I had my urgent review with my lung specialist a couple of days ago. A month for an urgent appointment seemed fairly quick when NHS waiting times are so terribly long. The clinic was crowded and I spent the first hour waiting to see him. I then related my story of how the osteopath had worked on my paralysed diaphragm and I had improved. But after a while, I explained, my problem symptoms had returned. The lung specialist made notes in my file and sent me for a series of tests and an X-ray.
I returned with the results of the breathing tests. He was looking at the new X-ray and comparing it with the one I had taken in December. ‘Afraid I can’t see any difference’, he said and beckoned me over to the desk. Side by side were the two pictures of my chest. They were almost identical. On both, my raised left diaphragm was clearly visible.
I felt crestfallen. ‘He probably just moved your stomach a little’ said the specialist, ‘and lessened the pressure on your lung for a while.’ I was so disappointed. I thought I had been given a miraculous cure for my breathing problems. And now I had found it was an illusion.
The specialist explained that there was an operation, plication, which would lower the diaphragm and fix it in place. The trouble was that this surgery would mean that the diaphragm would never move again. He was keen for me to pursue this and referred me to a thoracic surgeon.
I agreed to go and see the surgeon to find out more. But this felt to me like a last chance option that I wasn’t yet ready to take. My diaphragm was only partially paralysed and weakly moving so I had to explore options for improving it first. I decided I would also go and consult a nerve specialist.
I left the clinic feeling extremely down. All my breathing problems and fears for the future came rushing in. After my raised hopes, these burdens seemed all the heavier. I sat with a pal in a cafe and related my story over a coffee and a caramel square. ‘What you need is a holiday,’ he said. I smiled for the first time that day - ‘we’re heading to Dubrovnik next week’.