By CHRIS TERRY
During December of 2020, shortly after having COVID-19, I experienced spontaneous pneumothorax. It’s a big, fancy word for a lung deflating like a sad party balloon. According to my doctors, my lung collapse was very atypical. Usually lung collapses are reserved for chain smokers or car accident victims, so what trauma had my lungs endured to cause a collapse?
Unsurprisingly, COVID-19 played a role, but I also have asthma, so my lungs were already like that of a geriatric man. But the actual catalyst for my lung collapse turned out to be singing. Like an idiot, since I wasn’t experiencing serious symptoms while I had COVID-19, I decided to spend my quarantine practicing songs for an upcoming music concert. Maybe it was karma for annoying my parents by practicing the same song on repeat for hours, but the constant singing acted as trauma for my lungs, which eventually caused the partial collapse. On the day of the collapse, ironically, I wasn’t singing at all. Instead, I decided to focus on practicing piano. That didn’t matter though, because weeks of constant force in my lungs, paired with asthma, came to a head.
While I was sitting on the piano bench, I suddenly got a cramp in my back. Unlike most cramps, the cramp I was experiencing felt like it was moving. The epicenter was between my shoulder blades, but it quickly shot through my shoulders and lower back. Suddenly I had the wind knocked out of me. I got off the piano bench and carefully walked toward the living room, stopping for breaks because of the pain. Eventually I emerged in the living room, hunched over awkwardly like Smeagol. My parents happened to be watching TV, so I explained to them that I was having terrible back cramps, and that I could barely breathe. In my mind, I just needed a warm shower and to rub some dirt on it. Luckily, my mom, who’s much smarter than me, told me that if it’s affecting my breathing, I should probably go to the hospital.
Together, my mom and I went to the local emergency room. At this point, I thought my days of supplementing homework for Rocket League with the boys were over forever. The pain had gone from cramping, to cramping and a visceral internal pain in my back and chest. The constant pain also made me feel like I was on the verge of blacking out. I sat waiting for my doctor for an eternity. When he finally did arrive, I got my vitals checked and was in the clear, and they began troubleshooting my cramping. As luck would have it, a younger doctor was shadowing my primary doctor, and he had just covered pneumothorax in class. He brought this up as a possibility, which was quickly confirmed by my x-rays.
Luckily, my lung collapse was only very partial and was only in one lung. Still, my doctor had me wait in the room across from an operating room where they could rush me if my lung began to fully collapse. In that situation, they would cut open my chest and stick a big straw in it to suck my lung back to the cavity wall. As fun as it would’ve been to be a living Capri Sun, I thankfully didn’t have to do that. Instead, I was just on oxygen for a couple days, and my lung naturally reinflated.
Since the hospital visit, I’ve been completely fine. I’m in more danger around second hand smoke than the average individual, but that’s really the extent of the danger. The whole ordeal showed me how COVID-19 can intersect with other preexisting conditions and make a bad situation become worse.