Life on Oxygen

Hello, my name is Christine. I use oxygen 24/7 and I’m 46 years old. I didn’t always have to use oxygen. It all began when I was 17 years old. It was a monumental change in my life. Since I was just a teenager at the time, it hit me hard. I’m hoping with this blog that people who also use oxygen can see that life isn’t over just because you need oxygen. I think the hardest part for me was accepting that I’ll never live without it again. Once I jumped over that hurdle, life began to change. For the good.

So with this blog… and for all those who are interested in knowing how I live with oxygen needs, I’ll post what I know in hopes that it will help others. Spouses & families too! I am married and what I’ve gone through since I was 19 years old, he’s gone through too with me.

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[I update my age every year on this post]
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The Beast Within…

Living On Oxygen for Life

Over the past 10 years or so, this beast inside me has grown and mirrored the decline of my health. It all started with what I thought was constant worrying. You know… when you have to time how much your oxygen will last? Well, that can make you worry about checking your oxygen tank a LOT when you are out having fun. Then I would worry about how long my energy will last while I was out having fun. Can I walk that far in the mall or in the hospital for doctor appointments? Will K get upset if I need to stop to sit down for a few minutes. I know the last one is kind of an irrational worry. Of course K wouldn’t get upset but he did try to push me to walk a little further before stopping which only made me feel like he wasn’t taking my need to stop seriously. My health wasn’t as progressed as it is now. So, pushing me a little bit further was a good thing that K was doing. It’s just when I was tired and felt like I needed a break, no knows how I felt except me.

I turned all this worrying about so many things in my life into trying to control everything around me. I felt like I needed to manage everything so that I had enough energy for things that I had to do around the house and the things that I wanted to do with K. I wanted to know where we were going when we were out of the house, what route we were going, and even how K drove. I needed advanced warning when K wanted us to go out to have fun so that I can be sure to rest up during the day. But all that wasn’t working. Trying to control everything turned into Anxiety because there is no way that I could control everything, be happy and not irritate those around me.

It’s taking a long time to learn to let go of the control issues. K reminds me by saying that he “Gets it.” and “I will always take care of you. I always have your best interest as my priority.” It has helped me a lot with him saying this to me. I have to remind myself of what he said over and over because my memory doesn’t retain information as well as it use to. So, when I get into my vehicle with K, I will remind myself that he has my six. *wink* Giving up the control and learning to trust is a very hard thing to do for me because I feel as if I’m losing more of my independence. However, as long as we have fun in our lives, all will be ok.

I wasn’t ready for a change…

Living On Oxygen for Life

For those of you who read my blog and use oxygen, have any kind of breathing problem or any kind breathing device, you know life can be challenging. Life is filled with highs and lows. When you get in those high places, it feels like you are accomplishing the things you want to do in life. Unfortunately, those high places don’t always last as long as we want them to last. At least, that is how it seems to me. Sometimes the lows can be pretty low and lasts for what seems like a lot longer than I’d prefer.

Switching over to Tikosyn from Cordarone involved a lifestyle change for me. It’s been a crushing blow to my happiness. Instead of one step back in health, it feels more like two steps back. It made me really frustrated, thinking and wondering what I did wrong. It’s made me have to, once again, reinvent ways of getting things done around the house. Some of the things, K has completely taken over which adds more stress for him. Both of us were hit hard with this unexpected change in my ability level. I get short of breath from scooping a cat box (which he now does) or using a broom on the floor.

K takes good care of me and I’m grateful for his love and understanding. He’s come a long way. *wink* He stopped thinking that I was just being lazy about ten years ago. He’s always known that I have breathing problems as well as the pulmonary hypertension on top of everything else. He just didn’t realize or understand how much & how quickly the Pulmonary Hypertension would progress over a relatively short amount of time.

So now, I’m going to take care of him. I’ve decided we’re going on a much needed vacation since we haven’t gone on one in 3 years. Right now all I can think of is how good the sand will feel under my feet with the water washing over them. This will involve a lot of planning for my oxygen needs but it’s always been so worth it. I’ve already secured our accommodations and I’ve even bought travel insurance just in case we have to cancel at the last minute or if one of us becomes sick while on vacation. It’s good to have a backup plan just in case there’s a hurricane too!

We both really need this getaway. We rarely watch TV while on vacation. We leave our worries behind while on vacation too. So it’s like we’re on an island made for us.. though, technically we’re not. This is our way to get back to a healthy mind and release all the stress even if it is for just a little while.

I just wanted to let you know that I’m getting into the swing of the new changes we’ve made. I’m back to blogging and YES Klondike will be going with us on our vacation. My sister sent him back to me! Yay! Stay tuned in for more blog posts from me! Stay well everyone! I enjoy talking with you on Facebook and by email! goredrider@gmail.com is my email address for those of you who have questions or would like to say Hi!

–Christine

My PH Story

Living On Oxygen for Life

While at the 2016 Pulmonary Hypertension International Conference in Dallas, TX on June 17 – 19, I met Steve Van Wormer, who helped create the PHAware Global Association. At the conference, he did interviews of PH patients to help get their PH Stories out to the public to raise awareness of this devastating and currently incurable disease. He asked me to do an interview. I tried my best to do the interview. He was SO gracious when my brain decided to blank out.. I explained that I write much better than I talk. The long term effect of high CO2 on my brain really has affected my memory and recall. Thank goodness for editing… and cut & paste. Hopefully, he can make something out of what I said.

For this reason, I want to get what I REALLY wanted to say here on my blog. Here we go!

**********

I'm aware that I'm rare. Rocco has now become PHAware. He's my PH Pup!

I’m aware that I’m rare.
Rocco has now become PHAware. He’s my PH Pup!

My name is Christine Liles and I have Secondary Pulmonary Hypertension. I was born with PH due to Congenital Heart Defects and Scoliosis that caused Restrictive Lung Disease. The doctors knew almost right away that I had Pulmonary Hypertension. The pressures were really high and since I was born in 1969, there were no PH medications or a course of treatment for this very rare disease. So, I grew up living with this disease taking Lanoxin for a short time to help slow my heart rate down. I was restricted from most gym activity because of the shortness of breath.

My parents & sisters were great at providing me with as close to a normal life as possible. Before the age of 10 years old, if my sisters bowled and played baseball in leagues, I was right there with them. Granted, I was much slower but I did it even though the doctors kind of frowned upon it. At the age of 10, my parents finally talked my Cardiologist into performing a corrective surgery on my Ventrical Septal Defect in my heart. My Thoracic & Cardiac doctors, both, didn’t want to do it because they didn’t think I had a chance to make it off the table. It was my most glorious moment walking out of the hospital 7 days later with a patched VSD. With that successful surgery, my PH pressures reduced slightly.

Life really improved until I turned 17 years old. I started having blackouts while driving, began becoming forgetful, and my CO2 was much higher. So I started using oxygen at night. As time went by in my life, I started having more Shortness of Breath. My oxygen flow increased, I started using a bipap to sleep with and I had to stop working all together. This happened when I was 23, just a year after I got married to the love of my life. It was a very difficult adjustment. He knew it was coming.. this health change. I told him when we were dating and then before we married. This is the best I will be. I won’t get better because there are no medications to fix my PH and only one pill that can regulate my heart arrhythmia that I now have. I asked him… Can you handle this? His answer was total honesty which is what I wanted to hear but was hard to hear because he said.. I don’t know. And then, I went on oxygen 24/7. My husband has been my rock and he’s made from the finest quality of human beings… his parents.

In 2006, my Cardiologist asked me to check out the medicine Revatio & Cialis with my pulmonologist. So off I went to see my Pulmonologist who then sent me to see a PH Specialist. I didn’t even know there were PH Specialists. Over the years, after trying most of the PH medications that are available, which there aren’t nearly enough, there is only one medication that my body can tolerate. This is what I will stay on until something new comes along that my doctor thinks might work. I’m not a candidate for lung transplant because of my deformed ribs. I spend my life finding different ways to do the things I need to get done. Picking things off the floor are by using my toes to lift it to my hands. Vacuuming is my husband’s job now. I bend at the waist to wash my hair. I have an adapter for my van to use my bipap on the road for vacations while in the car if have trouble breathing. I do things in short bursts of energy. What takes my husband 2 hours to clean the whole house, takes me all week and even then I can’t get all of the really hard things done.. such as scrubbing the tub, vacuuming or mopping the floors.

This is my life now and I’ve learned to adapt which is the key to keeping myself happy. I’ve found hobbies that I can do that brings me GREAT joy. Just to be able to garden, my husband has built me a raised garden at the height of 16 inches to help me not have to bend down to the ground to grow vegetables. Instead of growing my dwarf fruit trees in the ground, he planted them in half whiskey barrels. I had trouble with dragging a long rubber watering hose, so I asked for a Pocket Hose because it is SOOOO light!

Will there be a cure in my lifetime? I don’t really know. In all honesty, I’m not so concerned for a cure for ME. I’ve had a GREAT life, filled with love and so many adventures. What I am concerned about are all the children who have Primary Pulmonary Hypertension. They need a cure in their lifetime. They have their whole life in front of them but with PH and without a cure, all they have are the medications that are currently available. My passion is for these kids. I know what it’s like to grow up with health problems. PH is no easy disease to live with. Help us. Be PHAware and get the message out that we need a cure. WE ARE DESPERATE TO BREATHE. Check out PHAware.global to see how you can become involved in finding a cure and spreading the word about Pulmonary Hypertension. Or follow on social media @phaware

#PHAware

Gearing up for the PH International Conference and What’s up with my heart?

Living On Oxygen for Life

I’m super excited to be going to the PH International Conference in Dallas this month. Hooray! I’ll be surrounded by so many people who have the same disease that I have. I hate to even call it a “disease” but that’s what Pulmonary Hypertension is. It’s a disease that has no cure but it’s slowing amassing some amazing medicines to help battle the symptoms that PH causes. We still need a cure. The conference is going to be a way for me to learn even more about PH. I want to actually try to find other people to have Pulmonary Hypertension who also has Scoliosis like I do. My PH is secondary to Scoliosis and Restrictive Lung Disease due to Scoliosis deforming my rib cage. Finding others like me will be difficult. Not many people out there like this. PH is a rare disease. I want to find those people and compare how they manage life with how I manage life and breathing. Maybe we could learn something from each other. *fingers crossed*

Before I go to this conference, I have to get through the next 9 days of the 10-day Halter Monitor I’m wearing to get a read on what my heart is doing. Tikosyn is not really helping my heart arrhythmias which is discouraging. The doctors didn’t believe me so I “suggested” that they do a Halter monitor to see what’s going on. We’ll find out one way or the other. Right? Like I said, *fingers crossed*

I’m actually impressed with the newer halter monitor that I’m wearing. It’s cool! I get a “Sensor” that has 3 leads and I wear it around my neck from an attached lanyard. Plus, there is the “Monitor” which is like a cellphone. When I have an “episode” with my heart skipping, I get to push a button on the screen of the monitor and go through a few questions about: What is happening? (I check: Heart skipping), What’s your activity? (I click either resting, mild, moderate, or heavy). So far, I’ve not had to click on heavy activity. I’m not crazy! haha! It’s raining and humid here. So, my activity is limited to indoors, low to minor-moderate activity because I get tired a lot faster in this kind of weather. There’s no telling what my carrots look like in my garden. I only have one orange left on my dwarf orange tree. The wind blew the others off.

If you want to see the many pictures of Klondike’s Adventure in Germany, you can view them all here… you don’t need an account to view them. My sister really did show my rubber chicken a good time so far. His trip is coming to an end soon. I’ll be meeting my sister and her family when they fly through on their way home. Maybe I should make her some more cookies! Shh! It will be a secret!

Stay well and be safe. Lots of love to you all! *heart emoji!*

–Christine

Klondike’s Adventure Begins! Off to Germany!

Living On Oxygen for Life

Yesterday was so exciting! K & I drove to meet my sister & family at their hotel for a visit before they take off today for their vacation. It was so great! Yesterday, though, I got a text from one of my twin nephews asking if I’ll make his favorite cookies. The whole family loves Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies. I texted back.. “Of course I will!” I made a whole batch yesterday morning at 5am because I couldn’t sleep any longer. Before I started, I was kind of freaking out because I thought I ran out of sugar and thought I didn’t have enough 1-minute oatmeal but I finally found the new bag of sugar that was hidden away and the oatmeal ended up being enough. Whew!

I made Klondike a new hat, an English to German dictionary (like his French one), a fun tourist map of Germany, some miniature old newspapers of WWII as reading material for my chicken while on the plane, his wallet & money, his Germany Travel Journal (different from his Paris Journal) and his passport. My sister said she will get some German stickers to cut down to size to add as customs stamps to his passport. How clever is that? She’s very creative like me.

The first picture came in today as they are getting ready to head to the airport. Klondike is a PRETTY COOL DUDE! I can’t wait to share his adventure with you and hopefully brighten your days to come like it does for me. Being on oxygen, we need all the fun and exciting things we can get to help us get through life. So, even though owning a rubber chicken who goes off on adventures is a little silly, he does his job in brightening my day. He really makes me laugh so much! lol!!!

Klondike is wearing his fuzzy wolf ears from the hotel and enjoying his first Chocolate Oatmeal cookie. He's ready to travel!

Klondike is wearing his fuzzy wolf ears from the hotel and enjoying his first Chocolate Oatmeal cookie. He’s ready to travel!

This is the cover of his dictionary. It's only 2 inches tall. Everything fits in his backpack.

This is the cover of his dictionary. It’s only 2 inches tall. Everything fits in his backpack.

Stay well everyone!!!

Day Three — Tikosyn & the following month

Living On Oxygen for Life

By now, you probably realize that I went home with a seven day supply of Tikosyn. Hooray and Lucky Me! I get to be on another high-dollar Specialty medication that THANKFULLY my health insurance will cover. I’m kneeling down and thanking Jesus right now….and…. *amen!*

Getting Tikosyn from a pharmacy was a pain in the rear end because it is a Specialty medicine and it must go through the “specialty” mail order pharmacy which is different than the regular mail order pharmacy. I could have gotten my first month’s supply of Tikosyn through a regular pharmacy like a CVS or Walgreen’s but I would’ve had to pay $600 for the 30-day supply. Yeah, right. I don’t think so. I’ll do the little extra leg-work to get the prescription faxed to my “specialty pharmacy” myself. That’s what I did. I got the correct fax number, stopped off at a CVS, explained what I needed them to do (showed them my notes I took while on the phone with the specialty pharmacy while in my hospital room), and off the fax went into cyberspace to hopefully not get lost on the way. I called numerous times everyday until they could verify that they received it but it had one tiny problem on the prescription. There was no pill count on it, making it impossible for the pharmacy to process it. Now I had to somehow get the doctor’s staff on the phone with the pharmacy (each saying that the OTHER needs to call them first). OH! You’ve heard of that game too? Grrr… I finally got the pharmacy to put me on hold to dial the doctor’s number to correct the prescription. Finally, that’s taken care of which was great because I wasn’t going to go back into the hospital for 3 more days because they couldn’t iron this problem out in time. I had to have my 30-day supply within 7 days or it’s back in the hospital for me to restart Tikosyn.

Tikosyn is NOT a medicine that a person can take just whatever time she or he remembers to take it. Oh no! This stuff, I actually have to set my alarm clock on my cellphone at the same times everyday, twelve hours apart. Granted when I left the hospital, they had my doses at 4am and 4pm. If you know me like I think you should by now (okay… I’ll cut the newest readers a break.. Here’s your chance to learn something new about me. *cheesy grin*), I am a night person. I don’t like waking early in the morning because that’s when I get my best sleep. Makes sense to me too! So, over the first week and a half at home, I slowly bumped the night time medicine time an hour later every few days and adjusted the morning time accordingly. By the end of two weeks, my medication time was 7am and 7pm. That’s a bit more achievable for me.

Now that I’m good and into taking Tikosyn, I’ve noticed that my blood pressure is back to normal but I have increased shortness of breath which is very noticeable. I’m getting very discouraged because I went today to the Cardiologist who prescribed Tikosyn. He ran an EKG and said it was normal and that my shortness of breath isn’t from the heart medicine. If I got paid for every time I heard THAT sentence…well, I could buy myself a whole lot of ice cream with the money! Ugh! I just realized I’m out of ice cream too! I should have stopped on the way home. Drats!!!

My cardiologist said for me to talk to my PH doctor. Sometimes, I feel like I’m on a Merri-Go-Round without all the pretty horses to ride. Or is that a Carousel? At least I still have things to look forward to in life. It looks like Klondike, my rubber chicken will be off on another adventure next week and next month I will attend the PH International Conference. I’m super excited about both. My next post will be about Klondike’s adventure! Stay tuned in!

Be well! Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog so you won’t miss anything exciting!

Day Two… It continues.. Tikosyn!

Living On Oxygen for Life

There is one thing I want to bring up about the first day that I failed to mentioned in my earlier post about Day One. I’m still pretty upset about it. In fact, at the time, K and I were both very upset and flabbergasted about the whole incident. You see… when I have to stay in the hospital, I naturally bring along my bipap machine so that I can immediately have it available to use and I also bring all of my medicine. All of my medicine includes my specialty medicine which I know that hospitals, even though they are hospitals with lots and lots of drugs, may not have a supply of my specialty medicine. When I went to the Dallas hospital in 2014, that hospital didn’t have my Opsumit, that I was taking (no longer taking now!), in their pharmacy.

On the 26th of May, my first day of hospital stay, the hospital realized that they didn’t have Tracleer in their pharmacy. The nurse came to tell us in my room and I said that’s no problem because this has happened to me before in 2014 in a Dallas hospital. I brought my Tracleer with me in it’s bottle. The pharmacist can inspect it, slap a patient label on it and put it in their pharmacy locker to dispense out to me. The nurse went to call the pharmacy to see if that was ok to do. She came back and told me the hospital pharmacy said they couldn’t do that, saying something about a law? *shrug* I told the nurse that I can not be without this medicine. The pharmacy looked around for a small supply of Tracleer 62.5mg and found some all the way in Dallas that they were going to have brought to Fort Worth for me that night. I was so mad. I was mad because I had my medicine not but one foot from me and they wouldn’t allow me to offer it to take. I was mad because the hospital had someone in Dallas drive in pouring down rain and hail to bring to it to me to use. AND I was mad because I knew this medicine costs $8500 for a month supply and I didn’t want an exorbitant charge for Tracleer on my bill when I have mine to take that the insurance has already paid for when all they had to do is inspect mine and put a patient label on it. Sorry, but I’m still really upset about this.

Ok…Day Two.. It was much better than day one…although, I didn’t get to sleep until 2am because the last vital check was at midnight and I couldn’t fall asleep until 2am. I’m a night person naturally but I was getting in that zone where if I get too tired, I can’t fall asleep. That’s a very bad thing for me to have happen. I will start to feel physically sick. At 4am, it was Tikosyn time! Then nearly 5am, they came in to take vitals and shortly afterwards, the lab lady came in to take blood. Do you see a pattern here? Anytime I would nearly fall back asleep, I’d get woken back up and by 6am it was time for the EKG. By then, I just decided to stay awake and wake for breakfast and K to arrive. And don’t forget the diuretics to begin. They had all my medicine split apart and coming to me at different times. It was crazy because I was so use to taking morning meds when I woke up and then evening medicines right around 5 or 6pm.

I drew this picture and stuck it on the bathroom door. You see me on the island?

I drew this picture and stuck it on the bathroom door. You see me on the island?

K scooted into the hospital right before the doctor showed up and I had my list of questions ready. I think he was impressed because I had them listed on a small notebook I brought in case I needed it. (I highly recommend this!) My doctor noticed that I had my yarn out and had asked if I crocheted. I was impressed that he knew what crocheting was and told him that K calls it knitting. The doctor said crocheting and knitting aren’t the same.. I felt like we had a bonding moment there. haha! He looked around the room and noticed my sign on the bathroom door. I’m so goofy!

This was the worse meal I had at the hospital. Plus it had pepper on it.

This was the worse meal I had at the hospital. Plus it had pepper on it.

The food here was something else. I was stuck choosing from the Heart Healthy diet on a paper menu but I started to get smart by penciling in requests like a bagel and a chocolate chip cookie. The bagel, I got! The extra chocolate chip cookie, I did not. *pout* However, K did go down to the in-house Starbucks and bought us some goodies. For him, he bought a couple of blueberry muffins.. the kind with crumble topping… and for me, 2 chocolate chip cookies of which he snagged one. By the way, all the vending machines in the hospital only had healthy selections..even the soda or other beverages were diet. Gross! After lunch, I couldn’t believe I was able to get a 2 hour nap. It was AWESOME! Then K was like, let’s get your butt up and walk the hall. We did this the first day and he won’t let me get lazy just because we’re in the hospital because he knows that the more time I spend in that bed, the more my lungs lose function and I can have a set back. So, staying active was our main goal. As long as I wasn’t dizzy or woozy, I walked twice a day with him.. or my nurse tech when K had to go home for the night to take care of some errands for his mom and take care of our dog.

K use to sing and act out this song by the Beatles (A Day in a Life) for me.

K use to sing and act out this song by the Beatles (A Day in a Life) for me.

After hanging my motivational picture on the bathroom door, I wrote on the patient information board. It’s a dry-erase board in my room. I wrote my Day’s Goal as to “Be A Ray of Sunshine.” Cute, huh? [Picture shown on Day Three post] I wrote it because I was so cranky the previous day. Before K left for home and while I was in the bathroom, he wrote me a goodbye motivational message on the board that he knew I would know what it meant. I came out of the bathroom and saw that he was guarding it so that I couldn’t see what it was that he wrote. I was thinking that he wrote something to the nurses to get me to walk that evening. I mean, he kissed me goodnight and made me pinkie-swear to walk that night no matter what. I thought it was so cute that he would pinkie-swear with me that I just went ahead and pinkie-sweared. Well, when I read what he wrote on the board, I almost cried. I know that to you it’s just lyrics to a Beatles song but to me, it’s a happy memory that makes me laugh out loud. He’s so good at writing the perfect thing that will touch my heart and lift me up.

On the second day of my hospital stay, the labs came back with an even higher than MY normal of CO2 (or bicarbonate) level. The doctor was concerned, thinking that he should adjust my diuretics but I told him that I have normally high bicarb and my kidney does a good job at balancing my pH level. I told him that I would prefer that he would consult with my PH doctor before changing any diuretic she prescribed. Personally, I don’t like one doctor messing with another doctor’s orders. He did say that he was ok with that and he agreed with not changing her orders but he was going to watch it. That doctor is my Pulmonary Hypertension doctor and there are good reasons why I’m on the medication that I am on. I brought a 15 page history of my major health history (with test results) just in case something went wrong and they’d need more information. I even gave it to my nurse, which she copied, but I don’t think the doctor even looked at. I don’t know for sure but I did it because I’ve never been to that hospital before. I do what I can not to only protect myself but also to protect K in the event that if something happened during this stay in the hospital, he’ll know what to do to get information he needs about me to make the right decisions.

Apparently, at the starting dose of Tikosyn, which is the higher dose, my QT Interval was too long on the second day. The doctor had to make an adjustment to my dose that evening. I was now taking the lowest dose.. 125mcg twice a day. He told me that by the last (5th dose) and after the EKG, he would know if they could send me home with or without the medicine. Remember, anything under 500 is good.