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Lou vs. the Chest Tube


LouT

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Hi gang here at the hospital 2 days after my lobectomy (lower right). Yesterday, first day after surgery, was interesting. I was feeling so good that I had the nurse give me only half doses of my Dilaudid and I skipped some of the other pain, inflammation and nerve medications.

Well, I wasn't the smartest Rock in the box because in the afternoon I went to take my third walk around the ward and I had spasms so hard I could hardly get back into bed. The nurses tried to calm me down and I was convinced that something was wrong and I would wind up in the operating room again.  The nurse hit me with a good shot of Dilaudid and within 10 minutes the spasms stopped and I could breathe again.  They did a chest x-ray that showed my lungs were clear and there was no air in my chest.

So, at the end of the day I learned my lesson about following the doctor's protocol because I found out that during surgery they gave me a block to eliminate the pain from the chest tube and some of the other work that had been done. And that block just stopped working, it ran out and I didn't have enough of the other painkillers to counter the pain when it stopped working; so now I follow the doctor's orders.

But for those of you that are going for this surgery I can tell you that it's not as bad as I thought it would be, I'm up walking around quite a bit now and just an hour ago my air leak went to zero which means that there's a chance I could go home tomorrow if a couple of other factors are met.

My advice to anyone going through this is follow the doctor's orders, don't overdo the exercise the first couple of days, and take all of your pain meds whenever you need them. 

I expected that I would have the lobectomy so I'm not so upset about that the type of cancer I had is squamous not adenocarcinoma and I'll learn more about it when I have my follow-up visit with the surgeon in about 3 weeks.

So in conclusion, I fought the chest tube and the chest tube won. That could be made into a song but again I thank all of you for the great support and hopefully the story I'm going to have to live will help to support other people that join us on this forum in fighting this disease.

Lou

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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You'll triumph over that danged tube in the long run!  Or maybe you could make peace with it--"Thank you, chest tube, for your kind assistance. Please finish your work and then retire to chest tube heaven (or wherever chest tubes go when there work is done) ". 

Bridget

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I made the same mistake Lou.  I was feeling good and let the pain meds run down, probably day two for me as well.  I got the same shot of Delaudid.  It’s amazing how quick that medication works.  Thank god for it.  The nurses gave me a good talking to after that and it didn’t happen again.  I stayed on the schedule the doctors ordered and any sign of pain I let the nurses know.  I found I had to take my pain meds every hour and forty five minutes instead of every two hours.  I was on opioid pain meds for about a week then started to wean off to just taking them at night to sleep and then to Tylenol.  The best thing for healing is to make sure you aren’t in pain.  Keep taking them for as long as you need them.  If you aren’t in pain you can do a lot more to help the healing along.  Getting the chest tube out will provide some relief but it will take some time for the incisions to heal.  The recovery is weeks for major recovery (back to daily life routine) and months for total (no residual affect), not days.  Be patient with it.  

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Curt,

You are so right. It was a good lesson to me. Last night the tube pump showed zero air leak so if the drainage slows down and the rest of my systems start working I could go home today (Sunday) or tomorrow. I do need to walk more though. They also told me that they need to get my pain controlled with oral meds before they will release me. 

One thing I know is that I will likely get better sleep at home. With the"incidents" I've experienced, the med schedule and vital sign checkups you don't have much of an opportunity to really get a full-night's sleep. 

Lou

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You have to do what your body can tolerate.  Pushing through the pain is NOT something you should do, just do what you can tolerate without being in pain.  

I can’t believe I forgot to mention the sleeping part.  Hospitals are the worst place for sleep.  They are always poking at you and they are noisy.  I had a pair of noise cancelling headphones and would play nature sounds all day and night.  I used them even when I got home to relax (nature sounds) and to motivate me to exercise (Metallica).  They were a god sent.  I’m actually planning on donating some to the hospital where I had surgery.  I really do believe they helped me with my recovery.  I was much more relaxed when they were on, which was almost all the time.  Even just the white noise cancelling sound soothed me.

Some other tips for sleeping.  You are going to want to be propped up at home when sleeping.  Either a wedge pillow or a firm couch cushion under softer pillows should do do the trick.  Also put a pillow along your right side that you can lean against and your arm can rest on.  If your incisions are on your right side you’ll likely sleep on your back but leaning towards your left.  You may also want a smaller pillow to squeeze and keep your arm elevated off your incisions.  I used that same smaller pillow to walk around.  It kept my arm from leaning on the incisions.   I slept a LOT when I got home.  I’ve never felt tired like that before.  The exhaustion lasted about two weeks.  I would wake up, eat breakfast, walk around my house, sit in a chair, then take a nap.  Wake up, eat lunch, walk around my house, take a shower, then take a nap.  I’ve never been a day napper but I was taking a lot of them after surgery.  I think it was part physical and part psychological.  It’s a lot to handle in both regards.  It gets better.  

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Lou,

Good lesson learned. 

Here are several I learned in my post-op experience:

...expect abdominal muscle cramps. They hurt and really amp incision pain. Push fluid intake, stretching and hot showers may reduce frequency. 

...sleep could be difficult. As for RX for sleep medication before discharge. Two Benadryl at night are a good substitute. 

...constipation is a pain. Take laxatives to eliminate. 

Stay the course. 

Tom

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Lou,

Sounds like you definitely learned the hard way about pain meds. My parents were here when I had my surgery and my dad preached to me about staying ahead of the pain so I took those meds religiously.  Just a quick note about the spasms - I also had them immediately following surgery. I continued to have them for almost three months post-op so surgeon gave me meds to help. 

I hear you about sleep. I was in the hospital from Monday through Saturday. Towards the end of the week, my surgeon gave me "sleeping privileges" which meant no vitals or other nonsense between 10 pm and 6 am. 

Keep walking, take those meds, and keep us posted.

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Thanks for all the great info everybody.  You can trust that I'm taking your experiences and counsel seriously.

As of today my air leak has closed, my systems are working and I'm moving around well. I hoped all that would have me going home tomorrow but my chest wounds is still putting out a lot of fluids and the doctor wants that to go down before I can go home.  They've also moved me from Tramadol and Delaudid to Tramadol and Oxycodone. The pain isn't as relieved with the oral meds but I've been told that once the chest tube comes out they will be more than adequate. So I'm doing the walks, spirometer, stretches and everything else they ask and I'm ready to go home. It could happen tomorrow or Tuesday and I'll update here once I know. 

Thanks again for the great input. 

Lou

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And, Lou, don’t wait until your pain gets bad to take the pain meds. If you wait, the worsening pain will cause increased anxiety and pain meds don’t often work well in that situation. As an RN in recovery room years ago, we often had to give paitients Valium or another benzodiazepine to bring them down enough so that the pain medication would work. I wish you the best.

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Hi Isabelle,

Thanks for the good advice.  I really learned my lesson that one night in the hospital.  And I'm now learning to anticipate my pain and taking that into account.  So far, things are going pretty well.  And I can agree firsthand that along with the severe pain goes anxiety.  I don't want to ever be in that position again.  :)

Lou

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  • 8 months later...

As someone who will be taking this journey in about 48 hours this was the perfect string for me to read. Thanks for sharing it.

As I have been sleep deprived for most of the last month I look forward to a walk, a sit, a sleep followed by a walk, a sit and a sleep.

One more blood draw for me tomorrow then on to surgery. I am apprehensive but not as stressed as I thought I would be....more occupied with some final details to take care of than the Surgery.

Peace

Tom

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Tom

 I’m glad it offered some help for you.  I fully understand the anxiety and I believe you will do better than you think and heal more rapidly than you expect.  I look forward to your next update.  Best of luck to you. 
Lou

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