My name is Luke Barrett and I am a sophomore from South Bend, IN on the Notre Dame men’s swim team. In October 2014, I had my first collapsed lung due to a collision in a pickup football game. I had video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery and the doctors placed a staple line along my right lung. Last September, during one of the first weeks of school, my right lung collapsed again at swim practice, eventually reflating on its own within a couple days. In March, my left lung collapsed and my left chest cavity filled with two liters of blood and fluid. I was rushed out of my house on a stretcher to the hospital because I was unable to even make it down the stairs. Doctors placed three tubes in my chest and I had a pleurodesis surgery with another staple line and a partial lung resection. I was six weeks back into training in June when my right lung collapsed again. I elected to have pleurodesis surgery on my right lung in July with another staple line and another partial lung resection. After the surgery, my lung collapsed again, but the doctors were able to reflate it by placing another tube in my chest.
During the last two surgeries, the doctors purposely scraped up my lungs so that scar tissue would adhere them to my chest walls, which will prevent them from collapsing again. The irritation from the surgery makes recovery very painful, but I have chosen to continue my swimming career.
I have ten scars from the surgeries and tubes. They aren’t visible unless my shirt is off, but they’re a big part of me. Some days they hurt, but I wear them with pride. I used to dislike the appearance of my scars, but now I appreciate them for the struggle they represent. Recovery has been challenging. There are days when it feels there are blocks of cement in my chest. My entire chest is sensitive and tingly because of the nerve damage from the surgery. I’ve learned more about myself through the entire process than I ever could have imagined. Both my emotional intelligence and self-awareness have increased. I think I am a better person because of my injuries and I don’t think I would change things even if I could.
My struggles with my lungs have brought me closer to my teammates, family and friends. I’ve learned how much my team means to me and looking to them motivates me to keep pushing one day at a time. I couldn’t have made it this far without my family, coaches, teammates, and trainer Courtney. My scars remind me to be resilient, gritty and optimistic. I’m glad I fought for my scars.