Thursday, October 1

Pectus Update: I Hate Sleeping On My Back


I’m lacking in photo’s to post, due in large part to a serious lack of time during good photographing hours to take pictures because I’m busy getting ready to leave the country, taking care of details that accumulated while in the hospital, and dealing with church business (something I rather enjoy).

Why am I starting off a post about my Pectus Surgery like this? Well, *shrug*, because I’m in a rambling mood. And I feel guilty for breaking my promise to post photos every day. Oh well, there must be content, and Sean wants to know how things are going, and because the rest of the world is probably curious, or at least some of you are because I’m getting search engine referrals for my previous two pectus articles (Pop Goes the Sternum! or How I Had My Pectus Excavatum Corrected, the Aftermath and The Pectus Journey: Before and After (photos)), I thought posting the update here would be a good place.

So, two paragraphs in and I’m finally getting to the point. ;) It has been approximately 4.5 weeks since my surgery. I mentioned earlier that I acquired a cough the week I got out of the hospital, the cough being the sickness of choice this winter, the one going around. I still have said cough, though it does seem to be clearing up, though not quickly. It is possible the reason for that is in part due to my surgery, simply because anesthesia and major trauma have a tendency to put a damper on the immune system, and mine was not real healthy to begin with.

Now for some vital statistics, I still can’t sleep comfortably on my sides. This is more of a mental aggravation than a physical one. I sleep most comfortably on my side, and sleeping has been difficult because the only safe position for me is on my back.

Speaking of which, my back is killing me. You see, when they insert the half inch steel bar beneath your rib cage, they make a two inch incision just beneath your pectoral muscles (that is, they do this if they are performing the Nuss procedure). It just so happens that the 6th nerve running from your spinal cord around the rib cage to the sternum is positioned just beneath the pectoral muscle. It also happens that the 6th nerve starts just in the middle of your shoulder blade.

Getting back to my back, trust me, this is going somewhere. So this nerve is in a bad place. Now, the incision on the right side is longer than the left because that incision is where they insert the bar, and because the right side is where the three inch cross bar is inserted to anchor the bar and to prevent it from flipping. The right side of the chest therefore undergoes a lot more trauma than the left, and because of the cross bar and larger incision, the 6th nerve that runs right in the middle of all this mess gets highly aggravated.

Speaking of aggravated, that is just what happened to the muscle that runs behind my right shoulder blade and on down to about the middle of my back. Very aggravated. You see, since my surgery that muscle has been knotted. Last Tuesday I did something to make it angrier than it already was, and I woke up Wednesday unable to bend much in any direction without severe pain shooting around that nerve causing the nerve endings to communicate a feeling that I would describe as someone taking a sharp object and stabbing my in my sternum. ;)

After much pain medication and a lot of pain, I managed to stretch the offending muscle out enough to get it back to normal levels of pain and knottiness. I expect that when the incisions heal completely, and the scar tissue that forms around the bar to hold it in place is finished growing, the muscle will unbind completely. Till then, I have trouble sitting. Standing is ok, walking is better, but nothing feels as good as lying flat on my back. A position I was in most of last Thursday and Friday, because I spent the whole of both days working that way with my laptop on my knees, unable to sit up for more than a few minutes before succumbing to pain.

Today was a much better day though. I woke up feeling pretty good. The muscle in my back was looser than it has been since surgery, and the pectoral muscles around the incision were feeling very good. I am, for the most part, off the Percocet, though I still take it sporadically when I do something to offend the tenderer parts of my physiology. I find that two pills make me pleasantly drowsy, though not enough to make me sleep without consent. I’m actually much sharper mentally when on the drug, partly I think, because the narcotic loosens me up, much like caffeine does when it causes the release of dopamine and adrenaline. One pill is hardly noticeable.

Other observations: the cough has made breathing difficult. I thing the cough is more the culprit than anything else. I will note that the bar is more restrictive than I had anticipated. I expect I won’t be able to breathe quite as deep or as easily till the bar is removed. This won’t affect my health, and isn’t a concern for me, as I consider the restriction temporary. I can say that aside from the breathing difficulties due to the cough, I do feel better.

It used to be that every day, walking, sitting or sleeping, there was a constant heavy, slightly painful feeling that resided in my solar plexus, just beneath my sternum. That heavy feeling is gone. Also, my ribs beneath my pectus are starting to bend back down like normal. Usually, they stuck out, forming the other half of the bowl. Its good for morale to see my chest starting to look normal, and to be able to look in a mirror and see the torso of a well formed masculine physique. I jest of course. … Well, not really. ;)

I’ll leave you with a few thoughts about travelling. I’m going to Ireland in a couple weeks, where I will be taking a lot of photos, getting to see castles, cliffs, and ancient ruins. I’m dreading the 13 hours of flying and waiting in airports. I’m hoping the next week and a half will see a decent amount of improvement in my stamina and back. Currently, I hit a pretty big wall of fatigue about 2:00 to 4:00 in the afternoon. Walking isn’t much of a problem, but carrying anything substantial is hard, and walking up hill brings me out of breath much faster than I am used to. This is mostly due to this blasted cough, so if you will pray that I may be better by my trip, I would be grateful. I don’t want the flights to be excruciating, so more strength in my back would also be a great boon.

Ok, a long enough post. I promise that I will resume a normal flow of photos, the occasional poem, and hopefully will continue posting writing soon. I am getting caught up with things, and am looking forward to a delightful spring and a long summer filled with not much of anything beyond my normal pursuits.

Thanks for listening,


About Author

I have been writing on the web since 2000. I am a christian , a photographer, an occasional poet, a recovering dreamer, an occasional philosopher, a software developer, an autodidact, and I resemble the INFP personality type.


  1. Linda Cozart on

    Wow….so much pain. This makes me hurt to read!!!! I thought I had a backache but you have convinced me that I feel wonderful!

  2. Two things. Well, three.

    First. The restrictive bar feeling will go away. I was borderline clausterphobic with it for the first few months. Once you hit that 3 month line, however, you barely notice it.

    Second, “much sharper mentally when you are on the drug”? Hmm.

    Third, having a normal male chest really boosts the ego, doesn’t it? I like my new look, although the skin that used to be in the “dent” is still a little numb feeling (getting better though).

    Have fun on your trip and don’t let Jon wear his druid costume too often…

  3. Knowing the restrictive feeling of the bar will go away is a big relief. I wouldn’t say I got claustrophobic, but the feeling was a little dissappointing, thinking I would have to wait till the bar was removed before it went away.

    Yeah, the percocet feeling actually makes it easier for me to think. Weird yes. I think it has something to do with the fact that feeling more relaxed, I’m more content, and thus less likely to stop thinking about something because its boring or difficult.

    And the nicer chest is cool. The numbness is weird, I had wondered what that was about, but figured it would go away.

    What’s most annoying now is that angry back muscle. It rears its ugly head regularly, and because I’m still coughing and there is still enough pain, I am unable to properly stretch it.

  4. Ooo, Ireland! Bring me back a Leprichaun. Ok, ok, so you can’t move fast enough to catch one. I’ll just be content with pictures to put up in my house. I’d love some castles and a few pretty Irish scenes.