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Karim's Personal Experience Part 1 of 2

It was last summer when I was vacationing in central Indiana that I became aware of what a pneumothorax was. As I was driving I suddenly felt pressure in the left side of my chest. I immediately dismissed it as being "nothing" and continued to drive. Less than 15 minutes later, I was laying in my car in extreme pain. My chest felt like it was being squeezed, inside and out. I thought to myself, "Is it my heart? It can't be, I'm too young to have heart problems. Am I going to die? What could this possibly be?..."

The ambulance had been called and I continued to wait for help. My heart was racing. Once the medic arrived they immediately asked about my medical history, whether I abused drugs or was allergic to anything. I am not a drug user, and had no previous medical history. The medic asked me what my pain was on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the worst pain I had ever felt. I was thinking to myself, "I have never felt anything like this in my entire life!"

I told the medic that I was feeling a pain level of 9 out of 10. As I was being transported to the nearest hospital the medic gave me oxygen, and medication to lower my heart rate. Did he think I was having a heart attack? Once I arrived at the hospital I felt like I was helpless. The nurse gave me Maalox thinking that it was my stomach that was causing my problems. Only after an X-ray did the emergency physician reveal to me that a whole in my lung had formed for no apparent reason. It was called a spontaneous pneumothorax. Aha! Finally, the diagnosis I had been waiting for. Or, was it?

After waiting in the emergency for over 3 and a half hours, I was told that the pain I was feeling was a result of a small hole forming in my left lung. As a result, my lung partially collapsed. The doctor estimated the collapse to be approximately 20%. She decided to wait for a specialist to determine if the lung would heal on its own, or if I would need a chest tube.

I was admitted for the evening. This was the first time I had ever had a life threatening injury. I had never had an I.V. before, and had never been admitted to a hospital since being 4 years old. I was in perfect health and it seemed as if there was no reason for this to happen to me.

My first night in the hospital was painful. It was very difficult to walk or move. Every time I breathed I could feel the pressure in my lung, and it hurt quite a bit. Being administered Oxygen throughout the night made it more comfortable to rest and breathe. Because of the pneumothorax, I was only able to sleep in one position; on my back, at a 45 degree angle. If I were to have slept directly on my back it made it much more difficult for me to breathe or expand my lungs.

I didn't get very much sleep that night. All my focus was on seeing the specialist, and what the next step in treatment would be.

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