So our tale begins with the obligatory, experience-of-a-lifetime, Europe backpacking trip. A series of arts-funding related snafus had left me sans work for a period, my film was accepted to the Zebra Film Awards (and hence a handy excuse to live it up on the red carpet), so it was decided to hop on a plane.

So fast-forwarding through Berlin, Prague, Geneva, The Swiss Alps, Luzern, Zurich and the Glarner Alps and onto Paris. Wonderful Paris. City of a million clichés which are annoyingly fairly accurate.

This is a repost from my mass email, so if you’ve read that, well don’t worry about it.

I’d been happily wandering around Paris for a few days, enjoying this beautiful city. And on Monday, I had designated my Lourve day.
So anyways, to cut a very long story short(ish) (this is me after all and I can’t keep anything brief) I got a intense pain in my chest, shortness of breath, raised heart rate, but me being convinced of invicibility, continued to wander around for 12 hours before deciding (on the advice of a Dr friend.) to go to a hospital.
In hindsight, this was rather stupid as I couldn’t walk for more than 25meters before having to have a breather and preferably a sit down.

I went to the British hospital which wasn’t interested as I wasn’t a pregnant woman and turfed me to the American hospital who assured me that it was probably nothing serious and I couldn’t afford them in any case, and then finally onto a local French hospital. It was apparently a 2minute walk, which turned out closer to a 35min one wheeze and stumble.

So into the French ‘urgences’, where no one spoke English and when they did, they promptly demanded to know if I “believed in French”. To this rather confusing question I was quite prepared to say oui and if they asked if I believed in xenu the evil alien dictator who was affecting my thetan levels, I would have said yes as I was thoroughly fucked off, short of breath and generally uncomfortable.

But to their credit I was on an EKG within 10 minutes which came back abnormal, got blood taken (they were considering infection) and then a chest x-ray which revealed a ‘complete spontaneous pneumothorax’ as the radiologist cheerfully told me.

This is, in common terms, a collapsed lung. It comes in various degrees, but being hyper competitive, I managed to collapse the entire goddam thing. The x-ray is gnarly; usually a chest x-ray is more or less symmetrical, and mine had a big black gaping hole where the lung usually as. Wicked.
So I was promptly bundled off to a step-down ward (one down from ICU) and a French doctor was to ‘drain’ my chest.

A note on the French, they have a wonderful way of understatement. He was quite adamant that there was nothing to be impressed about as these are very common and not very dangerous (though occasionally life threatening), and that if I had both lung collapsed then it might be slightly more complicated. (These are referred to as a fatal bilateral pneumothorax).
But anyways, treatment consists of morphine (not as exciting as I had hoped) and a scalpel, big fucking needle and a tube. They slice under the armpit, punch a needle in, and then thread a tube in. I was under the impression it’s a small tube, but it turns out its nearly 30 centimeters of polymer fun inside your chest. Which would explain why it is so goddam uncomfortable. This tube is stuck to you, and connected to my friend the pleurevac; a water seal which bubbles cheerfully as it removes the air from your chest cavity.


So that’s the procedure.

The next few days were marked by boredom. I was on bed rest; being hooked up to Mr. Drip and Mr. pleurevac meant no moving around.
In fact I was so goddam bored, that the highlights of the day was

  • The incredibly bad food. It makes airline food seem like 3 star Michelin fare. You don’t actually eat the stuff, but it’s the event which is important.
  • My top of up pain killers…
  • Pissing in my pistolet (like a funky teapot you piss in) because then someone would have to come in an empty it.

Now this is quite a loss of dignity, but after a few days, even having someone come in to empty your piss was preferable to the insanity that creeps in when you’ve been lying in your own funk for a few days with only yourself to keep company.

I did have my super wonderful friend who I was staying with in Paris who came in and brought me lovely French pastries and snackies (which I totally lived off), her ipod (greatest thingy ever) and reading materials so huge thanks and hugs!

Nurses – presumably the upside to the whole situation. I unfortunately drew the short straw and missed out on hot French nurses for the first few days. I did better for the last day and a half, where I managed to score a sponge bath. Highly recommended)
But for the first few days I got a trainee nurse, who also had her final examination and was nervous as hell. Her hands were shaking and she arsed up my drip causing a lovely burning in my left arm (and an awesome yellow bruise which is still there). She also was insisting to write down that I was feeling fine (when I was anything but) and didn’t want to give me drugs until after her examination.

But all in all, I was very well looked after by my doctors and medical staff.

I can’t fly for 3 weeks, and am supposed to take it easy for 3 weeks.

I will say I am more than a little concerned as I have a 10 – 50% chance of reoccurrence. If it happens contra laterally I have a good chance of that slightly more complicated problem of a fatal bilateral pneumothorax. I also have an even better chance of one happening when lifting stuff, a slight problem being a dancer, no scuba diving, no parachuting, trumpet playing and even long haul flights are a risk.

But I am out of hospital now, have the fun of fighting it out with insurance. Am still short of breath, my lung capacity isn’t back to where it was, and it still hurts a bit, and I guess the worst is the fear that it will happen again.

Mum had a freak and came over, which was nice of her, and now have an enforced 3weeks in Paris, which I guess, could be much much worse.
I am very glad that I got it in Paris and not while tootling around in china.