Thoracentesis is an invasive procedure that removes liquid or air from the pleural space—the gap between the inner chest wall and the lungs. Yesterday, after a quick review of an X-ray, the pulmonologist said he would perform a thoracentesis on me, using a needle inserted into the pleural space to drain accumulated fluid. When I reminded him that his associate—a resident named Bonnie—had been unable to find the build-up of fluid during my recent  ER visit—he said “oh, it’s there.” Both a recent CT scan and an X-ray had revealed a significant amount of fluid, but an ultra-sound did not confirm its presence. “Oh, it’s there.” He scheduled the thoracentesis in a hospital procedure room for 11 a.m., less than an hour later. Though I did not relish the idea of a needle being thrust into my back, if it would make breathing easier I was willing to tolerate the process. But, a short while later, after the doctor began exploring my lungs with the ultra-sound device, he said, “I hate to tell you this...” I waited for him to finish, but his voice trailed off. I worried. He followed up with, “there is not enough fluid to drain.” He went on the explain something to the effect that the appearance of pleural fluid on the X-ray was an artifact of the thoracotomy to remove the lower lobe of my right lung five years earlier. And, then, it was over. The doctor and his APRN left the room, the nurse who would have assisted him wiped the ultra-sound gel from my back, and I was sent on my merry way. No conversation about “next steps,” no discussion of follow-up, nothing. At least I was able to watch the solar eclipse a while later.


During the period of totality, the eclipse was stunning. The darkness that accompanied the eclipse was not like the darkness of night. It seemed like an odd combination of pre-dawn darkness and the darkness that precedes the disappearance of the sun at the end of the day. But the eerie, dim light all around the horizon was unlike anything one expects to see in nature. And, during totality, at the dark sun’s six o’clock, a bright red-orange solar flare was visible shooting out from the black orb. All around the edges of the blackened globe in the sky were white rays piercing the darkness. The air temperature cooled dramatically as the moon shielded the sun. If I had not known that a naturally-occurring eclipse was taking place, I might have assumed I was witnessing the final moments of the sun’s enormous power. Many of the photos of the eclipse are breathtaking. I am so very glad I had the opportunity to view the event. And, to top it off, I was fed homemade pizza. Except for allergies and the occasional brush with lung cancer, life is good!


A couple of hours outside, waiting for and watching the eclipse, wreaked havoc on my body. Even this morning, my eyes remain red and puffy; they keep trying to glue themselves shut. And I cannot breathe through my nose. My occasional sneeze threatens to tear my head from my body. I took a Claritin tablet around 10:30 last night, roughly five hours after I got in bed to “nap” in the hope I could sleep my way through this miserable allergy to air and pollen and water and light and all things natural. And I did sleep…some. But coughing and struggling to open my lungs to oxygen kept sleep at bay for much of the night. I would gladly accept the life-giving force of a hypodermic needle filled with allergy-erasers if such a gift existed. Why, I wonder, is there nothing readily available to me that would chase away my allergies to pollen? This Spring is,  by far, the worse yet for my reaction to the allergens in the air. At this moment, I long to be in a climate free of trees and flowers and pet dander and dust and other irritants that make me feel like I might as well be inhaling ground glass and powder-fine dust of dried ground Carolina Reaper peppers. I may be exaggerating; but just the tiniest bit.


One badly-overripe avocado and three more that, I hope, have just reached the peak of perfection. I am torn between having avocado toast for breakfast and waiting until later to have bacon, avocado, and tomato sandwiches. There’s a pie in the fridge, too; so, if necessary, I could delay the avocadoes until lunchtime to give me the opportunity to have pie for breakfast. Or something entirely different. Ice cream, perhaps. Or a mocha-flavored Ensure or Boost. They want me to maintain or increase my weight, by God; I may do a little of everything. Whatever it takes. Just as long as I never have to go outside during allergy season again.


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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One Response to Totality

  1. bevwigney says:

    Good to hear that you didn’t need a thoracentesis, not that it’s such a terrible thing. My mom had that procedure done a couple of times. Also good that you were able to experience the eclipse. It wasn’t nearly so spectacular here even though my place was just a little off the path of totality.
    Yes, eat all the goodies you like. It’s vitally important to keep your weight up during all of the treatments.

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