Life on Oxygen

Hello, my name is Christine. I use oxygen 24/7 and I’m 47 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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A Darn Good Day!

Living On Oxygen for Life

I had a GREAT day yesterday. Even I couldn’t believe what all I got accomplished on my own. I made it to the pharmacy and then decided, what the heck, I still have energy… I’ll go grocery shopping all by myself. I did find myself huffing and puffing my way into the store but I grabbed a cart and rolled it the short distance to the produce department while doing a little purse-breathing along the way. (Remember? K has been taking over the grocery shopping for the last 5 or 6 months. It’s been getting harder and harder for me to go along.)

I did a bit of “slow browsing” to give myself enough time to catch my breath and then away I go to shop to my heart’s content. No, I did not buy ice cream. But I did by ingredients to make cookies and maybe even turtle cheesecake. *drool* I even had fun saying hello to people I don’t even know, even the little kids. I had so much fun!!!

I knew I’d be tired when I got home because K wasn’t going to be home yet and I skipped my morning diuretics to get an early start on my day. So I grabbed a roasted chicken for dinner. Won’t K be surprised?!?!

I got home with my groceries and unloaded AND put them away! All. By. Myself!!! *super proud of myself* Next, I started dinner! Whaaaat??? How am I even doing all this??? I just don’t know. All I can say is….K sure was surprised because not only did I accomplished all the stuff I did yesterday, I even made a salad to go with dinner! Whaaaaaat? I think I scored some extra points with the salad. *grin* Who says men don’t like salad? After dinner, my energy was definitely draining. I could only rinse off the dishes but you KNOW I had just enough energy to sit down to crochet for a few hours while we watched some TV together.

It was a happy day yesterday and I hope I have another one again soon. I am paying for all of yesterday’s effort today. I’m tired, tired, tired today and when I told K that I was ready for a nap earlier, he politely reminded me that the Cowboys play at 3pm which is about 25 minutes ago. Argh!!!! haha! So, here I am with my bipap on, in bed, trying to power up for the game.

I’m happy. I hope I don’t mess up whatever I decide to make for my contribution to our family Thanksgiving dinner. It’s supposed to be something chocolate-flavored. That’s where the turtle cheesecake comes into play. *shrug* hehe!

Have a great Sunday! Lots of love to you all!!!

Up all night…

Living On Oxygen for Life

Officially, it is Friday and Veterans Day. First, I would like to take a moment to say Thank You to all of men and women who have and are putting themselves in harms way to protect our freedom and our way of life. Many have sacrificed their life to give us the freedoms that we should never take for granted. We should always remember the price those men and women, throughout history, have paid for our rights and our freedom of choice.

Last night I was super tired and ended up going to bed at 8pm only to have to get back up at 9pm to take my Tikosyn. Because, you know, that pill has to be taken every 12 stinkin’ hours! Argh! Fear not, I was still super tired and promptly fell right back asleep. That is, until now, 1 o’clock in the morning.

I’m here under the covers in the dark bringing you my late, late, night ramblings of what happened to make me so tired. Yesterday, I had a doctor appointment. I got there a wee bit too early. I had to sit in my van for nearly 30 minutes because I wasn’t sure my portable oxygen tank would last long enough if I went in early. I have a 75 pound liquid oxygen reservoir tank in my van that I use to drive around on and to refill my portable. After about 30 minutes, I went into my doctor’s office for my annual physical. Yay what fun right? Actually, my family doctor is pretty darn cool!

According to all the labs I had done about two weeks prior, it looks like I should live another few years, at least! My doctor was surprised at how awesome my cholesterol and other test results were. Yay! I can continue to eat my pop tarts! Haha! As usual, my bicarbonate was high and my chloride was low but my kidney is keeping my pH level in balance. Thank you Jesus!

We did talk about pain management. Because my lungs don’t work as well as they use to (which wasn’t that great!), my options for pain management is VERY limited. My scoliosis is getting worse in the lumbar area of my spine and causing right hip pain which can be horrible at times when I sit or stand too long. Taking a whole Tylenol3 pill (that has Tylenol and codeine) is far too much for my body to handle. I have to break the tablet into quarters and take a fourth of a pill at a time. Even that much sometimes causes a migraine and troubled breathing. Alcohol has the same effect on me now. Instead of being able to drink a glass or two of wine or alcoholic drink like in the past, I can only drink about 1/3 of a cup before my breathing is affected. I still pour about 1/2 inch of wine in a glass occasionally to drink but never go for refills. It’s just not worth it. I think it affects my heart too much which I think is causing the breathing problems.

When I got home from my doctor appointment, I promptly took my diuretic medicine because I had to skip the morning dose. Then I dove right into making dinner, meatloaf, only to find out K will be late coming home. So instead of a full meal, we ended up eating meatloaf sandwiches. We love meatloaf sandwiches!! I’m not very good at being able to coordinate having all of the meal cooked and ready to sit down at the table to eat at the same time. I just don’t have that talent. haha! K is VERY good at it. He use to be a chef. No, before you ask, he does not cook on a regular basis at home. That’s my job. I don’t know where I went wrong in this scenario because he’s really good.

For the rest of the day, I plan to spend time with K. I am thinking about making a batch of my famous peanut butter cookies. I don’t bake cookies as much as I use to because it’s become harder and harder to mix the cookie dough. I don’t have a heavy duty KitchenAide mixer but I’m hinting towards one for Christmas. I can only get so far with a hand mixer and the rest has to be mixed by hand. The hardest cookie dough I’ve ever had to mix are the Chocolate with peanut butter chip cookies. Next would be Oatmeal Scotchies. Both cookies I LOVE! There’s nothing like a homemade cookie, right?

I’ve already started my next Need a Hug afghan. The last one was sent out to Jenny who lives here in the U.S. Click Need a Hug in the menu above to see how you can get your name on the list for one of my Need a Hug afghans.

I hope everyone has a great day. Stay well and warm. It’s finally down in the 70s here!

Sleep Study Time

Living On Oxygen for Life

There are different reasons for a person who may require a sleep study. Sleep Apnea is one of them. I’ve had quite a few sleep studies dating all the way back to 1993. Even though I was already on oxygen at night only, my lungs couldn’t work well enough while I slept to blow off the CO2 that my body was retaining. My breathing was too shallow. I would have really bad dreams and I’d stop breathing while I slept most nights and the problem was only getting worse.

I was seeing a Pulmonologist in Dallas, TX, in 1993, who realized that my scoliosis played a large role in my breathing problems. Because my ribs are so deformed from my scoliosis-curved spine, it reduced the lung capacity that I had to breathe. Twenty-four years ago, my lung volume was approximately 25% of what a normal, healthy person my current age back then. Today, it measured at 16% at my annual physical. So, over the span of 23 years, my lung capacity has lost about 1/3rd of it’s former volume. Now, if you add the complication of Pulmonary Hypertension to the mechanical difficulties of Restrictive Lung Disease (from my deformed ribs due to Scoliosis), my health becomes difficult to treat. Now, add heart complications. I was born with an ASD (closed on its own) and an VSD (surgically repaired at the age of 10 years old) but also currently have trouble with Ventricular Tachycardia & SupraVentricular Tachycardia. This is the challenge my doctors face. How do you treat one problem without it affecting the others? The answer? Very, very careful trial and error. I make myself heard and understood. I carry test results from one doctor to all my other doctors. We are a team.

So, when I was starting to have a noticeably difficult time breathing earlier this year, I decided to systematically figure out what is causing this large step back in health. I started with my PH doctor. Then went to my Electrophysiology-Cardiologist. After that, I went to my family doctor to bring him up to date. Next, I went to my Pulmonologist who follows my bipap machine. We set up a sleep study. Not my favorite thing to do. I hadn’t had a sleep study since 2009. Maybe I just needed my bipap setting tritrated and that would solve everything… but I don’t think it will. I’m still thinking it has to do with Tikosyn.. the new cardiac medicine I started taking in place of Cordarone.

Next week… I see my normal cardiologist for an ECHO and to ask for a second opinion about this Tikosyn. I’m not giving up until I’ve tried everything to figure out what triggered this breathing setback. I don’t want this to be my new normal. Sure, it’s nice that K does all the grocery shopping on his own but sometimes we have fun together doing it. It just makes me too tired now.

If you’ve never had a sleep study done and you’re curious about them because you have been told you need one, well, wonder no more!

SleepStudy

Here I am all wired up for my sleep study. There are a LOT of wired that are attached to your head, arms, upper chest, and legs. Don’t forget a few weird places like under your chin and next to your eye. Those get a little itchy! You also get an upper chest band and an abdomen band that monitors your breathing. I was able to bring my 3 pillows that I use and my own bipap mask because I already use a bipap. There is a dress code for pajamas. Some sleep studies are done in the hospital and some are done in a stand alone building. If you are to have a sleep study and you use oxygen 24/7, be sure to mention that and take a tour of their “bedrooms.” If you are doing a sleep study outside a hospital and you use a high flow of oxygen 24/7, like me, make sure they can accommodate your oxygen needs. I had to bring my splitter so that I can use two oxygen concentrators together; each set at 3LPM to be able to have enough oxygen while doing my sleep study.

Once you are in your sleep study, if you are having trouble breathing or with the mask they gave you to try, speak up. Let the technician know what’s going on. They’ll try to help as much as they can according to the doctor’s orders. Make sure you understand what your doctor wants to try during the sleep study before you have your sleep study. They really want you to be comfortable so that you can sleep as best as you can. Tell them how you sleep in bed. They’ll want you to try to sleep on your back for a while but my tech let me roll over (which was pretty hard to do with all the wires!) onto my stomach to try to fall asleep.

Seriously, I’d love to hear your comments, experience and advice for future sleep study patients. I know that the Bipap or Cpap machines can be a challenge at first to get use to but, once you do, they can help by improving the quality of your life… at least your sleeping life. *wink* My bipap machine has kept me alive for the last 23 years. I’m glad I didn’t give up on mine.

October Means Flu Shots

Living On Oxygen for Life

A little nervous. I have a doctor appointment tomorrow (Monday) and should be getting my flu shot. I’m nervous because last year when I got the Prevnar13 shot (a different Pneumonia shot) it nearly kicked my reared, leaving me feeling sore and wiped out. I told K that I wasn’t ever getting that shot again. He said, “Yes you will.” That shot is what stands between me and a stay in the hospital if I get sick and it progresses into pneumonia. I just hope the flu shot won’t hit me as hard as the Prevnar 13 shot did last year.

The flu shot usually gives my arm & joints achy pain as well an achy body with a mild sore throat and low grade temp (99 degrees) for a day maybe two. But that’s normal for me. It’s natural for your body to respond in such a way, to a degree, when it detects a foreign body. It tries to attack it and then it builds up antibodies to it to prevent future similar infections of that kind.

I hope if you haven’t yet gotten your flu shot and are not the few who have an allergic reaction to its ingredients, please get the flu shot. It can really help if you get a cold. It will help prevent that cold from turning into the flu or even pneumonia.

Here’s some information about Prevnar 13. Click on the picture to enlarge and read. This is the information my doctor gave me last year. You can also search my blog using the search box for a post I did about Prevnar 13.

PCV13

It took 25 years.. but I did it!

Living On Oxygen for Life

PROLOGUE
K and I have been together for 28 years and counting. I’m very happy and proud of us for such a monumental achievement. We’ve been married for 24 of those years. It’s not easy to live with someone whose health is progressively changing. In the beginning, the changes in our lives came about slowly. We kind of thought, well, maybe I wasn’t doing enough to keep myself in good health. Maybe I was getting a wee bit lazy? But then, I would have a major health issue and our lives would be thrown into a temporary upheaval. Over the years, this would occur and sometimes without a warning shot across the bow to let us know it was about to happen. That’s the hardest part of having breathing problems (and heart problems!). We just never know when the unexpected will happen. One day I’m feeling good and then the next, I’ll be feeling like I want to sleep all day, all week and feel like I can’t snap out of it. At least that’s what it’s feeling like for me this last few months.

TRUE STORY

Over the past 25 years, during the month of September and October, Texas holds its State Fair. Every year I would ask K if we could go to the fair. It looked fun. I mean, the reporters from the news channels would all make it sound and look like fun. There are fun games, rides, and all the junk food you could imagine! Who wouldn’t want that? Apparently, K didn’t. Boo! He would always tell me that it would be too hard on me. It’s too much walking. It’s too hot… He had me with the “it’s too hot..” Darn him!

But this year, I didn’t really even ask. I haven’t really felt well. Last week he asked me what I was doing on the weekend. I scrunched up my eyebrows in deep concentration trying to remember if I had anything planned. Then I got my cellphone out because my memory wasn’t able to think of anything and I knew my calendar on my phone would have more information than my brain would have. Sad, I know! haha! So, I looked and what do you know?? I had nothing planned. K asked me if I would want to go to the Texas State Fair with him on the weekend. This time, I squinted my eyes at him trying to figure out if this was the same man I’ve known for the past 28+ years. All while my heart started melting with happiness and excitement. I couldn’t believe it! He finally changed his mind. He even said that “we’ll use the wheelchair, take both portables, and only stay as long as you can handle it.” Holy smokes! Well ok then! We’re going to the State Fair! Naturally, I did a mental happy dance!

It took us an hour to drive to the state fair and another hour to park. Sheesh! What a sticky wicket that was but at least we got to hop on the Tram to ride up to the front gate from our parking spot. Woohoo! They even had a place in the back of the tram where K could fold up the wheelchair and load it up on the tram. Well, that saved us some walking time for sure. We didn’t even have to stand in line to get tickets because before we left, I did a bit of research and bought our tickets & coupons for food online and printed them out. I do have to say that it was stinking hot. It was 90 degrees. It’s supposed to be Fall!

What’s the state fair without meeting Big Tex? He sure is tall. His clothing wasn’t what I thought it would look like though. I thought his belt would actually be a belt but it looked as if it was part of his “jeans” pants. His boots looked cool and like actual boots!

Big Tex

Now, we entered the state fair with somewhat of a plan. I also had the forethought to print out a state fair map and find the ONE THING K HAD TO SEE and that was the Clydesdale Horses. They are the ones who pull the Budweiser’s truck/wagon/whatever that thing is. It took us a while to find that thing. Mainly because K couldn’t hear the directions I was giving him. I mean, I have a map for heavens sakes! Oh well, we eventually found them. They were so beautiful!!! They had several of the dalmatian dogs there with them.

Clydesdales dalmation horse

We also got a little turned around and ended up in the Auto Show building.

Nascar futurecar KiaRat

Throughout the day we stopped off to try some Fair Food. We both tried a funnel cake, fried snicker bar, a hotdog and a hamburger. I have to say that everything fried tasted like a funnel cake batter-breaded. I’m not a big fried food eater. Overall, I had a great time and I’m finally glad I can cross the Texas State Fair off my bucket list. Needless to say, we both took a super long nap when we managed to get home that evening. The drive home was just as traffic-conjested as the way to the Fair.

Our Vacation Experience with Oxygen

Living On Oxygen for Life

Keep in mind as you read this blog post that K and I are very experienced with traveling while loaded down with multi reservoirs of liquid oxygen. We are safe drivers and we take precautions before we head out on the road for vacation to ensure that our vehicle is in what we call, “Vacation Ready” mode. That means we take it to our favorite auto repair mechanic and ask them to look at our vehicle and make sure it’s ready for a road trip. We ask them to take a good look at the tires, brakes, belts, and to change the oil. They fix anything that needs to be fixed because we don’t want to be miles away from home and have car trouble. Thankfully, we have AAA (triple A roadside service) Membership.

Everything we need for vacation, including medical supples.

Everything we need for vacation, including medical supples.

When we plan a vacation, there are a lot of factors that go into the planning. The very most important factor is the location of my DME company in relation to my vacation destination. We also take into consideration whether there are any Lincare’s along the way. For the ones along our route to and from our destination, we could possibly set up a refill for my liquid oxygen reservoirs by asking my local Lincare office to set it up. The Lincare that I stop at for refills have to have the capability to fill liquid reservoirs. Some Lincare companies no longer do liquid oxygen.

This year we decided to find a beach that we’ve never been to before. We love the beach and for the past few vacations, we’ve only tried to rent beach house one other time. The only thing with this house that we rented on the beach was that it was on stilts. We didn’t realize the stairs to the house would be so darn steep. When we finally got the keys and drove the short distance from the office to our rental house, we pulled in and saw the stairs. We brought with us 2 – 100 pound reservoirs of liquid oxygen that weigh about 165 pounds full (but feel like you’re lifting a ton!). It took both of us, with K doing the lifting. I was standing behind him supporting his back with one of my hands pressed hard against him making sure he didn’t fall backwards. By the time we got that tank and the 75 pound reservoir up the stairs and into the house, we decided that the other 100 pound reservoir could stay in the vehichle since it was parked in the shade under the house. We were both sweaty and hot after that. It was so humid.

Oxygen vs. Stairs

We planned an extended vacation this year. My health has been declining. So, we both knew that I would need extra days when we arrived in Alabama and even in-between to adjust to the heat and humidity. It took me 2 days resting off and on before I could get outside and start having fun. K was super kind about not pressuring me to do anything that I didn’t feel like I could do. I arrived at the beach house with a migraine headache because the drive was stressful for me. The first day we drove we stayed overnight at a hotel. We came out the next morning and found one of our tires was flat from a piece of wood embedded into the side wall of the tire. Luckily, K had a tire air compressor in the back of the van and he aired it up enough to take it to a tire shop where he bought a new tire.

Flat Tire

The second day we drove, K stopped to fill the van with gas, it was my turn to drive this time. For some reason, as I was sitting there waiting for K to come back from the bathroom, the fuel light went on but the fuel gauge stayed at full. I don’t know what made me do it but I actually pushed the tripmeter to zero it out. At least I would know how many miles I’ve gone with the gas that I have in the tank. Anyway, the fuel gauge scared me by dropping all the way to EMPTY while K was a sleep. Ten minutes later, the fuel gauge would start raising back up to full and the light would go off. That was creepy scary. I let K drive after that. Apparently, there’s a wiring problem. Ugh!

After I was ready to get out of the beach house, I hit the beach! Even from the wrap around porch of our beach house on one day, we could see a few dolphins swimming off the coast!

It’s easy taking my oxygen to the beach. K had set up a tent with two beach chairs beneath it for me to relax and watch K wade into the water. When I wanted time in the water, K would either carry my portable on his shoulder and hold my hand as we walked into the waves OR he would have me connect my 50ft tubing to my portable and clip my portable to one of the beach chairs that he’d move closer to the shore. I’d bury the feet of the chair in the sand to give it more stability. I’d just need to sit my tank right in the seat with strap clipped to the top of the chair. Perfect! I could walk up to 50ft into the water or just sit on each of the tide.

Dolphins along the coast of Gulf Shores, AL

Dolphins along the coast of Gulf Shores, AL

This is how I sit at the beach under a tent on low beach chairs.

This is how I sit at the beach under a tent on low beach chairs.

Rocco would sit with me while I crocheted on vacation.

Rocco would sit with me while I crocheted on vacation.

We went out to celebrate my 47th birthday and our 24th Anniversary!

We went out to celebrate my 47th birthday and our 24th Anniversary!

We really had a good time on vacation. We didn’t want to come home so soon even though we spent 10 days in the beach house. I think next time we are going to try to stay longer. It all depends on how well my health holds up. *fingers crossed* YAY!

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.