On 3rd February, in my daily journal, I was scribbling about going away with Pete to celebrate our wedding anniversary, about competing in the Scillies, and some thoughts that were emerging in working on the structure for my WIP.
On 4th February, before we set off for Devon, I went gig rowing, and struggled to get my breath. The drive to Devon was uncomfortable, and I’d started to have chest pains. It’s trapped wind, I thought. After a fairly disastrous evening, the pain grew more acute. We left early to come home the following day, after a night spent in agony pacing up and down in the bathroom, so that I could try and see my GP. By 6pm, I was sitting in A&E, after my GP had spoken with the Acute team in Royal Cornwall Hospital. Two hours later, a chest X-ray revealed that my left lung had completely, and rather spectacularly, collapsed. And so began an education in medical terms, and procedures. Pneumothorax. Pleura. It took three attempts to get the chest drain in, on a trolley in A&E, where I screamed the place down. So began a traumatic and gruelling few weeks. A series of chest drains did not inflate the lung, so I was transferred to Plymouth’s Derriford Hospital by ambulance in the company of a cheery paramedic (on my birthday). Further chest drains (a big badass one, which was truly horrific in sounds and sensations, if not in pain, by then the teams understood my extremely low pain threshold!) did not work, so after two false starts (being bumped on lists) I had surgery to inflate the lung on Monday 22nd February. Unfortunately key hole surgery wasn’t possible, so it was the ‘traditional’ method of being sliced open. Thoracotomy. I spent five days in recovery on their high dependency cardiothoracic ward, almost stuck to the bed and the ward’s wall by a series of tubes – two chest drains, suction for the drains, oxygen, an epidural (pain relief) and a catheter. Last Friday I was discharged, and I’m now on the slow path of recuperation.
Yesterday I had my chest drain stitches removed (the practice nurse telling me that she’d never seen such thick thread, oh deep joy), and a kind-of telling off. I am one who pushes herself. Recovery will take as long as it takes, possibly up to 18 months. I have had major surgery. I have had some of the most traumatic medical procedures (again and again). I am still poorly. I must slow down.
I am in a great deal of pain, and I swear I can still feel the ghost of the chest drains. I am restricted in what I can do in the short-term (next six weeks). It has only been in the last few days that my brain has been able to cope with concentrating on anything. Reading and writing are becoming friends again. Moving is an effort. My main Physio is walking, extending how far I go each day. Today it was eight minutes. I’ll torture myself if I dwell or compare that to where I was before, so I have to let that go. I can get back to where I was, and that’s the prize.
No more is competing in the World Pilot Gig Championships in April, although I hope to go as a spectator. The WIP is back on hold. No driving, no pushing, pulling or lifting. Life has shrunk, but in many ways so have I. I’m not sure what I’ll blog in the coming weeks, except sticking with the discipline of book reviews. The tricky books in The Book Challenge are on hold, until my mind feels more coherent. I’ve searched online, and there is very little support/pathway in recovering from lung surgery, so perhaps I will take up the mantel.
For now I cannot stress enough – you never know what is around the corner.