Jai Sharma is like any other 14-year-old boy. He likes playing video games, hanging out with his friends, playing soccer and swimming. Like many teenagers, the Burnaby resident is a picky eater and rejects certain foods, but his parents have learned not to sweat the small stuff. They are just glad their son’s alive.
Jai had just started high school when he was diagnosed with chronic recurring spontaneous pneumothorax: a condition in which air collects between the outside surface of the lung and the inside surface of the chest wall. These two surfaces are lined with a smooth membrane called pleura and are normally in contact with each other, but they can become separated when air, fluid or blood collects between them.
It is not always clear what causes this condition, but is thought to be due to a tiny tear on an outer part of the lung. Luckily for Jai, he was parked outside BC Children’s Hospital with his parents when his symptoms began. Scheduled for an X-ray for an unrelated problem, Jai began to experience chest pains.
“The technician was shocked to find that Jai had a collapsed lung,” says his father Bharat. “The emergency room let him in ASAP and we met Dr. Skarsgard [head of Pediatric Surgery at Children’s] who has been helping us ever since.”
Jai has now had five treatments at BC Children’s, with hospital stays lasting up to a couple of months. Common treatments for his condition include removing the trapped air through a tube that is inserted into the pleural space - the fluid filled area between the lung and chest wall. The tube may be removed immediately after the air has been removed or it may be left in place for several days. For recurrent cases like Jai’s, surgery is often required.
Coming to terms with the seriousness of Jai’s condition was hard, says his parents, but the relief they found in the care he received at BC Children’s cannot be overstated. Discharged a day early, after Jai’s first treatment, and able to take their son home to live a normal, healthy life was one of the best day of their lives, says Bharat.
He and his wife, Reena, believe supporting the hospital is important “because they save young lives!”