At 6 feet, 4 inches tall, 21-year-old Cameron Foissett is taller than most of his peers, let alone most people. It is his tall, thin frame, along with other characteristics, that brought Cameron to Sharp Grossmont Hospital for a condition commonly associated with young men of his stature.
Cameron’s family had just returned from a trip and he helped unload the car. Later that day, he noticed a sharp pain in his back, but brushed it off as a pulled muscle. However, the pain continued to worsen and within 30 minutes, it had spread from his back to his chest, left arm and ear.
His mother drove him to Sharp Grossmont Hospital’s emergency department, where exams revealed he had a pneumothorax, also referred to as a collapsed lung. A pneumothorax occurs when air enters the space between the lung and chest wall, putting pressure on the outside of the lung and preventing it from fully expanding.
“I don’t normally cry from pain, but they had me take deep breaths in when they were listening to my chest,” Cameron says. “I broke down in tears because of how painful it was.”
Cameron’s left lung had collapsed.
Complications followed by expert care
Doctors placed a tube in Cameron’s chest to remove the air from the chest cavity so that his lung could fully expand again. However, Cameron’s lung still had not fully healed. Dr. Ara Klijian, a cardiothoracic surgeon affiliated with Sharp Grossmont Hospital, was brought in for a consult.
He discovered that Cameron had air-filled blisters on his lungs, known as blebs, which had popped, releasing air into his chest cavity. He also had a bronchopleural fistula, which is a connection between the lung and pleural space. These conditions had prevented Cameron’s lung from healing.
Dr. Klijian performed surgery on Cameron to remove the blebs and repair the bronchopleural fistula. He said that in addition to these conditions, certain risk factors may have also played a role in Cameron’s collapsed lung: Cameron is a tall, thin male and a former cigarette and e-cigarette smoker.
According to Dr. Klijian, Cameron’s case was complex, but his surgery went well. “Our goal was to make sure he recovered and his oxygenation improved before he could be discharged,” he says.
During his hospital stay, Cameron did his best to cope with the situation by relying on uplifting words from friends and family. He also found comfort in the staff who cared for him.
“It was Cameron’s fourth week at the hospital,” says Theresa McGirr, Cameron’s grandmother. “His nurse, Ray LeBlanc, a nursing assistant at Sharp Grossmont Hospital, took him outside on the balcony.”
Cameron says that LeBlanc was a big help in keeping him happy. He made jokes and was always smiling and incredibly friendly.
“He was the most memorable part of my stay,” Cameron says. “Everyone around me was so positive, that I could not help but enjoy the company that was there. It sucked that I was in the hospital, but they helped me make the most of it.”
Since leaving the hospital, Cameron has returned to work as a barista at a coffee shop and is slowly easing back into his everyday life. He is aware that having a collapsed lung puts him at risk for a future episode.
“While in the hospital, the staff prepared me for the potential of it happening again,” says Cameron. “I am ready, but I am also hopeful and I am grateful for their help.”