I expected Friday would be a long day, after a series of long days this week in a supporting role, but it was easier than expected. I also learned a new word — pleura. It’s basically two layers of tissue that protect the lungs.
We’ve dealt with them before, although we never learned the word. When Jacob was born, he had excess air in the walls of his lungs. In the pleura, I gather. So they performed what is called a “pneumothorax” procedure where pneumothorax basically means a collapsed lung, and the procedure is to get rid of the collapse. In Jacob’s case, the excess air was restricting the lung from fully inflating, essentially, but the air had nowhere to go. It wasn’t IN the lungs, it was in the WALLS of the lungs. In the surrounding tissue. So, they stuck a pin in through the skin, into the tissue, into the walls of the lungs, without poking a hole in the lungs, and let the air out. It was something like 2 ccs of air in our 1h old son. I sat and watched, from 3 feet away, while they held him still, followed the ultrasound or X-ray (I don’t remember if they used the ultrasound), and stuck a giant spear in his chest. I’m sure it was a tiny needle, but it seemed like something that would create a sucking chest wound. I remember thinking, “Can I start at level 1 in this parenting game? Perhaps getting spit-up on me first, or maybe changing a dirty diaper?”. You know, before we get to the Boss Level at “L30 – Witnessing Life-Saving Surgery”…
Today’s experience was Andrea’s turn at the game. She decided that air was for babies, so instead, she chose fluid in her lungs. Pleural effusion. It sounds like a colour scheme for the bathroom. “Do you prefer Tropical Mist or Pleural Effusion?” Or some sort of food category…”I used to be SO into the sushi scene, it was amazing, and then I went through a Guatemalan / Ecuadorian phase, but now? I can’t get enough of Pleural Effusion. It’s liquid-based, and no carbs!”
Not so amazing for Andrea. She has had it since about November, causing her restricted breathing, and it got really bad in the last two weeks. The hope had been that the chemo treatment would start to reduce the lymph nodes, and as it improved, her body would reabsorb the liquid and it would fix itself, more or less. The alternatives are simple — drain it once or drain it repeatedly. I offered to go to Home Depot and get a nail gun and some tubing, which was looking like a viable alternative some days when the hospital didn’t seem to be offering anything better. But on Wednesday night, thanks to Jacob’s good luck charms, they gave her a timing (Friday) and some options (temp or permanent drain).
Today she opted for the temporary one, and while I’ll let her share the details on her experience, it was relatively fast. We went up to the hospital at 11:30, checked her in before noon, they saw her by 12:20 or so, and were done by 12:45 p.m. I opted not to watch this time, although they didn’t seem to offer that option anyway. An X-ray on the way out, no extended “care” needs other than changing a band-aid, and she can breathe again. She’ll see them again in 2w, at which time they’ll decide if they need to do another one or perhaps put in a permanent one, or even just wait to see if any breathing issues crop up. Easy peasy panda squeazy. I gather part of it was painful, not a fun experience, but she did it. And about 90m after we entered the hospital, we were heading back out, and she was HUNGRY today. Yesterday, not so much. Earlier today, not so much. Just her body saying “nope, not really into that whole eating thing”.
So P is for Pleura that are now considerably less full of liquid in her body. We also learned an interesting factoid. We were wondering, and therefore asked, why a pneumothorax to release air is done from the front (on Jacob) but the drainage today was from the side/back? Gravity basically — the air rises to the top of the lungs, and it was likely easier to get at for him from the front. On an adult, and with liquid that settles to the bottom, it’s easier to get at it from the side/back. Cool, huh?
Yeah, Andrea didn’t really think so either. But she’s home and she can breathe. In an ideal world, she would have had that experience on Monday. With one of the drugs she’s on, she couldn’t have actually done it on Monday, but it would have been nice if they knew that was at least the PLAN on Monday instead of playing “pass the piglets” for 2.5d to get to the actual plan. As a fan of Dilbert, and being a corporate planner plus anal-retentive squirrel planner, it seemed more like a plan to develop a plan for making an actual plan of what the options could be in the fullness of time.
But P is for empty Pleura. We’ll take it. At least until next week, when it will be T is for Two, as in Round Two of her chemo treatment.