Gather ‘round, my children. I’m about to tell you the time I almost died.
Would you expect anything less of me?
Today, we are going to delve into a part of my past that has helped define who I am this very day in ways I’ve only began to touch upon in other social media posts past and still cannot truly express in its entirety.
(Trigger warning: anorexia, hospitalization.)
We are going to discuss the day my lung collapsed and the journey I’ve been on since it happened.
This is going to be a long one, folks. So sit down, grab a cup of coffee, and enjoy a slice of my life.
We can’t truly begin to address this topic without stating where it all began.
I was anorexic. Standing at 5’6”, I was a frail 111 lbs, which to the mirror I looked in, was not near the ideal picture of myself I so desperately desired. Throughout a large chunk of my life, my weight was my biggest insecurity, causing my weight to fluctuate but never hit a place I was satisfied with.
To make a long story short, I had been overweight from about fifth grade (2002) until 2006, when I began to exercise using a Billy Blanks tae-bo dvd I got at a yard sale and cut back on junk intake. This quickly snowballed into eating less and less in general to the point where I found myself nauseous when I would force myself to eat. Eventually, I may entirely write a separate post in regards to my relationship with my weight, but these details are important to the events to come.
Fast forward to December 2007. We had a huge snow and ice storm and naturally, ya girl managed to slip and fall on some ice walking to the bus stop. Let’s skip forward to a week after this, Christmas night, where I have an unfortunate yelling match with a family member, which I til this day, joke is how I blew my lung. I’m talking a demon escaping my body level yelling here. These may seem like minute details, but they all play a small factor in what happened.
December 26th. I’m sitting mindlessly on MSN (because at this point, AIM was ‘too mainstream’ for me) talking to my very best friend, Erin. My right side suddenly started shooting pain and I could not grasp what was wrong, because I was being a loaf and not doing anything to exert any energy to cause this pain. I said to her “I think I’m having a heart attack” and she told me I’m being ‘too dramatic.’ I didn’t disagree with her but the pain continued and grew, and the intensity of the pain escalated with every breath and movement I made.
So naturally, as any person would (and don’t you dare lie about it), I Web Md’d my symptoms and deduced I was dying. Okay, not really, but I got it down to either a lung or kidney issue, not really knowing how to decipher the difference between the two because well, ya girl isn’t a doctor.
You see, I have this horrible mindset that was ingrained on me to let physical issues go until the very last possible moment, because one- it likely is ‘nothing’ and two- if it isn’t something and I go to get it looked at, I could be wasting my father’s money (a HUGE no-no). So this fear drove me to succumb to bed without telling anyone else what I was experiencing.
I woke up the next morning feeling even worse than the day prior and decided that if it continues to get worse, I would be open to telling my father about the possibility of taking me to the hospital. I walked to my Memmy’s house, which is so very conveniently located across the yard, and visited her and the amount of pain had me almost doubled over. Enough was enough. I told my father, who suggested to wait it out a little longer. Two hours passed and I just could not deal anymore.
We get to the hospital and my oxygen level was down, first red flag. I get sent to x-rays, where I had to lift my arms above my head. This simple movement was the most pain I had ever been in in my entire life. The second red flag was the length of time in which it took them to deliver the results. The doctor came in and presented an x-ray of my lung with black areas on it.
Spontaneous pneumothorax, is what he called it.
He further explained that while only ¼ of my lung had collapsed, had I waited another full day, the entire lung would have collapsed, which would likely would have resulted in asphyxiation. I would have died.
If ever a time to use the phrase ‘shook,’ lemme tell you, I was SHOOK.
Throughout the discussion of what our next steps were, my mind was racing. How much was this going to cost? How painful is this going to be? How can they fix it?
The doctors explained the procedure. They would numb me and then insert a tube connected to a box-like device called a chest tube that would slowly remove the air and fluid surrounding my lung in hopes of it re-inflating. The only other alternative mentioned if this was unsuccessful was a vague ‘surgery.’
They prepped me by numbing me with the largest needle I have had the displeasure to lay my eyes upon. The next step was inserting the tube between my ribs. They made an incision and while three people held me in place, a doctor shoved a tube between my ribs, just under my armpit. (Feel free to Google what it looks like, I won’t subject you to it’s heinousness.)
I safely tell you, throughout my entire hospital stay, not once did I even dare to look at that tube.
After being moved to my room (thank goodness it was a single), I had a nice lil morphine drip going on and turned on Spongebob before my mom and sister arrived, shortly followed by Erin. We spoke briefly and all I can remember is being scared they could see my boobs because of how my gown was positioned.
The next morning in the hospital was full of questions and follow up tests and embarrassing calls to the nurse, because of course, I could not go to the bathroom without someone assisting me and holding my tube machine until I regained some strength.
The reality of the situation, I had thought, already set in. I was wrong.
A doctor came in to speak to me about my current eating habits. They explained to me that it is very common for those who are tall and skinny to experience their lung collapsing. Okay, understandable. Then they threw a term at me that I had avoided and vehemently denied.
With the description of my eating habits and my current weight, they described the path I was on could be far more dangerous and less forgiving if I did not work to become healthy again. I was told that I would need to see a dietitian if I did not make an effort to reach and maintain a healthy weight. The thought of more costs strangely outweighed the fear of further self endangerment. The anorexia combined with the fall and the fight likely were all contributing factors to the collapse, with the driving force being my current stature.
The next few days was a series of tests, coloring, and reading the Twilight series. Go ahead. Judge me. I was a teenage girl and those books were the shit. Fight me. At one point, a nurse even sat with me while we watched E.T. My time there was not eventful in the least and sleep was a thing I desperately missed.
After three days in the hospital, I was released.
Taking my ‘lung tube’ out scared the living shit out of me. I couldn’t even look at the damn thing and it was it’s time to get the hell outta me. I was instructed to hold my breath while they, quite literally, yanked it out. Small droplets of blood splattered the floor and I was convinced I was going to be ill. They bandaged me up without stiching the hole, so I had a nice open hole that resembled a tiny bullet wound on my side.
We didn’t even make it out of the parking lot before I vomited (which I learned happens each time I get an IV and it’s removed).
After my discharge, my life became a series of follow up appointments, missed school days, and unfortunate bouts of pleurisy, which can resemble the intense pain of when my lung actually collapsed.
Pleurisy is the inflammation of the lung lining, resulting in the lining rubbing against whatever else is going on in there, which, you guessed it, is painful.
Taking the bandages off my incision site (my ‘lung hole,’ as I lovingly call it these days), was rough. Imagine peeling a bandaid off your skin that’s being stubborn… and times that by ten, and that’s what it was like removing the large bandage they put over the site. It wouldn’t be my luck without them managing to put a sticky part on the edge of where the hole was, causing it to get caught and tug the hole during it’s removal. (Cue gagging sound.) Wearing a bra was a thing I actively avoided during this healing process. God bless being on the itty bitty titty committee.
Healing, as anticipated, was a process. I vividly remember being at a concert (Wednesday 13, to be exact) and pulling out my newly prescribed inhaler because it was becoming hard and painful to breathe, and making the most unfortunate and unwanted eye contact with the guitarist while inhaling my puffer because I was front row. So embarrassing, lemme tell ya. In the next three years, I even took two trips to the emergency room because the pleurisy pain was so intense, it resembled my lung collapsing.
I began to focus on my eating habits, slowly but surely. I knew I had to begin eating more and that the number on the scale had to increase, despite how terrifying that seemed. This journey was incredibly difficult and did not happen overnight. They set progress goals for me at my follow up appointments and reminded me that if I could not do it on my own, they would have to refer me to a dietician/nutritionist. It took perseverance and time to bring myself up to a weight the doctors deemed healthy.
Bringing it up to currently, I still suffer from pleurisy, but definitely not as frequent as it occurred previously. If I exercise too much, if I’m getting sick, if I exert too much at a concert, or if it’s too cold, my lung will hurt and can trigger the pleurisy. I get sick more frequently these days, so I’ve seen a decrease in my immune system since. These may not be directly linked, but it’s worth noting.
As for my weight, it still fluctuates greatly. The lowest weight I reached since my eating disorder was 123 pounds in college and this was simply because I was going to the gym and making sure my food intake matched the need for what I was burning at the gym. Currently, I’m apparently what they call these days ‘thick.’ but honestly, I’m average (to average with a few extra pounds, haha). In fact, I’m the heaviest I have ever weighed. I’m comfortable in my body most days and have learned to love and respect my body. It took YEARS to reach this point and let me tell you, some days it can be so, so difficult.
I’m going to link some resources below. I genuinely do not know how I managed to reach the goal weight provided by doctors without the aid of other professionals and if you need the assistance of a professional, please find the courage to seek it. Seek help before the damage your body experiences becomes unmanageable and potentially irreversible. I want to fully acknowledge that your recovery process can vary drastically from what I experienced and that’s okay. I am not a doctor and I cannot give you the best help that can be provided, but I do want to be here to guide you in the right direction and let you know you are not alone if you are struggling with an eating disorder or body image issues.
Recovery is a process and I never want anyone to get the point where I was.
These resources can be beneficial not only for those experiencing it directly, but for loved ones as well. Feel free to contact me on any of my social platforms if you have any questions or want some support. I’ll do my best to be there for you.
National Eating Disorder hotline: 1-800-931-2237