Cathy! So glad to hear that you're back among us. Good to hear that you're surgery went well, and that you're now on the mend. Strange, though, that your nurse was so evil... There's a special place in hell reserved for people like that. I can definitely relate to the pain issue. They were giving me pain meds (Vicodin and Dilaudid), but they just didn't work. Eventually they gave me morphine, and that helped a great deal.
As far as coughing goes, I think that you just have to accept the fact that it's going to hurt for a little while. You have a different incision from the one I had (right? I had a sternotomy---straight down the middle of my chest), and so I'm not sure how you should deal with it. Teri's suggestion re: the pillow sounds like good advice to me, though.
In any case, that pain is rough but it gets better pretty quickly. I remember that I got about 20 minutes of sleep in the first 36 hours after my surgery.
I did indeed have bilateral pleural effusion, and so I went in for my thoracentesis yesterday. (I love the official, medical name for the procedure: "CT-guided drainage of bilateral pleural effusion".) It turned out that there really wasn't all that much fluid in there, or in any case they weren't able to get that much fluid to come out. Honestly, it seemed like the people who did my procedure were boneheads and imbeciles. But, all in all, it was no big deal. I was in and out of the hospital in a few hours. The thoracentesis itself was a bit painful, especially when they're dragging that stupid tube across your bone, but not all that bad.
I do feel a little better now, but in all honestly, it wasn't all that bad to begin with. Just some tightness in the ribs when I took a deep breath. In any case, thanks to everyone who wished me well.
Maya---the fluid was in the pleura, or the area that surrounds the lungs. There are these so-called "dead spaces" in your body, and the pleura are among them. Normally they're empty, but sometimes, such as after a major surgery, they can become filled with fluid.
Betsy---sorry to hear that you're in for a good ol' chest tapping. It goes quick, at least.
And Cathy, again, sorry to hear about your crummy nurse! Do they have a charge nurse there, so you can report her?
All of this makes me a bit curious about others' experiences with their various hospitals' nursing staffs. I think I was very lucky insofar as my nurses were all great--very nice, prompt, sweet, etc. Also, I was asked by the charge nurse at virtually every shift change if I had any problems w/ any of the nurses....