Nick Booth survives collapsed lung

December 16, 2022

Senior forward, Nick Booth, running off the field. Photo by Tyler O’Connor.
Senior forward, Nick Booth, running off the field. Photo by Tyler O’Connor.

Senior marketing major and member of the Cabrini men’s soccer team, Nick Booth has had a long recovery since early September. On Sept 9. Booth struggled to breathe after feeling a sharp pain in his back. He didn’t think too much of it, thinking he strained a muscle. Luckily, he was in the athletic training room at the time.

Even with significant pain, Booth went to his soccer practice and thought he could just work out the ache with a foam roller. He made it about five seconds into the warm-up when he realized something was very, wrong.

“It was worse than I had thought, but I still assumed it was a back injury,” Booth said. 

It was not until the next day, Sept. 10. that Booth went to an Urgent Care office and saw the x-ray; he actually had a collapsed right lung.

Booth had what is called a spontaneous pneumothorax, meaning there was a sudden onset of a collapsed lung without any prior causes. 

Teammates shocked

The Cavaliers had a game the next day against Washington College and that’s when coach Dallas spread the news of Booth’s lung collapse and that they were going to play for him today. 

This was not just a loss to Booth but also to the team.

“It was tough watching him go through this. It’s his final year on the team and he wasn’t able to play in most games, he is a key piece of this team and even though he wasn’t there, he was still with us,” Matt Kekatos, senior business major, said. 

How can this happen?

No outside force causes a spontaneous pneumothorax.  Booth explained, “a bleb in my lung ruptured, causing the lung to fully collapse.” Tiny sacs of air called blebs form in the lung tissue. When a bleb ruptures, it can cause that air to leak. The leak creates pressure between the lung and chest cavity and ultimately leads the lung to collapse. Spontaneous pneumothorax is not as common as one may think. However, it is more likely to happen in tall thin males, than in women. It is estimated that 7.4 to 18 of every 100,000 men and 1.2 to 6 of every 100,000 women get this ailment.

Nick Booth. Photo by Kelly Kane.

Booth had a chest tube inserted into his right chest; chest tubes are extremely painful. They hurt during the procedure and recovery period.  Even though he was numbed, Booth said “It was literally the worst pain I’ve ever felt when it went in. And then pretty much any movement when it was in caused sharp pain.” Chest tubes are used to help clear and filter out air (pneumothorax), blood (hemothorax) fluid, (pleural effusion or hydrothorax), chyle (chylothorax), or purulence (empyema) that was in the space where his lung is supposed to be. After everything is cleared, the lung inflates itself back up. 

“Once doctors removed the tube it was painless. They had me hum a song as they did it and you don’t feel a thing,” Booth said.

The road to recovery

Nick Booth in the hospital. Photo courtesy of Nick Booth.

Recovery from spontaneous pneumothorax is not always a long and time-consuming process. Usually, it only takes one to two weeks to fully recover. However, Booth’s was not so simple; he needed a lot of patience and rest. Booth had to take a full month off from all physical activities. And it has taken him a while to build some strength back in his lungs. Even to this day he is still not fully recovered. The issue now is that once you have one collapsed lung, you have a much higher chance of it happening again. The trick is making sure patients are fully recovered before jumping right back into their normal daily life activities. 

Now two months post-incident, Booth works hard every day to get himself back to homeostasis. Going through a scary and traumatic incident like this has made him more appreciative of what he does.

“Things can happen so quickly and it’s important to focus on making each day as good as the last,” Booth said.

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