Admittance to Bath was very smooth, despite their being on Black Alert (worst status). I was put straight in a bed in A&E, where lots of questions were asked, heart checked again etc.
A Dr. Walters (Respiratory Consultant) came along and said he thought I had a lot of fluid on my left lung which would need draining. He carried out an ultrasound through my back and confirmed this, explaining that the fluid had compressed my lung making it impossible for it to expand and contract as normal, thus causing the shortness of breath and high heartbeat.
I was then transferred to the Medical Assessment Unit (MAU). To drain the lung he applied a local anaesthetic and pushed through a needle (about 3mm interior bore I believe). Explaining the procedure, Dr Walters said that there was always a risk of puncturing a blood vessel but it was successful and totally painless.
He took an initial sample and was concerned that it contained blood. Usually if you have “water on the lungs” is it pretty clear, though can have a little blood. He explained that this was a possible indicator of cancer, which I thought unlikely given these symptoms were so recent and ‘flu like.
I was later moved up to the Respiratory Ward. The staff were instructed not to drain more than 500ml from my lung at a time, then rest it for at least an hour. You need to allow time for the lung to re-expand and not get stressed by trying to do too much. The fluid is syphoned into a jug of a few litres capacity (it is primed with some water) so you can carry it around which is handy.
The MAU nurse insisted on accompanying me to the Respiratory Ward as my fluid level was reaching 3 litres (a dark rose colour, as it remained). It was now draining quite slowly. We hit the 3L shortly after arriving.
During the night my production level suddenly increased and 1.4L was allowed to drain in one session. The nurse in charge was concerned about this (I don’t blame her as it was unexpected and a very busy night). She called a doctor and they kept asking me if I felt dizzy which I assured them I did not.
A total of six litres was drained in all. I would not have believed it possible. This fluid was formed between the lung and the ribs, not in the lung. I had no discomfort from the drain which was lucky as sometimes the relationship between the lung and the drain can alter as the lung expands.
The next day I was taken for a CT scan. I had said I was concerned about the tenderness of my sternum and my stomach and so they scanned my whole torso.
A few hours later a registrar and nurse took me and my wife to a room and explained that the scan had revealed a number of nodules on my left lung, and a larger mass on my right kidney. These were not necessarily tumours but that was the likelihood. The fluid is caused by irritation between the lung and the ribcage; there is natural lubricant there but it goes into overproduction and presumably the blood is a consequence, though whether from the lung or the lining or the nodules I am not clear. There was no indication of a problem with my sternum.
The question, therefore, was if a cancer was spreading from my right kidney to my left lung. It is not uncommon for kidney growths to be found as a by-product of treatment, as they can grow without causing any symptoms for quite a while.
So the “best” outcome is that the lung nodules are not cancerous and the kidney lump is a cyst (these often become cancerous).
The “worst” outcome is that it’s the same cancer. Treatment will depend on the assessment of this which is the next step.