Living On Oxygen for Life
One of the most important things people do not tend to think about when planning for a road trip while having lung issues, is the how the path you decide to drive will affect your breathing. When I turned 40 years old (nearly 6 years ago!), I begged my husband to take me to Las Vegas. Nearly everyone I knew has been there and had fun. I just haven’t been there and I wanted to go so badly. So, I made it my Birthday wish. Over the years leading up to my 40th birthday, K would always tell me we couldn’t go because it’s a LONG drive and there would be just us driving. He also didn’t think I would do that well on the road driving through the mountains.
Eventually, I wore K down and he started thinking about going since it would be my big 4-0 birthday and he wanted to make it special. We needed someone to go with us. Not just anyone. We ended up taking my MacGyver-like brother-in-law and my older sister, who just happens to be a Physician’s Associate. I asked all my doctors how they felt about me going to Las Vegas (and then on to California) and they all said the same thing. Stay out of the mountains.
Mountains and any altitude that you are not acclimated to can create a big problem for those of us who have breathing problems. Things like increased shortness of breath, sleepiness, chest pain, head aches, and nauseation are just a few of the things that I experience in altitude that is within the range of 3000 feet or higher. It doesn’t take long for the effects of altitude to effect me. It’s a distinct and highly recognizable feeling and it can not only make you feel miserable, it will make you sick.
So, what did we do? First, let me tell you, you must have a back up emergency plan if you truly decide to go… which I don’t recommend doing without a backup plan and talking with your doctor first. Your life and health are too important to not be overly cautious. I then started charting the route that we took. K and I only drive 10-hour days while on a road trip (and yes we took our road trip mascot.. my rubber chicken!).. so we needed to make sure we stopped in locations that, not only have a lower altitude level, but also a place to refill my oxygen if it is time to refill my liquid oxygen reservoir. Wouldn’t want to run out of oxygen while on the road, right? That would be bad as I started using a tad bit more of oxygen while in the car.
Since I live in Fort Worth, Texas, I had to pick a route that skirted most of the mountains and stayed within the lower altitude range. I live in an area that is at around 700 feet above sea level. So, I was guessing that my maximum tolerable altitude would be 3000 feet. Yes I would still have trouble but I would be able to go since my sister was going with us to keep an eye on me. Yes, she’s an awesome sister. I only wished that my little sister could’ve gone too.
I bet you are wondering how I planned the route. First, there’s an app for that but most importantly, there is a really great altitude website that lets you click on any given area and it will tell you the altitude. You can use this map for locations anywhere around the world. Using this, I was able to figure out which highways to use to make my roaodtrip the safest route possible. It wasn’t fool-proof. I still had serious headaches and I was really tired. However, I had the foresight to have purchase a wheel chair through Amazon.com and I took my pulse oximeter to monitor my oxygen saturation.
I hope this helps you plan your road trips. I posted this information in hopes that you remain healthy while on vacation and have all the fun you deserve.