Day 23 🙂
I am catching up slowly! I hope you’ve had a great Endo awareness month so far.
Today we highlight Lyndsay’s story as she shares her journey with Thoracic Endometriosis. Lyndsay shared her story with Lisa on Bloomin’ Uterus in January this year.
Lyndsay was 32 years old when she was diagnosed with Endometriosis. Now 37, she lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with her beautiful family and wants to share her Endo Journey with us. Lyndsay is one of the rare EndoSisters whose lungs are affected by the disease!
Lyndsay’s Journey: I always had painful periods as a teenager, and into my twenties. I didn’t really think anything of it at the time.
At age 26, I was in a car accident where I was the passenger. The SUV rolled a few times as the driver had swerved to avoid a deer. We climbed out of the windshield, appearing unharmed. Paramedics checked us out and said we looked fine. I followed up with my doctor since I still felt off a day later, but she also said I seemed fine.
It was a little over a year later, I was working out at the gym and had a strange stomach pain. It got worse as the night went on, and I ended up in the hospital. I waited for almost 8 hours before I saw someone in the ER (my vitals were normal, so I was not deemed to be a priority). When they finally were able to check me out, they did an X-ray to see what could be causing my issues. It turned out my diaphragm had ripped open, and my organs had pushed up into my chest cavity, and partially collapsed my right lung. They asked if I had been kicked by a horse (I hadn’t) or if I’d been in a car accident. I told them I had over a year ago.
My issue puzzled the ER, and they sent me into surgery with 3 different surgeons – a general surgeon, a thoracic surgeon, and an ob/gyn. My surgery took over 8 hours and we learned a lot.
- It appeared that my liver had a strange ring around it and they said it was likely that during the car accident, the liver was pushed up through my diaphragm and remained wedged in there for over a year. (Note that during that year, my periods were more painful than I’d ever experienced);
- The car accident had left one of my Fallopian tubes crushed;
- I had endometriosis in my uterus / abdomen;
- The liver being shoved into my chest also damaged my right lung leaving it 10% collapsed for over a year.
I came out of surgery with a chest tube on the right side. After a few days in the hospital, they removed my chest tube and sent me home. My chest filled up with blood after I was sent home, and I had a series of visits where they would drain liters of bloody liquid from my chest.
Eventually, I had another surgery on the right side and a chest tube put in to clear up the issue. I spent weeks in the hospital and eventually, they sent me home with a portable chest tube device (it has some German name that I can’t recall). The home health nurse that came to check in on my lung issue/chest tube device wasn’t properly cleaning her tools she used to remove the fluid from the device, and after a week at home, I ended up with a pretty serious infection along the chest tube site. I was hospitalized again, and after a few more weeks of treatment, and gradually removing the chest tube, I had stabilized.
Fast forward 2 years. In this time, I got married and was pregnant with my first baby. The pregnancy seemed to be going well until I hit about 20-22 weeks. I was gaining weight normally, growing the way I should be growing, etc until about week 22. I started to plateau. I also had a nasty cough and started to lose weight. I consulted my ob/gyn (I switched to the practice that was involved in my surgery since I thought they knew the most about my medical history). When I voiced concerns about my weight loss, I was told by one of the female docs in the practice that “you are the type of person who doesn’t like to gain weight”…. I told her she was wrong and I was trying to eat the best food for the baby and at this point was drinking ensure to gain weight. She dismissed my concerns.
Things got worse as my pregnancy went on. I lost more and more weight, got short of breath very easily, and after almost going into labor early, was placed on bed rest for a few weeks until I demanded to be seen to check in the baby (the practice was very dismissive of my concerns – at this point, I was puking, had diarrhea, and looked very emaciated). I demanded to have an ultrasound to be sure the baby was okay. I went into the office and was immediately shipped off to labor and delivery to have my baby. Once I was dilated 9-10cm, pushing out the baby wasn’t so bad. I had a horrible cough, but actually, my coughing/gagging helped my body to push my son out of my body. He was born in about an hour and was a 5lb 2oz healthy baby boy and I was so happy.
I felt off physically after I gave birth, but was assured that it was normal to feel that way. I would talk and lose my breath for like a full minute. After persistently asking to have someone help me with my cough/ breathing issue, (they tried to send me home telling me I was fine), a doctor in another department saw my history, knew I’d had collapsed lungs before, and ordered a CT scan. So after my 3 wonderful days with my baby, I was told my lung had fully collapsed on the right side and that I’d need to go into surgery to repair it. I was devastated that I wouldn’t get to spend every minute with my new baby but knew I had to fix my lung. I had the lung repaired, had 2 chest tubes, and was in the hospital a little over a week.
Going home was such a great feeling so that I could reunite with my newborn. The cause of the lung collapse was still unknown at this point, but the guess was something related to the childbirth had irritated it. They estimated that if I got pregnant again, there would only be a 15% chance this would happen again.
Fast forward 2.5 years, I was on vacation and it happened to be a period week. I took Seasonique at the time which allowed for only 4 periods a year which I requested due to how painful they were. I was coughing and I coughed up blood. I started googling “coughing up blood on your period” and for the first time saw an article about how some people had endometriosis in their chest cavities and could cough up blood during their period.
I called my thoracic surgeon to tell this to him. We discussed options for a bit and his suggestion was basically, “if you want another baby, I’d try to get pregnant soon and then I’d get on a birth control pill and not ever take the blanks, but also consult with an ob/gyn”.
A few months later (thankfully) I got pregnant, and actually made it through most of this pregnancy without issue, however, I also went into labor early with this one and gave birth to a baby girl. I did dilate up to 9cm and while they were getting ready to deliver, they noticed she was breech, and I had to be quickly sent into surgery to do a c-section to deliver her. During surgery, my ob/gyn noticed a lot of strange weblike tissue in my abdomen. He cut it all out for me, and sent some to be biopsied. It wasn’t determined to have some endometrial implants on it. My daughter was healthy, but tiny. She was 4lbs 15oz, and while we were all sent home from the hospital together, when she went in for her first doctor visit the next morning, her body temp was too low and she had to be admitted to children’s. My husband took her since I was recovering from my c-section and the same night, I ended up in the ER with chest pain. It turned out both sides of my chest filled up with blood.
My surgeon surmised that if I did have endometriosis in my chest cavity (he thought it traveled there after my car accident), that the surge of hormones during delivery most likely caused the crazy bleeding. He suggested a lot of walking (20 min 3 times a day) could help keep my lungs expanded and push out the fluid. After a few weeks of that, my lungs were back to normal. My daughter also was out of the hospital after 5 days. She just had to gain some weight to be able to hold her body temperature. She and I were both home recovering together.
About 7 months later, I had some severe stomach pains and ended up in the ER. They diagnosed me with stomach ulcers. After a few weeks on antacids, I ended up back in the hospital with a collapsed right lung. After 2 failed pigtail catheter attempts, I ended up with 2 collapsed lungs. I had the pleurodesis done on the right and had 2 chest tubes placed on that side and 1 on the left. The pleurodesis is a procedure which irritates the chest wall to make it sticky so that the lung will adhere to the chest wall and not be able to collapse. The left side healed quickly (relatively) but the right side did not. Pleurodesis didn’t work evenly. Another chest tube placement was tried to get the doxycycline into different areas on the chest wall to try to get the lung to stick. It stuck in a strange web-like formation leaving a few pockets of space. One pocket was a part of the lung that still had an air leak.
I was in and out of the hospital over a 6 month period including a 6-week hospital stay and an 8-week hospital stay. I went home for a few weeks with a chest tube unit (the large one that wouldn’t allow for infection). Finally, they decided to remove the chest tube even though leak remained. The lung was stable even though the hole was still there. I was stable with the web-like right lung for 3 years.
Fast forward to daylight savings time one year … I had been taking birth control pills without the blanks for a few years without issue. I forgot this year to adjust the time I take my pill. I have an alarm on my phone that goes off at 9pm every day. Well a few weeks later, my lung collapsed. It happened just after Thanksgiving. My doctor allowed me to wait out the holidays with my family and come in January to get a chest tube. I was thankful to spend Christmas at home since I had missed Christmas the year my daughter was born. He tried just the small pigtail catheter in January. It worked temporarily, but I had another collapse in March and opted to do the pleurodesis on the left side. It seemed to work and expected to be the more permanent solution.
I made it until October before having another issue. It seemed as though the very bottom of the lung had come “unglued”. After this repair, I went to consult with Cleveland Clinic in their Pulmonary Medicine Department and also talked to the Head of Thoracic Surgery. They both said that they had nothing new to offer, but confirmed the steps my doctors had taken were what they would have thought to do. In their 20 years at the Hospital, they had only seen 1 other case similar to mine. They explained to me that I most likely had microscopic endometrial implants in my chest cavity. The implants bubble up during a period and then the bubbles pop when the hormone is no longer present. They suggested consulting more with an ob/gyn but also said that once I hit menopause the issue would go away.
Today I am writing this while in the Hospital less than a month from that conversation in Cleveland. My insurance changed my birth control brand to a generic. It had the same active ingredients, so I thought it would be okay. I had break through bleeding, and a week later the left lung collapsed. I had pigtail catheter chest tube installed on the left to suck out the air and allow the hole to heal. I am having my doctor write a prescription that requires me to remain on my current brand of birth control to prevent this from happening. It was encouraging to hear everyone’s stories, and if you can actually make it all the way through my crazy saga, I hope it’s helpful.
Words of Advice: If you are treating a lung endo issue with birth control, be careful about switching brands and remember to adjust for daylight savings time. Be strong and hang in there. It helps to take it just 1 day at a time and remember every day out of the hospital is a good one.
The Last Word: It’s comforting in a way to know that others have the same issue as me. Every time I tell my story to people, they look so horrified and have never heard of lungs collapsing due to endometriosis. I am happy to have a community of others with crazy endo issues.
If you wish to contact Lyndsay, you can email her here.
Thank you for sharing your story, Lyndsay. We are praying that a cure for Endo is found soon. May God’s grace and strength be sufficient for you as you battle endo and balance being a mum and wife. Here’s to happy, pain-free days ahead.