It’s Saturday morning and I’m currently on a train to Cornwall, swapping the big city lights for sea air and I can’t wait! It is exactly 2 months since I found myself in hospital waiting for an x-ray to figure out why my chesty cough wouldn’t budge and why I suddenly found myself gasping for air for no apparent reason which let’s be honest, is pretty scary. I did not expect what came next.
Once I’d had my x-ray I was quickly escorted to A&E where I spent the afternoon… things were getting serious. The nurse took my blood, did some tests and then I was seen by the consultant who explained that I had a spontaneous pneumothorax – a partially collapsed lung. I was given some oxygen which relieved the tightness in my chest a little and then after some rest I was taken for another x-ray to see if it had improved the situation. It had stayed the same which all in all was a good thing. I’d been sending updates through to my manager which started with ‘I might be in slightly later than usual as I’m popping to see my GP‘ to ‘I’m now in A&E with a collapsed lung!!‘ which shows how quickly the day turned. The first step to recovery was lots of rest so I was sent home to do just that.
This actually ended up taking much longer than planned. After 3 weeks I felt better in myself and even attempted the bus into work one afternoon. In hindsight that was probably a mistake. There’s definitely a message here around not trying to run before you can walk and giving yourself the best chance to recover by resting. Saying that even walking was difficult. I was going at the pace of a snail and climbing the stairs… forget it! It got worse before it got better and I ended up having a procedure to relieve the excess air (which turned out to be 0.5 litre) and reinflate the lung. I’ll spare you the details but let’s just say it was pretty uncomfortable, especially for someone who doesn’t like needles! It did however make me consider how amazing the human body is. With some more rest, it seems to have worked and I am on the road to recovery – I just need to take it slow, slow being the keyword!
Whenever I tell someone that I had a collapsed lung it just doesn’t sound real. Everyone has the same reaction and the same reaction that I had when I was told… big gasps, mouths agape. It’s just not something that you hear about every day and given I would classify myself as a healthy person it just shows anything can happen and even more reason to look after yourself. In a bid to make it sound less dramatic I appear to have been talking about it as if it was a simple cough but the truth is it completely wiped me out and I’ve been doing everything in my power to get better since.
I have been overwhelmed with the support and kind words from my family, friends and colleagues whilst I’ve taken the time to recover and get back to full health. For someone who is as busy and active as I am, I found it really difficult to stop everything and just rest but this has been so important. Luckily I had a good supply of books and Netflix to keep me company (roughly 205 hours of viewing – is that bad?). What did we do before the days of Netflix?
Easing back into normal everyday life has been pretty slow but I’m happy to say I’m getting there. I now understand the importance of putting your health first above everything else which sounds obvious but when you’re busy juggling lots of other things it can sometimes be at the detriment to your health. I know in the grand scheme of things it could have been much worse but when something monumental happens to you it really makes you stop and put things into perspective.
What I’ve learned
Throughout this whole experience, it’s taught me one thing… you can’t put a price on health, it’s a number one priority above all else, so I’d love everyone to stop what you’re doing, take a minute to assess your current situation and make sure you’re looking after yourself, your body and your mind.
I am definitely guilty of taking on too much and then powering through, even if I’m not 100%, to get it done but this approach is not sustainable and is probably one of the reasons my body decided to shut down. I’m now finding new ways to still get what I need to be done but with less pressure on myself to go at 100% all day, every day and it feels great. This includes getting plenty of sleep, food and prioritising the most important tasks to focus on. I’ve also slowly started to move again by going for walks and increasing the distance and yoga classes to focus on stretching and breathing. It’s definitely going to take time to build my strength back up but I’m ok with that – I could get used to this slower pace of life.
Lastly, I just want to highlight some of things I am grateful for.
- My body. The human body is an incredible thing. Even just to get you out of bed in the morning and moving throughout the day requires strength and to get over illness is no mean feat.
- The NHS for their amazing service in identifying what the problem was, getting me in to see the specialist quickly and doing everything in their power to help me recover. We are so lucky we’ve got them!
- I am grateful to my employer and colleagues for providing me with the space I’ve needed to get better, support returning to work and the emphasis placed on fitting work back into my life and not the other way around. It’s so important that companies have support networks and policies in place and I’m lucky that mine have been so understanding.
- I’ve mentioned it above but a big shout out to all of my family and friends who’ve looked after me, checked in to make sure I’m ok, came with me to hospital appointments and kept me entertained through the slow days of recovery.
I hope this post gets across the importance of placing your health first above everything else. I’m looking forward to enjoying my holiday in Cornwall eating lots of amazing food and walking the dogs along the beach.. the fresh air getting into my lungs. Then, when I’m back it’s practically Halloween and then Christmas season! Lots to look forward to.
I’ll be writing more about returning to work, how to prioritise your health and more under my wellbeing section of this blog so keep an eye out if you’re interested.
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