Diagnosis Deflated

July 3, 2011 by Jennifer Carsen

I haven’t had great luck lately with things that inflate.

Last Saturday, I discovered that I had a flat tire on my car – I didn’t “discover” it so much as have it pointed out to me by an observant bystander at the gas pump next to mine.

I’ve had a somewhat checkered driving history over the years, hitting such notable items as the big yellow concrete pole in the McDonald’s drive-through, my husband’s car (about 20 years before he became my husband, back when we were two crazy high school kids), and – most memorably – the side of my own house when I was living in Chicago. But that’s a story for another time.

In any event, I’ve cleaned up my act on wheels in the last several years, and I had no idea when – or how – I’d done such a number on my tire. And make no mistake: It was flat. Like, cartoony-melted-looking flat. Fortunately, the local garage was able to replace it without having to replace the other three as well (an unfortunate drawback of the otherwise very nifty all-wheel drive that comes standard on all Subarus).

So that was last weekend. Today, for a change of pace, I spent four hours in the emergency room.

Yesterday morning I woke up unable to draw a really deep breath – I understand now how those dogs on choke collars feel. I was also feeling a little winded every time I carted Lorelei up the stairs (she’s a big baby, but not that big). I figured I’d give it a day to settle out.

This morning I woke up feeling much the same, but with a little chest pain thrown in. I didn’t want to become the subject of one of those Reader’s Digest real-life-told-you-so feature stories (New Hampshire mother Jennifer Carsen thought it was just her abnormally large one-year-old that was making her feel breathless and winded. It was a mistake that nearly cost her her life…), so I went to the emergency room. Lorelei remained home with Daddy; she was happily absorbed in Dora the Explorer, downing handfuls of Infeerios, when I headed out.

At the ER, they hooked me up to a bunch of electrodes, ran some tests, took a chest X-ray, and expressed thinly veiled disbelief when I told them that, truly, I was not a closet cigarette smoker.

The verdict? The upper lobe of my right lung is collapsed – apparently clogged with some sort of enormous, mucousy lung loogie.

The doctor was nearly as surprised as I was. I guess a collapsed lung tends to be one of those things you see coming, following a bout with pneumonia or a kick in the chest from a mule (neither of which I’ve experienced, unless that mean mule slipped a roofie in my drink before puncturing my tire and kicking me in the chest, which would explain my recent difficulty establishing a chain of causation).

It’s definitely one of those things that sounds worse than it is. I was sent home with a spirometer, which is a plastic contraption with measurements on it that you take deep draws of air from every few hours; it both measures your lung capacity and helps strengthen your breathing. It actually looks like a bong designed for the anal-retentive. Of course, all three of us tried it when I got home – I shudder to think of the early memories taking root in my daughter’s tender mind.

I was also prescribed over-the-counter Mucinex. If you’ve never taken it, be warned: They are the largest pills I have ever seen, and they specifically tell you not to attempt to “crush, chew, or break” them.

They also mention, helpfully, that “This product can be administered without regard for the timing of meals” – I think mainly due to the fact that one Mucinex is a de facto meal in itself. They should really be recommending appropriate sides instead.


  1. […] four weeks to the day – and nearly the minute – after I was there with my collapsed lung (which wound up either causing, or being caused by, a mild case of pneumonia), Eric and I made a […]

  2. jcarsen says:

    Thanks, Ali–I am indeed feeling much better today!

  3. Ali Frates says:

    I just laughed out loud at your description of the incentive spirometer because you’re right. That’s exactly what they look like! Hope you’re feeling better.

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