A doctor appointment…

Living On O2 for Life

On Wednesday, this week, I had a doctor appointment. My lung volume was measured and I was so thrilled when I saw the results. My total lung volume went from last year’s 15% to this year’s result of 22%. Even though it’s a better percentage, it’s still a very low volume compared to someone with the same height and age. To put it all into perspective, imagine that your lungs have a total lung capacity of one and a half cans of soda. That’s about the size of both of my lungs combined. Yet, I’m still alive thanks to the use of oxygen, medication and machinery. Yea technology!

I told the doctor that I’m having to turn up my oxygen from 5LPM to 5 1/2 to 6LPM when I do house chores because of increased shortness of breath. My doctor said the shortness of breath can be from two reasons in my case. One is mechanical and the other reason is from reduced Oxygen Saturation during the times of physical activity.

The mechanical reason is due to scoliosis and the deformation of my ribcage. My ribs keep my lungs from expanding fully. Any time a person is active, their body demands more oxygen to be able to do what it wants done. But in my case, my lungs can’t work harder to keep up with the demands of oxygen because they are so restricted. And neither can my heart. So, my doctor ok’d turning up my oxygen but only during the daytime hours. Not at night. Too much oxygen can trick the brain and cause a body to retain too much CO2 (carbon dioxide) which could slow respiration and possibly stop the breathing.

It is very important to use oxygen at the amount prescribed by the doctor. If you continue to have trouble with shortness of breath while using oxygen at the prescribed amount, it’s important to talk this over with your doctor. He may want to run some extra tests. My doctor is having me do an at-home oximetry test while I sleep to ensure that I’m getting enough oxygen at night. I’ll use my oxygen at 5LPM (my normal prescribed setting) with my BiPap machine and test while I sleep in my own bed. Easy, huh? I just don’t like having to sleep with a little glowing light taped to my finger. My doctor also recommended an Oximizer. An Oximizer has a built in reservoir to store continuous-flow oxygen that would normally be wasted from a nasal cannula as a person breathes out. The saved oxygen would be inhaled on each new breath; giving the person more of the oxygen. I would only need to use it during the day while I’m home. I will post a picture of this thing when I get it. I’m intrigued yet slightly skeptical about it. I would be using it to increase oxygen consumption rather than to “save” on oxygen.

I also have to replace the pulse oximeter that my dog chewed up. I know.. I know.. silly dog. I don’t even know how he got ahold of it but he sure made a mess out of it. I recommend for those on oxygen to get a pulse oximeter so that you can monitor your oxygen saturation rate. You can measure it at various times in a day. It could give you an idea of what things that you do make your oxygen saturation drop if at all. You can get a pulse oximeter at pharmacies, Wal-mart, and even at eBay or Amazon.com.

Normal oxygen saturation values are 97% to 99% in the healthy individual. An oxygen saturation value of 95% is clinically accepted in a patient with a normal hemoglobin level. The Mayo Clinic states that oxygen blood levels below 90 are considered low. And as always, take care of yourself. Wash your hands often to help fight spreading or catching the flu.