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My lung collapsed

Hayley has had a pneumothorax. She talks about the problems she's had with her lungs throughout her 20s.

I woke up one morning with severe chest pain, then strangely started hearing popping sounds coming from my chest and I felt a bubbling sensation.

My family took me straight to see a doctor where I was told that I had pleurisy (an inflammation of the tissue between the lungs and ribcage) and given medication. This diagnosis later turned out to be wrong.  

A few days passed and nothing had changed, I was still in a lot of pain. A couple of days later, I was out at lunch when I suddenly felt a sinking feeling in my chest and realised that I couldn’t breathe properly.

It was terrifying, I had no idea what was happening. I was rushed to hospital and by the time I arrived, I could barely stand up and my lips were turning blue. 

My lung was the size of a golf ball

I was told that my left lung had completely deflated and was now the size of a golf ball! I spent a week in hospital. They kept trying to inflate my lung, but it just wouldn’t stay up. I was told that I would need surgery. I couldn't believe what was happening. The week before, I thought I was a just a normal, healthy 21 year old!

My operation took place a few days later. When I woke up it felt like I’d been hit by a bus, the pain was unbearable. I had thought that surgery would be the end of my problems, but it was far from it.

While in hospital, I was struggling to come to terms with my situation. I was constantly thinking about all of the things that I still needed to achieve, I really wanted to travel and see the world. 

The pain was taking over

After another week in hospital, I was able to go home to finish my recovery. But I decided to rush back to work. That was my biggest mistake! For the next 12 months I continued working but the pain was taking over. I was always exhausted, I couldn't concentrate at work and I was desperately trying to maintain my social life. Everything became too much and I left my job. 

After a few weeks of recovery, I started some contract work with less commitments while I attempted to get the pain under control. I had countless hospital visits and started seeing a pain specialist, I tried almost everything in the book. Before I knew it, 2 years had passed since the operation. I was only just starting to get control of my pain! 

Finally feeling better, I decided to apply for my dream job as a global event manager. I was so excited the day I was told I got it. Things were starting to look up! 

Travelling would often end with a trip to the hospital 

I spent the next 5 years travelling around the world, and ticking off all the places that I’d dreamed of visiting. During this time, I also got married and went on my dream honeymoon. Flying was often an issue, though. It caused me a considerable amount of pain.

By this time, I had also started having problems with my right lung, and travelling would often end with a trip to the hospital. On one 10-hour flight I felt as though my lung was collapsing as we were half way across the Atlantic.

I decided there and then that it was time to stop. I resigned from my amazing job, and moved to a new role that involved far less travel but would challenge me in other ways. 

Not long after, I starting experiencing the same bubbling sensation and popping sound in my right lung. I felt that it was only a matter of time before this lung collapsed too. Speaking with my doctor, we agreed that I should have preventative surgery. It was incredibly difficult. All I could think about was the years of pain that were to come.

3 weeks later, I had the operation.  I'm so pleased that I did! As I sat in hospital recovering this time, I looked back on what I'd achieved since my last operation. I was so proud of how far I had come. My recovery this time has been a lot easier, mainly because I knew what to expect and I set myself realistic expectations.

I take each day as it comes

Of course, there have been mornings where all I want to do is hide under my duvet, but I take each day as it comes. I'm not ashamed to admit when I'm struggling, and I have been trying to take life a little easier where possible. I'm incredibly lucky to have a supportive family, husband and group of friends who have been there every step of the way. 

Many parts of my life have changed as a result of my lung problems. I've spent the majority of my 20s battling with lung issues and pain, but I wouldn't change my situation for the world.

It has inspired me to get what I want out of life, and now I have a great career that I am very proud of. I have met some incredible people along the way, and have a totally different outlook on life.

My next big challenge is to climb Ben Nevis for the British Lung Foundation. It's the perfect excuse to exercise, build my fitness and raise some money for a great cause at the same time!

Do you have a story to tell? It could be about your lung condition, a friend or relative you know who lives with one, or how caring for them impacts your life. We'd love to hear what you've got to say!

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17 August 2017