Health Update

It’s been eight weeks since my discharge from the hospital and time for an update. For the most part, I’ve been getting steadily better. No more tubes. The only medication is another four weeks of blood-clot slowing Warfarin to make sure I don’t develop any more deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) blood clots. I’m still getting frequent blood tests for that medication as well as a chest x-ray every week or two to check on the one remaining issue: a persistent pleural effusion in my right lung. But I’ve been a bit tired and sometimes somewhat short of breath, particularly when climbing the steep hill at the end of my regular walk.

Yesterday I was supposed to have another thoracentesis procedure to remove more of the liquid in my right pleural cavity. The doctor showed me the most-recent x-rays which clearly showed something about one-third the volume of my right lung was keeping it from fully inflating. He also showed me a before-surgery x-ray. Wow! The pleural effusion back then filled a huge percentage of the cavity. My team of doctors had hoped the remaining effusion would eventually dissipate, but so far it hasn’t done so.

Before the procedure the doctor used ultrasound to get a sense of the size and location of the effusion, but what he discovered was that there was very little liquid in there. The majority appeared to be a non-liquid organized mass which he said was likely to be the consistency of rubber cement. This is essentially what my thoracic surgery in October was supposed to remove (along with a chest drain for any liquid) so it seems what I have is what remains from before the operation. I guess it wasn’t possible to remove it all. (I had a small-incision thoracic surgery. The doctor showed me photos of the scars from the traditional method — a shocking cut from in front of the shoulder all the way down to the hip. What I had was bad enough!)

Since thoracentesis can only be used to remove liquid, the doctor decided not to perform the procedure and instead sent me to radiology for yet another chest x-ray.

At this point it looks like one-third of my right lung can’t fully inflate due to the pleural effusion. I’m going to continue getting chest x-rays every week or two to check. If it gets better on its own…great. If it gets worse, I’ll probably need more thoracic surgery will be required to remove it. Ugh. But it seems likely that I may have to just “live with it.” The surgery isn’t without risks and complications of its own, so the doctors aren’t anxious to cut me open again. I’m generally healthy and active now, so the condition isn’t really affecting my lifestyle. I may just have to get used to being a bit more tired and not able to climb Mt. Everest.

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