster1 karma

I didn't know spontaneous pneumothorax was a thing! Usually you got shot or somehow had shrapnel puncture the lung. Anyway, the "incredible pressure" following the pigtail chest tube; was it a "good" pressure or a "bad" pressure? That is, was it a "My God I can breathe again" pressure or a "My God I can't stand being stepped on by an elephant" pressure?

gteh4201 karma

the latter lol. I thought my chest was going to explode and it felt like it was being crushed at the same time, all the while im being told that it is normal.

The only time I felt relief really was when they removed the tube altogether. At that point I took my first deep breathe without much pain.

however, the dilaudid definitely made the pain more bearable.

pandaxrage1 karma

Have you been exercising regularly for the past 15 years?

gteh4201 karma

I ski all winter, swim every other day, and go for long walks/bike rides with my dogs.

pandaxrage2 karma

Was hoping to hear "no I sit at home all day."

Well damn, was hoping to hear "no I sit at home all day." Seemed like you were doing everything right. This is just one of those things that can randomly happen?

gteh4201 karma

seems like it.. but my smoking cigs + pot for 15+ years could have contributed to it. I may exercise but put crap in my body for many years although I did quit cigarettes over 7 years ago, still smoked pot regularily

overdoZer1 karma

My question was going to be " are you a skinny guy?" then i saw the pictures...

Pneumothorax is extremely common with thin/skinny people , if handled correctly it is really painful but it can be a lot worse when you don't have proper care ,glad you're better.

gteh4201 karma

Ya, definitely a skinny guy, but not tall. Its more common in younger people though 18yo around there, not 35.