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Kaden C., CA

In the summer of 2021, in the midst of recovering from an entire year and a quarter of distance/ virtual learning through freshmen year of high school, I suffered a sudden, primary spontaneous pneumothorax. At 14 years old, a sudden hospitalization for a condition I had never heard of was not what I thought would be in my future. I had never even touched a single cigarette nor vaped. I had been dutifully wearing my mask if I had to go to track practices, I practiced socially distancing at all times and avoided larger, indoor gatherings throughout 2020 and 2021.

During my childhood, I suffered recurrent Kawasaki’s disease and was hospitalized three separate times at CHOC, before a third treatment regimen finally held up. One of my coronary arteries was affected, but overall, after many treatments and regular follow-ups with my pediatric cardiologist, I was cleared for sports and a normal routine life. But having a rare autoimmune-like vascular inflammatory disease in my childhood health history, put my entire family on high alert when the pandemic hit. Then new research showed that MIS-C in children and KD are on the same immune response continuum as COVID-19. This heightened our whole family’s anxiety over my health issues.

My first spontaneous pneumothorax came on suddenly with a sharp pain in my chest and then a heavy feeling that did not go away in the middle of my chest. After a couple of days, it had not gone away and I was taken to get a chest xray after my pediatrician heard no breath sounds. A few hours later, I was in the emergency room where I had emergency chest tube insertion for a large collapsed lung. The pain was excruciating. After 5 days of monitoring at Children’s Hospital, I was discharged to hopefully resume my summer after a month of rest and recovery.

I celebrated my 15th birthday during that first month and I thought I was in the clear. But four weeks after my first pneumothorax, I felt the same familiar pain and I was taken back to the ER. This time the emergency chest tube placement was even more painful. It was highly recommended by the pediatric thoracic surgeon for me to have surgery at this point. I had VATS thoracoscopy on my right lung later that same evening which consisted of a bleb resection and pleurectomy. After a longer stay in the surgical ward for recovery, my lung was finally stable.

No one has definitively been able to give me an answer as to why these pneumothoraces occurred, as I do not have any of the prominent risk factors like asthma, connective tissue diseases or vaping/smoking. But I am young, thin male so doctors say it is more common with these features. Post-surgery, I suffered from nerve pain and numbness and mental anxiety that it will happen again. Going back to high school and resuming sports was a challenge.

I founded Spontaneous Pneumothorax Youth Project (@SPYouthProject) for teens and young adults because I could not find any supports groups for my age and condition. It is a peer support group to raise awareness and education and to let others worldwide know that they are not alone in this journey.

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