First Run in 21 (Part 1)

Just completed 5 miles today and there’s lots of rust. I know you must be thinking why haven’t you run in 21 days as aren’t you training for a 200 mile ultra??? Well, after a great 3 day 8 hour per day roughly 38 miles each during the 4th of July holiday, my right lung collapsed. This has happened before in 2008 in my lead up to my first ever Ironman but that was 8 months prior where as this was just 30 days prior to the Bigfoot.

It’s officially called a spontaneous pneumothorax. It happens when a small air pocket on the lung randomly bursts and creates a hole big enough to leak air into your chest cavity which due the pressure collapses the spongy lung. Since it happened before my risk increased so the timing was just BAD.

I woke up that Sunday with back/chest muscle pain but thought it was due to sleeping awkward. I had an easy 5 mile recovery day planned. I immediately got into the first 100 yards and felt winded. Uh-oh…I immediately knew what it could be but just hoped that my body was tired and it wasn’t. The reason I knew is because of my experience with the first one in 2008. That one took me 3 weeks of training with and just being extra tired before going to the doctor to figure why I was always out of breath on my runs, rides and swims.

I kept running hoping it wasn’t anything and my pace was normal. I finished, showered and sat on the couch debating what to do. It was Sunday so I decided after looking around that I could go to a local urgent care place. I was hoping I was just being a hypochondriac and I’d get sent home. I showed up and they basically said we need an X-ray to be sure but we don’t have one here so you’d have to go to another place and it’d take about an hour OR you could just go to the ER to get one. Not looking good…I said I’d go to the ER because if it was collapsed I have to go there anyway. I asked for a note since all my stats would be totally normal and they wouldn’t triage me quickly so I’d have to wait.

I went to Legacy at Meridian Park about 10 minutes from where I live and checked into the ER. They took the X-ray and the ER doc came to tell me the bad news…totally collapsed. I started immediately asking all kinds of recovery questions as I was so close to the Bigfoot. The ER didn’t make it sound promising at all. I basically started tearing up as grown man due to just letting everyone down. We’ve raised over $2000 for TMS and now I wouldn’t be able to satisfy my end of the bargain.

I called Amber and Elena and they decided to come down from their house. Once they determine your lung is collapsed things move very quickly. In most cases, it’s pretty serious but for me it didn’t seem like a big deal. The ER nurse noted that they rarely see someone “walk” into the ER with a collapsed lung. This probably explains why I can run and do it pretty well as my lung capacity is higher than most.

This just begins the 13 day hospital experience for me. This first visit had me healing slower than expected but finally having everything look good Wednesday July 11th evening. I so wanted to get out of the hospital just mostly because you can never get into a rhythm for sleep or anything as they “check your vitals” every 4 hours. So Elena drove me home Wednesday night and I thought I was fine.

Well, my allergies during the middle of the night had me sneezing and coughing. If I had known at time that if my lung wasn’t super healed that this could re-open the whole I would’ve approached my first evening home differently.

I woke up Thursday morning and preceded to make coffee and officially start a day of work. I felt fine but after a few trips up and down the stairs and such I felt like I wasn’t right. I felt more labored than I should. Oh crap…time to go back to the ER. I woke up Elena and we went back to the ER as a pre-caution. The doctor said to go to the ER if anything felt off. They X-rayed the chest and sure enough the lung had re-collapsed. So basically the last 3 days were for nothing. UGH!!

I told the ER doc to contact my previous doctor and requested a “large” normal sized tube this go around. If I had a little bit more information, I should’ve just requested the surgery right out of the gate immediately. I didn’t know the surgery was simple(video camera) and the recovery is similar to just the tube.

I ended up in the same hospital room as before, 311 and it was like I had never left. I played the waiting game over the next few days. We were being conservative but then around Saturday progress wasn’t being made so the doctor decided to have a thoracic surgeon take up the case.

We had a CT scan and he went over my options.

#1 Do nothing and just let the tube/lung heal on its own.

#2 Put in a one-way valve and go home. Again basically let the lung heal on its own.

#3 Surgery where they go in with a scope and scar/irritate the top of my chest cavity and the top of my lung so it will basically stick to the top of my chest. They also remove any blebs they would find.

All of these options had basically identical recovery time. I was frustrated so I elected for surgery….

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