Going the extra mile…

Living On Oxygen for Life

I know I’m a lucky person. I have a husband who loves me and takes care of me in ways that I have no idea that he’s doing it. May 26, 2017 was one of those days.

Last year, K found out that U2 was coming to Dallas, Texas in 2017. It’s rare that they come here and they are one of K’s favorite bands of all time, next to Pink Floyd, of course. So, he asked and then begged and told me how important this concert was to him. He said he’d consider it his birthday AND Christmas present if I’d buy these tickets for him. I’m the CFO (Chief Financial Officer) of this family. Anything spent, that’s over $100, should be cleared through the CFO. That’s what happens when you’re living with someone who is disabled and has to go to the doctor often and take expensive medicine.

I knew how much K wanted to go to this concert and I won’t lie to you and say that I was really excited about going to the concert at first. I hadn’t been to a concert in YEARS. I didn’t know if I’d be able to last through a whole concert. I mean, how long do concerts last nowadays? That question was the most important question we faced going into planning for this night of fun. Yes, I bought the tickets. In fact, for the first time ever, I bought a seat for the disabled and a companion seat ticket. We decided to use my wheelchair.

The closer we got to the date of the concert, I started getting more and more excited. I asked my younger sister how long concerts last and she thought about 3 hours. So, we thought 2 liquid oxygen portables would be enough. We didn’t want to leave before the end of the concert. Two portables would give me about 4 hours of time safely. Though, when you least expect it, things don’t always go as planned. Do they?

On the day of the concert, I dressed up in my retro dress. It took me a while to figure out what shoes to wear and how to tie the belt around my dress. I’m not a fashionista. At all.. but K kept saying that I looked beautiful. So, how could I NOT wear a dress? How sweet of him!

We finally departed our house and drove to the DeathStar (the new Cowboys stadium) and there was a lot of traffic. I whipped out my handicap placard once we got close to the stadium. I told K to slow down and I rolled down my window. Well, I just pressed a button and it rolled down on it’s own. I stuck my head out the window and waved my handicap placard (like I knew what I was doing!) to a cop directing traffic. Yeah, I’m not shy AT ALL. The policeman walked up to my van and I asked him directions on handicap parking. That’s right. We were going in style! We ended up paying just a little extra (ok.. a bit more than I was comfortable with) to park at the building (a sidewalk away) in the handicap. It was right up there near Valet parking. A parking attendant poked his head in K’s window to scope the inside of our van. I don’t think I need to tell you what they were looking for with what happened in Manchester, UK a few days prior. There were police dogs walking the crowd and police with automatic rifles. Texas is serious with security. No purses allowed unless it was no larger than 5″x8″ in size. I actually took my PH International Conference name ID badge that I got in June 2016. It held my ticket, driver’s license, credit card, insurance card and my cellphone. It was the perfect size!

We got in the building and had no idea where to go. However, we quickly found out that if you are arriving in a wheelchair, not only do you jump through the line to enter the building quicker than anyone else. You get some incredibly friendly help from the Event Staff. It was nothing short of AMAZING! We only had to say we weren’t sure where to go and the Event Staff person we asked not only told us where we needed to be but also, TOOK us there personally. It was awesome! I was all smiles and “Thank YOUs!” I have to say the handicap seating was excellent. We were fairly close and not a single person was in front of us.

U2 concert 2017!

Now the scary part. As K would say, we “GROSSLY” underestimated the amount of oxygen we needed for the concert. I use 6LPM of oxygen 24/7 and my 2 portables would last roughly just over 4 hours. It was already 7pm which was when the concert was scheduled to start. It didn’t start until almost 8pm and it was the Lumineers, not U2. K and I talked about what we would do. I told him that I could turn my oxygen down to 5LPM if I just sit here in my wheelchair but I’d have to turn it back up to use the restroom or if I started feeling bad. He had left me for a little bit to find out about souvenir concert shirts. At least that was part of what he was doing. I didn’t realize he was going down to the police or the Event Agent at the door to see if he could later exit the building to refill my oxygen. He said no. He couldn’t let him back in he building if he left. Well that sucks! Right? So, he next went to the fire department personnel and explained our situation to him. He asked if they had oxygen with them and they said not to worry. If we have problems to bring me straight to them and they would help. Wow! (yes, they had oxygen!)

K came back to his seat without even telling me he had setup a backup plan in case we needed it. He even packed a picnic to leave in the van for after the concert in case we were hungry. We had a lot of fun, with my oxygen turned down to 5LPM, I was able to watch the whole concert from start to finish. We even stayed a little longer to watch some of the breakdown of the stage. That was cool too. It was just after 11:30pm when we finally got back to my van but all was well and we had a great time. Quite a number of the event staff and a police officer asked if we had a good time. I’d like to think this kind of hospitality happens everywhere but being Texan, I’m kinda biased. *hugs* haha!

Waiting for the U2 concert… Lumineers will be first!

Lots of love to y’all!

Little emergencies can be big problems.

Living On Oxygen for Life

IMG_6738

This was a bad moment at the doctor’s office today. The doctor recently started having an oxygen tank at her office because I told her it would be a good idea. You know, just in case. Well, today was that just in case moment when my tubing snapped off as K was switching my tanks.  We were all panicking until K remembered the recently acquired office oxygen tank (with cannula!) kept tucked away for emergencies. I had to hold my broken tubing onto my second full tank to try and get enough oxygen until they found another cannula. Thankfully, K moves fast and keeps a level head in a crisis. All I was in charge of was concentrating on breathing calmly until rescued. We have spare tubing in my van but that was in the parking lot 7 floors below. It would’ve taken too long to get it.

Life has a funky way of reminding me how fragile my body is but I can’t live in fear and never go anywhere. Lately, I’ve become a homebody because my breathing has gotten worse. I have to get myself out of the house more and I’m going I’m going to accept this challenge head on. Well, as soon as K fills my gas tank. I’ve decided that’s a “man’s job.” Honestly, I can’t handle the gas fumes. So, I have K fill my van for me.

What about you? Have you had some oxygen emergencies? Share your story in the comment section. Love y’all!

A little thing about shopping carts.

Living On Oxygen for Life

A tragic accident happened yesterday. *sniff* *gulp* I was hot-footing after K in Lowe’s last night, reminding him to please slow down. You see, even after all this time together with each other, he will sometimes forget that I’m slower than he is. “What?!?” You ask. I know, I know. I’m stunned by that revelation myself but it’s true.

K “needed” more garden supplies. I swear for a man who originally didn’t want a yard when we were house shopping years ago, he sure has taken up gardening as if it’s a lifeline. Honestly, it can be and has been. Even though it’s a lot of work, there’s a lot of joy and even a bit of escapism to it. He’s made our yard it our little project that is never finished and that’s ok because we love every change we bring to it each year.

Now, back to Lowe’s. Right. Where was I? Ok I remember. “Slow down,” and he turns around to look back at me while turning the cart filled with bags of dirt. “K, I’m not made for this speed anymore.” I smiled at him and that’s when my life goes into slow motion. I see K about to say something and then I caught something flying out of the corner of my eye.

Have you ever experienced something happening that you knew wasn’t right but you weren’t in the position to stop it from happening? Well, that was K and I. I was too far away and K was still looking at me when the dirt shifted in the cart that he was still pushing around a corner. There wasn’t a darn thing we could do. My portable liquid oxygen tank got squeezed out of the cart’s seat and flew out and smacked the concrete floor. The plastic casing came wide open and top was tilted out way wrong. Oh crude buckets! I gently picked it up, trying to squeeze it back together, when my mind was wondering if these things blowup. Apparently not this time. However, K’s first thought was, “Is it still flowing oxygen?” Isn’t he so sweet???

Miraculously, the darn thing was still working but I asked him what her would do if it didn’t. He said, “We’d figure it out. We always do.” What a guy, right? It wasn’t until we got back to home that we tossed around some ideas of what to do in that scenario. It’s always good to have a plan in place for such things because I can not be without oxygen for very long before I start to suffer badly and that’s if I’m just sitting somewhere without talking or moving to conserve my body’s oxygen supply.

When we got home we discussed what we could have done if my portable had stopped working. I’m a little nervous to tell my oxygen provider that my portable is broken. But hey, these things happen, right? A lesson has been learned here for us. We will never forget to strap in my portable tank using the child safety belt in the shopping cart. I mean, we took the time to connect it through my purse strap but didn’t do it this time for my portable.

Life isn’t easy… is it?

Living On Oxygen for Life

November 2016

November 2016

Throughout November and December, life was difficult because I was so depressed even though my sisters came for a visit on New Year’s Day. I finally got off of Tikosyn and back on Cordarone. I had to buy it from Turkey because the U.S. doesn’t produce brand name anymore. Don’t worry… I had the approval of my cardiologist, that I’ve seen for about 25 years, to take the Turkey Cordarone. So he knows me pretty well. Now that I’m back on Cordarone, I’ve started feeling more myself, as in my heart has settled down. However, I went through a month of feeling as if I had no motivation and all the Christmas stress was getting me depressed. K was noticing. It was definitely a struggle there for a while. I even stopped crocheting for about a week and a half. *SHOCK!* Whaaaat??? Say it isn’t so! I know, I’m surprised about it too. But don’t worry. I’m back at it and I finished the December Need a Hug afghan and have started January’s afghan! Yay! I still need to get the December afghan in the mail. Ergg… Sorry!

Because my breathing has been worse, I exchanged my 5 liter oxygen concentrator for a 10 liter concentrator that I use with my liquid oxygen. I still use a splitter that I can connect the two (concentrator with the liquid oxygen) to use together to make my liquid oxygen last longer. There’s another reason for upgrading to a 10 liter concentrator. I need a machine that will give me more oxygen for when I need it in the future. Plus, it will make vacations a lot easier because we will only have to travel with one 100lb liquid oxygen reservoir and one 75lb reservoir as well as the 10 liter concentrator. I’m thinking ahead for my future. You may be wondering why I still use my concentrator with the liquid oxygen bled in together. Well, the oxygen concentrator does not put out 100% pure oxygen like the liquid oxygen does. My lungs are very sensitive and they just need a higher concentrated level of oxygen. Plus, using 6L of oxygen from both 100lb reservoirs using the splitter (each on 3 liters) doesn’t last me a whole week. My O2 guy only comes once a week for a refill. I tried just the oxygen concentrator at 6LPM but everyday I slowly started feeling worn out. It’s as if I’d use liquid oxygen on 5L… I could do it but by the end of the day my body would feel weak and my breathing would be much more difficult. Here’s a picture of my splitter.

O2 spltter

O2 spltter

But now for the good news… K and I are planning to go to two concerts!! U2 and Roger Waters! K has been waiting for what seems like forever for U2 to announce a concert date in our area. The really neat thing that’s kicked me out of depression is that K has finally decided to help me do a MAJOR Spring cleaning. It’s not the type of Spring cleaning that you may be thinking of, but it’s more of the kind where you take all the stuff out of every closet and my craft room. We are sifting through all of it and deciding what to throw away, what to donate and what to shred. I have TONS of paper work to shred. We had to get an extra paper shredder so that K could help. The one I already have is slower and shreds less paper at a time. K is parting with his McFarlane action figures and he has a LOT of NHL series 1 thru 12 plus variants. (We are looking for a place to sell them. Most likely below cost.) We’re talking boxes and boxes of dolls. Oops! Did I just say dolls? I mean action figures. *wink* It’s good to get the house uncluttered. It makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something. I work on it everyday and even though it makes me feel exhausted, I don’t want to stop until my house is just the way I want it. Finally!

I plan on blogging more often. So keep coming back! Thanks for reading and stay well. *hugs*

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.

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!