Chest Drains Can Be Awkward

As mentioned before it was difficult to sleep with all that was happening.  Add to that the fact I was on drugs that kept making me think there was someone standing over me whenever I closed my eyes and the chest drain I had stitched into my ribs just under my armpit and I’m sure you can see how it might be difficult. 

The chest drain was there to suck the air from my chest cavity.  It wasn’t working as quick as they hoped and it was horrible having the thing in 24/7, but at least it relieved the pain a little.  Trying to shower with it, trying to go to the toilet with it.  I was worried I would stand on the tube trying to get up out of bed.


One of my main concerns was about sleeping however.  I have a history of doing stupid things in my sleep.  I like to sleep on my side with my arm up beside my head and I can sometimes be quite fidgety so it was hard to adjust and get comfortable to lying on my back and not being able to move.  I would sometimes wedge my hand down the side of the bed in the hope it would help me stay in a safe position all night.


One night close to the start my stay, the plan to wedge myself in position didn’t really work.  I was constantly in a panic that I would pull out my chest drain.  The doctors told me it was very unlikely.  Maybe that’s why I did what I did, to prove them wrong.

One night I had been sleeping for a few hours and woke up feeling like my lung had collapsed again, I was in a panic and thought I had pulled out my chest drain.  I rang the bell for the nurse again for the 50 thousandth time since I got there and the sound male nurse that was on nights the first few nights came in.  He asked what was up and when I said I thought my chest drain had came out he clearly thought I was just panicking like usual.  He decided to oblige and have a quick look though just to make sure it was OK.  It wasn’t.  He took a quick look and then went off to get a doctor.  She then sent me for more xrays to see if the tube inside my chest had moved.  It had.  I must have pulled at my chest drain or snagged it on something in my sleep.  It wasn’t a nice feeling.

After a while of having about 4 or 5 doctors and nurses standing over me discussing it in the middle of the night they decided I needed to have another chest drain put in and the old one taken out.  So they took me through to a small room that had one of those beds you see in the doctors office.  I was asked to get onto the bed and propped up a bit so the doctor could get into the position to get in about to my ribs again.  I was asked to put my arm above my head so my armpit was exposed.  Now the first time I had this done I was under the influence of some pretty powerful drugs so I don’t remember much.  This time however they didn’t give me the drugs even though I wanted them.  They instead just gave me a local anaesthetic in the area I was getting it.  Then a young doctor stepped forward to prepare all the tools.  She sterilised the area and got me ready to be cut.  Then the clearly more senior doctor asked if she felt confident to do it herself.  At this point I panicked and asked if she had done it before.  She said she had done it once before, on a cadaver.  Great.  She started to feel around for the exact spot to make the incision.  You can’t feel anything being cut as such but you can feel something and know when you’ve been cut.  The feeling of the blood dripping onto the parts that aren’t numb also let you know it’s happened.  Then she readied the tube and started to slip it in.  I was sweating heavily as she put it in and my arms went a bit wobbly.  One of the male nurses asked if I wanted him to hold my arm up to help take the strain off.  I said no, but the doctor told him to anyway.  When the guy felt the how much sweat was on my arm he must have been disgusted and then he’d have understood why I said no to him helping me.

As the tube went in I could feel it worming it’s way into my chest cavity.  It was horrible but I was happy it was going in.  They double stitched it into my armpit to make sure I wouldn’t pull it out again but all I could think of was that more stitches would hurt more being pulled out.

Once they had finished cutting me open and inserting tubes into my chest they sent me back through to my room and gave me oxygen for a while.  I just sat there thinking about life and where mine was heading while I breathed into a bag.  Again, not fun.



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