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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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.

Day One… It begins… Tikosyn!

Living On Oxygen for Life

Lemmon chicken with red potatoes from my garden.

Lemmon chicken with red potatoes from my garden.

On April 26, 2016. I woke up at about 4:30 am and I couldn’t fall back asleep. That’s pretty typical for me when I have something major happening that day. I grabbed my phone while in bed and I flipped through Pinterest to try to get myself sleepy again. Hey, it works sometimes! This time, though, I came across a recipe that I found myself mentally checking off all the ingredients it called for in comparison to what I have on hand. Well, what do you know… I had everything I needed to make this Lemon chicken with red potatoes from my garden.

I hopped out of bed, threw myself in and out of the shower and then got to cooking. When I was done, I went ahead and ate some. I know it was morning but who said you can’t have dinner for breakfast? If you can have breakfast for dinner, why not the other way around, right? *goofy grin* It was pretty good! At least now I had something ready for K to eat when he came home from the hospital. By cooking, it took my mind off of having to be in the hospital for the next 3 days.

The hospital finally called. You see, first the doctor’s staff said that the hospital will call when a bed is ready for me to come up to the hospital to be admitted. Then, the staff said that the hospital will only if there isn’t a bed available and if they didn’t call, for me to go up to the hospital to wait for a bed which worried me because I can’t just sit around at the hospital with my limited supply of oxygen. I’d have to get the hospital to supply me with their oxygen. I decided to call the hospital the day before to find out which method of calling was true. It turns out that the hospital calls me when they are ready for me and they did. However, when they called, they told me a room was held for me but there was an emergency and it was given to someone else. After shuffling patients around, they called me back with a bed ready. I got up to the hospital and into my room at about 1pm lugging my bipap, my 50ft tubing (theirs isn’t as long), clothes, all my medicine (you’ll hear much more about this later!), snacks, and yes, even my yarn! And that’s when the chaos began.

Selfie in the hospital to try Tikosyn.

Selfie in the hospital to try Tikosyn.

Once in the room, I was told to change into this high fashion gown made of pure, authenticated, designer cotton (tied in the back to obviously supply my back with the most opportunity of cold drafty air). K had to help me tie the back. I mean, who can tie those things?? Really!

Day One: blood draw & IV.

Day One: blood draw & IV.

Then, I was told I had to have an IV. Oh man.. I was so not happy but what could I do about it. I begged though. I’m not below begging when it comes to an IV, you see… I’m sensitive to adhesive and let me tell you… it itched and was painful the whole time (2 1/2 days!). And then there were the sticky electrodes that stay on. Ugh! Thankfully, I actually already had a lunch tray of food waiting for me. I couldn’t believe my luck! The food I made earlier in the morning for K, I ate as breakfast. So, I was pretty hungry by 1pm. Before I could eat, I had my blood pressure checked while sitting, lying down and standing up to get a baseline. It was all normal. Everything was going along swimmingly until I hear this pulsing dinging sound which kept going off loudly. Seriously, it was loud and sometimes it was continuously. It got to one point on the first day that I was fed up with hearing it and I asked my nurse, “What the heck is that noise??” She told me it was the nurse’s call button and my room was situated next to one of the two speakers of this bell. LUCKY, LUCKY ME! *rolling eyes*

At 4pm, I took my first dose of Tikosyn. I mentally braced for impact. I just didn’t know what to expect and neither did K. The doctor did come to see me later that evening. He kind of breezed through. I was unprepared to ask any questions.. so my mind went blank. Argh! I hate it when that happens. When I took my first dose of Tikosyn, they wait 2 hours and then they do an EKG. They do this for every dose of Tikosyn you take to see if you are at the right dose of Tikosyn. They want to know that your QT Intervals are under 500. Don’t ask me what that means because I just really don’t know. All I know is if it’s under 500, we’re doing good!

I missed my dog Rocco while in the hospital. So I drew him from the picture I have on my cellphone.

I missed my dog Rocco while in the hospital. So I drew him from the picture I have on my cellphone.

I was SO cranky the first day. I knew K had decided to not stay all night at the hospital with me and I was ok with that. I was riddled with anxiety because everything was chaotic while, at home, everything is controlled. I know what to expect when I’m home. I take my medicine at MY usual time, I sleep in my own bed, my tv has more channels (hehe!) and people are not coming and going in and out of my house as they are at the hospital. Plus, I missed my dog, Rocco. I got out my notebook and drew him from a picture I have on my cellphone. I didn’t realize how much I would like the way it turned out. Drawing isn’t really my talent and drawing it in pen…well, I got lucky that it doesn’t look like a bunch of scribbly lines.

So much more to tell you but I leave that for Day Two! I don’t know how many of you like long blog posts. Therefore, I am breaking the whole even into separate day posts. I hope that’s ok. For those of you who don’t know what Tikosyn is… it’s an anti-arrhytmic medication for my heart. You can read more about it by clicking on the link. I don’t have Atrial Fibrillation. I have PSVT (paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia), Ventricular tachycardia, Cardiomegaly, & Secondary Pulmonary Hypertension (Functional Class III)

Change of plans? What?

Living On Oxygen for Life

I get a phone call today from my cardiologist to make sure I didn’t have any other questions before going into the hospital next week. I asked a few basic questions, one being, how quickly does this medicine take effect? We got to talking about Tikosyn and how the doctor will titrate the dose according to how my heart and body reacts to it. I’m sitting on my couch taking notes saying uh huh and ok. The conversation twists and turns to the part of the morning of my admission.

The woman says that the hospital will only call starting from about 8am if they don’t have a bed available. So if they don’t call, I’m suppose to go to the hospital registration/admission. From there, I have to wait around for a bed to become available.

WHAT? That wasn’t what I was told before. Last time, the hospital was suppose to call me when a bed was available and then I go there. I explained to the woman that I use oxygen 24/7, I’ve never been to this hospital before (which makes me nervous because they will only have whatever medical records that this doctor provides to hospital and I’ve only been to his office twice and actually seen the dude once!), and I can’t just wait around for what could possibly be a few hours for a bed. She told me to ask them for oxygen.

Now that K is home from work, I gave him the “Drama Update” and he was just as frazzled as I am about the whole thing. The GOOD news out of the whole conversation is that K can stay in my room with me the whole time if he chooses to which will be a hospital first for us. He always went home. I didn’t blame him. I mean our bed is much more comfortable than the provided chair, even if it does stretch out bed-style.

Today my heart has been skipping quite a bit. I’ve been relaxing a lot yesterday and today. I feel kind of sluggish or as if I have cabin fever or the winter blues. It’s been raining so much here. I’m just ready for some sunny days to bring a sunny smile to my face. Let me bask in the Sun’s warmth so that I may feel the glow of happiness grow into a smile on my face.

Tomorrow I head out to my PCP doctor appointment and catch him up on what’s been going on in the past 2 months. I should write some notes before I go so that I don’t forget anything. I have that much stuff to unload on him. Poor guy. He earns his paycheck with me as his patient. I think I keep things interesting for him though.

Well, I enjoyed this talk with y’all. I hope you did. I just shipped out a Need a Hug afghan to Washington state! Yay! If you want to donate to my Need a Hug project, you can do so by clicking the GoFundMe button. *hugs* Thank you!!! Have a great weekend!

The date is set….for Tikosyn

Living On Oxygen for Life

The date is confirmed for going to the hospital to try Tikosyn. Sometime during April 26, I enter the hospital and supposedly walk out on the 28th as a new and improved heart patient.

My last stay at the hospital was in 2014 when the PH medicine, Opsumit and my heart medicine, Cordarone (which is what I’m currently getting off from), clashed inside my body causing it to become hyperthyroid. That was no fun.

I documented that hospital stay on my blog and you can find it here: Life’s little emergencies. I’ll try to document this stay as well.

I hope everything goes well in that my body can tolerate Tikosyn without causing me breathing problems. I have a lot to take to the hospital but I’m going to narrow it down to my Bipap and mask, some comfy clothes & toiletries, my phone & iPad and hope I can use both in the hospital room to watch movies and communicate with the world. I’m even thinking about taking a small stash of yarn. you knew that was coming, right?

My heart is starting to act up. I stopped taking Cordarone on March 28 and before that, I was already tapering it down slowly over a 2 1/2 week period. Right now it skips and aches often. I hope it doesn’t feel any worse than this because I still have 13 days to go.

It’s time to go find my Wonder Woman underwear because I feel like I’m going to need a little bravery in the hospital. *fingers crossed*

Hey, just to let you know, I have a Need a Hug afghan ready to give away if you want it. It will go to the first person who emails me at goredrider@gmail.com and tells me their breathing problem diagnosis. It’s totally free to you! Lots of love to you all!!