57 oz. to Freedom

May 26, 2011

I got my CT scan on Wednesday and was waiting on the results from the radiologist.  The CT scan was uneventful: an injection of radiation, sitting on a table that moved me back ‘n forth through a scanner and some breathing in and out.  In total, it was just a 30 minute procedure.  The real fun would come on Thursday, when I met with the pulmonologist.

I drove myself to the pulmonologist in the morning.  My stepmom offered to take me to the appointment, but I told her it wasn’t necessary.  This was just going to be another appointment where a specialist gave me his opinion…or so I thought.  He looked at my x-rays and gave his best educated guesses on what the mass might be, all of which sounded unpleasant.  Nothing had the outcome I was looking for. You know, take a couple of pills and you’ll be back on that barstool in no time.  He also explained that I needed a biopsy.  Another bummer.  He casually explained this simple procedure.  They’ll cut a slit on that little dimple that’s just above the collar bone, under the Adams Apple.  Then they’ll snake a scope down my chest to grab a sample of the mass.  Shoot! I’ll just do that on my lunch break, doc!

He also informed me that he needed to do a Thoracentesis. This is the procedure to remove fluid from the outside of the lungs (pleural effusion).  No problem. Will the receptionist make that appointment for me?  He had the nurse take me into another room. Wait a minute!  Are they going to tap my lung right here?  Right now?  I was not emotionally prepared for this!  And by “emotionally prepared,” I mean, I haven’t even updated my status to get my friends’ comments.

The nurse took me to the other room.  It was a comfortable 55 degrees.  She sat me down on the table with the butcher paper.  She begins pulling out medieval tools of torture: a huge needle, the kind that take down elephants on Animal Planet, some human sized needles, some vials of meds and some bags and bottles.  She tapes some cloth to my back, so the blood won’t drip on my clothes.  Can I call my mommy before we start this? The doctor came in to explain the procedure.  First, he’ll inject me with lidocaine, a local anesthesia.  Then he’ll take the giant needle and stick it in my back, penetrating through the tender muscle in between my ribs, directly into my right lung where my sweet nectar was.  Like a Capri Sun.  Then he would proceed to siphon the fluid out.  Awesome! I was apprehensive before, but now I’m really looking forward to this. Let’s do it!

The anesthesia was probably the worst part.  I’m sure being numb is much better than having to feel the elephant needle go at it alone…but still!  Having any needle shoved into your back, so it reaches your rib cage…bad times.  He let the lidocaine do its thing for a couple minutes, followed by a test jab with the grandma’s knitting needle and I felt it!  We both agreed to wait another minute before continuing.  When he continued, I didn’t feel the pain, just the pressure.  It’s a weird feeling.  Mentally it hurts, someone stabbing you usually hurts.  I just sat on the table, while he was tappin my lung like a maple tree.  I couldn’t see anything that was going on, since, thankfully, it was all behind me.  Then I started getting sweaty and lightheaded.  Apparently, this wasn’t normal protocol.  He told me to lie down on my side.  Maybe I was having a reaction to the lidocaine or I needed my binky.  I’m sure it was the lidocaine.  He continued draining my lung for about 15 minutes. He finished up and told me, “I drink your milkshake,” which I found to be totally inappropriate.  He wiped the blood off my back and told me I’d be surprised by how much fluid he drained.

He wasn't kidding. I had to get a picture.

How can all of that fluid come from my right lung?  How was I breathing?  Is that Bud Light?  1700ccs of fluid, if my Google calculations are correct, that’s about 57oz. Apparently, all the beer I’ve been drinking went straight to my lung.  I was done for the day.  I was literally and figuratively…drained.  The doctor made me an appointment with a thoracic surgeon, who would do the biopsy.  He mentioned this surgeon was really good but arrogant.  Good to know.  Note to the reader: make sure your doctors check your insurance before they make appointments for you.  The surgeon he recommended was out of my network.  A huge difference in cost as opposed to a doctor that is in-network.  He sent me on my way.  No real instructions.  Just don’t do any strenuous physical activity or exercising.  Looks like P90X will have to wait another week.

He also needed me to get some blood work done, but no biggie.  I scoff at normal sized needles now.

When I left the doctor’s office, I felt all right.  Aside from just being violated…I was ok.  It was about 3:30 and I had been at the doctor’s office all day.  I needed to eat.  I went to a Baja Fish Tacos for some comfort in the form a blackened fish Baja bowl.  I needed to sit down, collect my thoughts and respond to the thousand text messages I received from the mass text I sent of my lung beer.  As I was sitting by myself at the table waiting for the food, I guess I had a little burp.  Just one of those harmless, under the breath kinda burps.  I let it go and without warning, it felt like someone got a hold of my voodoo doll and shoved that fucking needle into my lung.  It was the worst!  I’m by myself in a crowded restaurant, grimacing and groaning in pain, holding my back in agony as if an inmate just came up behind me and shanked me.  People around me were probably wondering what the hell is wrong with that guy? I didn’t care, it fuckin hurt like a bitch.

I must average 2000 burps a day. This is going to be a challenge.

5 thoughts on “57 oz. to Freedom

  1. Jeff: I know we haven’t talked in ages…but I am thinking of you and your family, praying for you. I am impressed by your ability to solider through this with your always HI-larious humor. You have a great deal of support around you. Your family is wonderful. I will continue to follow your progress in kicking this thing in the teeth!

  2. Look at that lung beer! WOW! I still can’t believe ALL that was inside one lung!
    Great post Jeff! Many highs and lows throughout this journey. Just know you have an awesome support team anytime!

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