I had the lovely opportunity to photograph and interview Robert about his life-changing experience after a lung collapse. I think you’ll appreciate his insightful responses :)
ROBERT: I suffered a severe spontaneous pneumothorax, my lung was over 80% collapsed. I’ll always think it’s ironic that you can be so healthy your lung explodes, this injury is incredibly common amongst tall slender males in the 18-25 age demographic.
The first procedure happened 10min after I was admitted to the hospital. They put in a chest tube, which was one of the least plesant experiences ever. I still cringe thinking about it.(side note: I went to the doctor the day after my lung collapsed, I didn’t think it had since I experienced no shortness of breath. I only had intense pain on my right side. Go me)
After two days in the hospital my primary doctor was really pushing a invasive surgery to fix my lung, but something in my gut said not to consent. After another two days of that he did a few shady things trying to force the surgery on me so I ended up telling him off. He walked off the case. So I went to the OSU med center, and I’m glad. When they did the initial CT scan they found the chest tube the other doctor in zanesville put in was five inches out of position.(this explains why he wanted to go straight to surgery before my body had a chance to heal on its own. He was trying to cover his ass)
But now I had to have an operation where they fixed my lung and attached the lining of the lung to the lining of the chest wall (it’s called a pleurodesis, google it if you want all the gory details). So my right lung can never collapse again.
Final thought, never, ever, unless you’re dying, go to Genesis Good Samaritan in Zanesville.
ME: What calmed you the most during your experience?
ROBERT: Family, friends, music, lot’s of social networking.
ME: Who / what was your strength during this experience?
ROBERT: Probably my parents and my nursing staff. I’m still friends with my one tech Andy, after my surgery. I had some complications and it was really touch-and-go but everyone stayed positive. Something I had done up until that point. Being drugged out of your skull (when I’m totally sober) and trying to process the information that my heart could explode makes it hard to be cheery.
ME: What was your recovery like?
ROBERT: Recovery was long mostly, it could have been longer though. I was so healthy that my recover only took a month and a half(a month and a half shorter than normal). But I’m still not 100% that could take up to a year.
In the days after I got home it was bitter sweet. I was so glad to be home but it was incredibly boring.
ME: How has this experience has changed you / your life?
ROBERT: Life right now is all about getting my old life back. I was getting into competitive cycling when this happened. And as any athlete will tell you any time you spend two weeks in the hospital followed by two months roughly of restricted recovery makes training total hell.
I’m active, I like being in shape and being outside. And this whole ordeal has temporally taken those things from me. The weather is finally improving so hopefully I can start pushing myself and see what my body can take.
ME: Do you view yourself differently since this occurred? Do you view the world differently?
ROBERT: I do view myself differently, and I definitely view the world differently.
I used to be a pretty normal 22 year old with aspirations of success and all that jazz, but after everything that happened I’m much more laid back.
I just live life and try to be happy.
I don’t give a damn about a lot of things I used to get on my soap box for, which is both weird and liberating at the same time.
I’m really hoping to get moved away from home again and get my life back so I can get back into the social work/volunteer work I like to do. So because I’m stuck at home I struggle with negative attitudes at times. Feeling worthless, but it’s just for a time then I’m back to my (new) normal positive happy self.
As far as the world’s concerned I’ve noticed that everyone around me is a fool.
People rush around chasing their dreams of what their life should be.
But they’re wasting their lives doing it. It’s impossible to explain to someone that hasn’t stared their own mortality in the face, because that changes you forever.
My advice to others? Follow your bliss. Just slow down and enjoy life, because you never know when it’s going to end.
Do what makes you happy, because that’s the purest form of success.
I’m never going to get rich helping others in need, or playing guitar, riding bikes and working on cars, but dammit I’ll wake up with a smile in my heart. I doubt CEO’s of fortune five hundred companies can say the same?
ME: What are you most grateful for now?
ROBERT: I’m honestly most grateful that this happened, it’s the best thing that ever happened to me. The way i’ve changed for the better as a person blows my mind. I’m just happy to be me.
I’m also incredibly thankful for every day I wake up, and my family and friends that stuck by me through all of this.
People still ask me how I’m feeling, and that just makes my day.
I know every person who’s ever had a near death experience gives that answer, but, it’s the truth.
The little things matter, it grounds you in the moment. I was bitter for a second that it happened three days after my 22nd birthday back in October, but now it’s the best birthday present ever. Hahaha
Photos © Michelle Black 2012