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

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!

My PH Story

Living On Oxygen for Life

While at the 2016 Pulmonary Hypertension International Conference in Dallas, TX on June 17 – 19, I met Steve Van Wormer, who helped create the PHAware Global Association. At the conference, he did interviews of PH patients to help get their PH Stories out to the public to raise awareness of this devastating and currently incurable disease. He asked me to do an interview. I tried my best to do the interview. He was SO gracious when my brain decided to blank out.. I explained that I write much better than I talk. The long term effect of high CO2 on my brain really has affected my memory and recall. Thank goodness for editing… and cut & paste. Hopefully, he can make something out of what I said.

For this reason, I want to get what I REALLY wanted to say here on my blog. Here we go!

**********

I'm aware that I'm rare. Rocco has now become PHAware. He's my PH Pup!

I’m aware that I’m rare.
Rocco has now become PHAware. He’s my PH Pup!

My name is Christine Liles and I have Secondary Pulmonary Hypertension. I was born with PH due to Congenital Heart Defects and Scoliosis that caused Restrictive Lung Disease. The doctors knew almost right away that I had Pulmonary Hypertension. The pressures were really high and since I was born in 1969, there were no PH medications or a course of treatment for this very rare disease. So, I grew up living with this disease taking Lanoxin for a short time to help slow my heart rate down. I was restricted from most gym activity because of the shortness of breath.

My parents & sisters were great at providing me with as close to a normal life as possible. Before the age of 10 years old, if my sisters bowled and played baseball in leagues, I was right there with them. Granted, I was much slower but I did it even though the doctors kind of frowned upon it. At the age of 10, my parents finally talked my Cardiologist into performing a corrective surgery on my Ventrical Septal Defect in my heart. My Thoracic & Cardiac doctors, both, didn’t want to do it because they didn’t think I had a chance to make it off the table. It was my most glorious moment walking out of the hospital 7 days later with a patched VSD. With that successful surgery, my PH pressures reduced slightly.

Life really improved until I turned 17 years old. I started having blackouts while driving, began becoming forgetful, and my CO2 was much higher. So I started using oxygen at night. As time went by in my life, I started having more Shortness of Breath. My oxygen flow increased, I started using a bipap to sleep with and I had to stop working all together. This happened when I was 23, just a year after I got married to the love of my life. It was a very difficult adjustment. He knew it was coming.. this health change. I told him when we were dating and then before we married. This is the best I will be. I won’t get better because there are no medications to fix my PH and only one pill that can regulate my heart arrhythmia that I now have. I asked him… Can you handle this? His answer was total honesty which is what I wanted to hear but was hard to hear because he said.. I don’t know. And then, I went on oxygen 24/7. My husband has been my rock and he’s made from the finest quality of human beings… his parents.

In 2006, my Cardiologist asked me to check out the medicine Revatio & Cialis with my pulmonologist. So off I went to see my Pulmonologist who then sent me to see a PH Specialist. I didn’t even know there were PH Specialists. Over the years, after trying most of the PH medications that are available, which there aren’t nearly enough, there is only one medication that my body can tolerate. This is what I will stay on until something new comes along that my doctor thinks might work. I’m not a candidate for lung transplant because of my deformed ribs. I spend my life finding different ways to do the things I need to get done. Picking things off the floor are by using my toes to lift it to my hands. Vacuuming is my husband’s job now. I bend at the waist to wash my hair. I have an adapter for my van to use my bipap on the road for vacations while in the car if have trouble breathing. I do things in short bursts of energy. What takes my husband 2 hours to clean the whole house, takes me all week and even then I can’t get all of the really hard things done.. such as scrubbing the tub, vacuuming or mopping the floors.

This is my life now and I’ve learned to adapt which is the key to keeping myself happy. I’ve found hobbies that I can do that brings me GREAT joy. Just to be able to garden, my husband has built me a raised garden at the height of 16 inches to help me not have to bend down to the ground to grow vegetables. Instead of growing my dwarf fruit trees in the ground, he planted them in half whiskey barrels. I had trouble with dragging a long rubber watering hose, so I asked for a Pocket Hose because it is SOOOO light!

Will there be a cure in my lifetime? I don’t really know. In all honesty, I’m not so concerned for a cure for ME. I’ve had a GREAT life, filled with love and so many adventures. What I am concerned about are all the children who have Primary Pulmonary Hypertension. They need a cure in their lifetime. They have their whole life in front of them but with PH and without a cure, all they have are the medications that are currently available. My passion is for these kids. I know what it’s like to grow up with health problems. PH is no easy disease to live with. Help us. Be PHAware and get the message out that we need a cure. WE ARE DESPERATE TO BREATHE. Check out PHAware.global to see how you can become involved in finding a cure and spreading the word about Pulmonary Hypertension. Or follow on social media @phaware

#PHAware

What brought me to think about Suicide…

Living On Oxygen for Life

A good friend of mine wrote this poem and it really spoke to me. It’s about a topic that isn’t talked about enough. Please read this poem and then I’ll begin to outline my experience with this subject.

WHAT WOULD HAPPEN

What if we never wake
To see a smiling face
Upon our families lips
What else could take that place?

Your story has yet been told
But your fear is not just yours
That it won’t be heard again
Through your children’s wars

If you join the rested dead
Because the memories hit too hard
Your fable of what could have been
Will end, silent and barred

So do a favor not for you
But for those that stay behind
Never end your silent fight
For what you couldn’t find

Because all that’s lost is right in front
When you awaken a new day
That pistol’s meant to protect
Not take your life away

Be the one that won’t back down
And the parent that won’t say NO
Because when you’re gone it all goes numb
There’s no rewind for that low

The eyes that stare with crazy dreams
As you awaken from your past
Are the ones of the innocent child
That wants their parent back

When the words come out of you
That now is the time to go
Be sure your memories will not fade
When they sink you down so low

So live this life for those that watch
And do it as you should
But don’t be scared to reach a friend
That has been where you have stood.

Levi Bridwell
2-5-2016

Let me take you back to when I was nearly 15 years old and had just underwent a surgery that would change the course of my life forever. It was the most traumatic experience I have ever experienced in my life that left me with some deep emotional scars. The surgery I had, brought me so close to dying that even the doctor was freaking out (professionally, of course). He allowed my sisters, my parents, and my grandmother to come into the ICU two at a time to sit next to my bed for as long as they could bear to. I was a mess. My older sister was so upset that she started crying and had to leave the ICU. Her boyfriend stayed with me holding my hand. My little sister came in with our grandmother. I was so hot from breathing so hard that the doctor relented and allowed a fan to be placed pointed directly at me to attempt to keep me cool. I had a tube up my nose and down my throat to my stomach to pump out the flow of black bile that I was continuously vomiting up. I was dying and everyone knew it. Yet, I struggled to hold on.

When my little sister came in, and sat next to my grandma, she suffered quietly as she was always so sensitive to being cold. She sat in the direct path of my fan which was on its highest fan speed. I looked at her through the bed rail and I felt so bad for her. My heart rate was up to 200 bpm and I was sweating. I couldn’t turn it off for her. So, I did the only thing I could think of… I gave her my bed sheet for her to shield herself from the fan.

I will never forget the look on each of my family members’ face as they came to sit with me. There’s so much more to this story but I’ll leave it for another time. I just want you to remember this moment as I jump you forward a few years to when I was nearly 17 years old.

Life for me changed radically when I was nearing 17 years old. I started having blackouts. I wrecked my car numerous time due to blackouts, I tried working while I went to high school which made me continuously tired. I became hypoxic, forgetting homework assignments and where my classes were within the school. My psychology class assignment was to write an autobiography which pulled me so deep into depression that I would lock myself in the bathroom and cry. I started dropping classes that I didn’t need credit for to graduate because I was so tired and I was going to fail them.

With all of this going on, my parents had been divorced for about 3 to 6 months and we ended up moving outside my school district. We had to drive ourselves to school everyday instead of switching school which I do not think I could handle.

And then…. I got sick. Really sick. Pneumonia. I was so sick that I was carted off in an ambulance from my mom’s house to the hospital in the middle of a snow storm and stayed for 2 1/2 weeks making me even further behind in school. I had incompletes, Ds and an F on my report card with so many absent days reported that I remember thinking that there was NO WAY I was going to graduate from High School since this was my Senior Year. Plus, I had to quit my job.

Among all of that, my doctors realized that I needed supplemental oxygen at home at night. Everyday I thought about killing myself. Every. Single. Day. I doubt even my best friend knew I was thinking about suicide. So, I come home from a second hospital stay from rebound pneumonia and started my attempt to catch up on my school work. I couldn’t do it because I was such a mess. My mother came into my room to ask me if she needed to find some help for me. That’s all she asked and when I said, “No, I can handle my problems,” she didn’t ask anymore.

When I was like this, I closed myself off, became quiet, because any more added pressure would have been just too much for me to handle. I kept thinking back to the last surgery I had and the looks of my family and KNEW that I could never try to kill myself no matter how much I thought about it. I couldn’t do that to them. I didn’t think anyone noticed the turmoil that was going on inside me. Trying to deal with health issues, trying to graduate high school, dealing with a dysfunctional family life and more. I did graduate. My teachers passed me through due to my effort of trying. We moved to Texas.

Slowly my life started to change once I picked up an old Pentax camera, took long walks (finding a Pecan tree!), and learning to cook a few things for myself. I spent nearly a year just finding myself. Getting use to having my lungs needing supplemental nightly oxygen and learning to accept the future changes that will come. I know life will be ok for me but every-now-and-then I think of that surgery that very nearly ended my life. If I could survive THAT, then I could most likely handle the rest of this mess in my life. But, not everyone can, there are people out there truly struggling thinking that the only way out is through suicide. That’s not the answer. Getting help is the first step to finding your way through whatever life has thrown at you. Find a school nurse or counselor, a pastor of a church, a close friend or call one of the hotlines listed below and tell someone what’s going on that’s making you feel this way. Do it today.

Thanks to Lifeline Website, you can find information about what to expect when calling the Hotline.
National hotlines:

In the USA: you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline free from anywhere at 1-800-273-TALK.

In the UK: you can call the Samaritans anytime, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, on 08457 90 90 90.

In Scotland: you can call the Breathing Space phoneline, which is available 24 hours at weekends (6pm Friday – 6am Monday), and 6pm – 2am on weekdays (Monday – Thursday), on 0800 83 85 87.

Know Your Limitations…

Living On Oxygen for Life

Know Your Limitations for the Holidays.

So, you use oxygen. Whether it’s 24/7, like me, or you use oxygen during activity, you should always know your limitations. The holiday season is now upon us. Heck, it’s been upon us since just before Halloween! Personally, I don’t understand that. I’m a type of person who loves to enjoy each holiday for what they stand for. Aren’t you? Though, I certainly can’t wait for K to start decorating for Christmas. He really has a knack for that. Remember last year?

Your limitations are your body’s warning signs for telling you to slow it down and pause for a rest. No one wants you to peter out before the fun starts…whether it’s board games or Football games –backyard or on the TV in your comfy recliner. I think everyone who reads my blog would want you to enjoy the holidays with your friends and family without risking your health by overdoing. Right, y’all?

So, what do you do? If you are the one who does the cooking for the holidays of the past but are now on oxygen, you can either pass the baton to another family member to cook the meal or delegate the whole meal as a pot luck. You can even prearrange by ordering a precooked turkey or ham from your favorite store and have it picked up! Save your oven for the important stuff, like PIE! Yum!

Plan on taking sit-down breaks that are uninterrupted. Got the meal under control or have someone else tending to it? Take that power nap before the meal. Teenagers are a great source for free help. Trust me… I was once one! They will do just about whatever asked to earn a chance to sit at the “Adult” table this year. You remember the moment in your life when you were given that honorary seat at the table where all the adults gathered to sit and eat (and talk!). It was….a beautiful day. *sigh*

With all the activity and excitement, even if you are not prescribed to use oxygen 24/7, you should always use your oxygen as your doctor has prescribed! You should never feel embarrassed to wear your oxygen. Your friends and family care about you and should always put your health as a priority. They want you to have fun too. So, if your body is telling you it’s tired but your brain still wants to get something done, listen to your body. Don’t be stubborn. Just get some rest and ask for help. People are actually willing to help you but most are just unsure how to be of assistance. Need something moved? Ask! Need help getting up from the couch? Ask! Is your oxygen tubing stuck around a chair leg? Ask for help! Someone STANDING on your O2 tubing??? Well, shove him off!! No… Just kidding! I always tell people when they come into the house that it’s ok to accidentally step on the tubing…just don’t stand on it and to watch their feet so they won’t trip. You need to not be afraid to speak up and ask for help. It’s really ok!

Wherever you go and whatever you do for the holidays, I hope it’s full of fun, love and adventure. Leave a comment tell me how you handle the holidays on oxygen! Be well and stay safe. —Christine

I’m a genious!!!

Living On Oxygen for Life

I’m a genious! Ok, well, maybe I’m not technically a genious or even very intellectually smart but I’m pretty darn creative. You see, I have a problem. I want to go to a movie. Normally that wouldn’t necessarily be a problem because K would go with me and carry my oxygen. Right? Yep. He would.

But what if this is a movie that he REALLY doesn’t want to see even though I have been waiting for this movie a whole year for it to come out on the big screen? Not a problem because I have a cart for my portable oxygen, right? Ok. That sounds logical. Just use my cart to pull my oxygen around so I won’t become exhausted from carrying it. Great!!!

Only one huge problem with that… the movie is over 2 hours long which means I’ll need two liquid oxygen portables. (Remember, I use 6LPM of O2) Not to worry because I have two portables. However, the problem is that I have a cart that only carries one portable. And before you ask or say it, I can’t carry one and drag one in the cart. I’d be wiped out before I got to my movie seat.

So now I’m in MacGyver mode. I came up with an idea last night. I don’t care what the end product looks like as long as it works to carry both portables with ease (and maybe even my purse too! Sweet!!!). All I need is my plastic tub that I use for trash in my van, my handy duct tape (my home is NEVER without duct tape!), and my luggage carrier. This morning I was looking all over the house for my luggage carrier and couldn’t find it. I thought my MacGyver moment was doomed already from the start. But, I texted K because he remembers EVERYTHING and surely he’d know where the carrier was hiding. In fact, I thought he took it to work. Don’t ask…

To my surprise, instead of a text reply, he FaceTime’d me back and he walked with me through the house to find it. I know why he did that. It’s because I told him last night that I thought about going to this movie on just one portable. He thought otherwise. With my breathing becoming worse while on the new PH medicine, Adempas, he put his foot down saying take both portables. He wants me to get out of the house more but wants me to be safe and smart about it. Sometimes I’m so excited about something that I don’t always remember I’m not really Wonder Woman. *GASP!!!* Shhhhh… Don’t tell anyone! Aw… He’s so sweet.

Now that I have everything I need, I will begin the construction phase of my MacGyver moment. I will build myself a cart for two oxygen portables! Wish me luck! Pictures of my hopeful success coming soon. haha!