I was 18 years old and only weighed about 107 pounds. I had just graduated from the Merchant Seamen School for Stewards and Cooks in Santa Rosa CA where I had spent the previous three months. I was hoping to sail on the President Monroe which was one of the few luxury liners that sailed around the world and was waiting for the day when I could apply for a position on that ship. Just after having a hamburger at Zim’s in San Francisco, I felt a terrible pain in my chest. I could barely stand. Not knowing what to do, I called my mother from the pay phone and told her what was happening. She said she would call the doctor and see what he suggested. I called her back in a little while and she told me the doctor wanted me to come into his office. Somehow I drove over there. My left lung had collapsed but I did not know that until he examined me. He told me I had to check into the hospital immediately. It was pretty close. I am not sure how I got there.
Once at the hospital, I was diagnosed with a spontaneous Pneumothorax. That is leakage between the lung and the chest wall. The air builds up between the chest wall and the lung and eventually the pressure can as in my case, collapse the lung. Sometimes they just wait to see if thing heal itself but my case, it was pretty severe. They inserted some tubes into the space between the lung and the chest wall and let the air leave. It worked at first but then on several more occasions my lung collapsed again. It also appeared that I had many leaks. Eventually the decided to do a Pleurodesis. This was a surgical procedure where my the front of my left lung was in effect, glued to the chest wall and the space between the two was eliminated. I lost about 50% of my left lung’s capacity but it worked. I also lost a few ribs in the process and have a very large scare on my back. The operation back then was pretty difficult and dangerous. It was the last time I spent a night in a hospital.
Three weeks later sailed as a steward on the President Cleveland to Japan, Hong Kong and Manila via Honolulu.