Crazy Awesome Weekend with Family!

Living On Oxygen for Life

I had a very long but fun weekend. First was the Pulmonary Hypertension doctor appointment and an Arterial Blood Gas drawn. Then we ate lunch at McDonald’s because we had other things we needed to do. We had to run to Walmart to return some stuff and pick up some forgotten thing from the grocery trip K did the previous day. Plus we picked up a new inhaler at the pharmacy. That was all on Friday.

When we came home from the errands, we got busy finishing up with cleaning the house because family was coming!!!! Yay!

After I made it to bed feeling exhausted, I knew I had to get up way early again for another appointment on Saturday that was a little over an hours drive away.

While we were at the appointment, my sister & her family already arrived at our house (we call it The Chateau), and we finally got home around 2pm. Yay! 

We got to babysit my niece for 4 hours, which was super fun but by the time they got back, K and I were wiped out.  My niece must have some sort of super-charged mega-battery that keeps her pumped up with energy.  I asked to borrow it but I didn’t think it’s transferable. Darn! 

We had so much fun but I’m glad we didn’t go to lunch with them today. It’s time for this girl to crash. I need sleep or at least down time. My niece is 7 and she asked me lots of questions (even taught me a two person hand-slapping song that was called Lemonade. I think?!) about my bipap mask that I was using when she snuck in my room to see if I was awake yet yesterday during my very short nap. She wanted her own cannula. She also wanted to see what it felt like with it connected to the oxygen. 

So, like a fun Auntie that I am, I used it as a learning experience for her. I got her a 7 foot cannula (like the ones used with portable tanks), connected it to one of my oxygen tanks, and I turned the oxygen on to 2 liters first. She wasn’t really impressed. So I told her, “Ok, now this is was it feels like at the amount that I have to use which 6 liters.” Her eyes got really wide when she felt it in her nose and she said, “Whoa! How do you do that?” “Baby girl, I do it because it helps me breathe.” 

I always want to make sure that she knows it’s ok to ask questions about me or my equipment. Curiosity can be a good thing when paired with learning about something that will expand her mind. We had a great time this weekend and I feel happy as I always do when I get to see one or both of my sisters. It’s like medicine to my soul. Sounds a little corny but it works for me. 

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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.

Day Two… It continues.. Tikosyn!

Living On Oxygen for Life

There is one thing I want to bring up about the first day that I failed to mentioned in my earlier post about Day One. I’m still pretty upset about it. In fact, at the time, K and I were both very upset and flabbergasted about the whole incident. You see… when I have to stay in the hospital, I naturally bring along my bipap machine so that I can immediately have it available to use and I also bring all of my medicine. All of my medicine includes my specialty medicine which I know that hospitals, even though they are hospitals with lots and lots of drugs, may not have a supply of my specialty medicine. When I went to the Dallas hospital in 2014, that hospital didn’t have my Opsumit, that I was taking (no longer taking now!), in their pharmacy.

On the 26th of May, my first day of hospital stay, the hospital realized that they didn’t have Tracleer in their pharmacy. The nurse came to tell us in my room and I said that’s no problem because this has happened to me before in 2014 in a Dallas hospital. I brought my Tracleer with me in it’s bottle. The pharmacist can inspect it, slap a patient label on it and put it in their pharmacy locker to dispense out to me. The nurse went to call the pharmacy to see if that was ok to do. She came back and told me the hospital pharmacy said they couldn’t do that, saying something about a law? *shrug* I told the nurse that I can not be without this medicine. The pharmacy looked around for a small supply of Tracleer 62.5mg and found some all the way in Dallas that they were going to have brought to Fort Worth for me that night. I was so mad. I was mad because I had my medicine not but one foot from me and they wouldn’t allow me to offer it to take. I was mad because the hospital had someone in Dallas drive in pouring down rain and hail to bring to it to me to use. AND I was mad because I knew this medicine costs $8500 for a month supply and I didn’t want an exorbitant charge for Tracleer on my bill when I have mine to take that the insurance has already paid for when all they had to do is inspect mine and put a patient label on it. Sorry, but I’m still really upset about this.

Ok…Day Two.. It was much better than day one…although, I didn’t get to sleep until 2am because the last vital check was at midnight and I couldn’t fall asleep until 2am. I’m a night person naturally but I was getting in that zone where if I get too tired, I can’t fall asleep. That’s a very bad thing for me to have happen. I will start to feel physically sick. At 4am, it was Tikosyn time! Then nearly 5am, they came in to take vitals and shortly afterwards, the lab lady came in to take blood. Do you see a pattern here? Anytime I would nearly fall back asleep, I’d get woken back up and by 6am it was time for the EKG. By then, I just decided to stay awake and wake for breakfast and K to arrive. And don’t forget the diuretics to begin. They had all my medicine split apart and coming to me at different times. It was crazy because I was so use to taking morning meds when I woke up and then evening medicines right around 5 or 6pm.

I drew this picture and stuck it on the bathroom door. You see me on the island?

I drew this picture and stuck it on the bathroom door. You see me on the island?

K scooted into the hospital right before the doctor showed up and I had my list of questions ready. I think he was impressed because I had them listed on a small notebook I brought in case I needed it. (I highly recommend this!) My doctor noticed that I had my yarn out and had asked if I crocheted. I was impressed that he knew what crocheting was and told him that K calls it knitting. The doctor said crocheting and knitting aren’t the same.. I felt like we had a bonding moment there. haha! He looked around the room and noticed my sign on the bathroom door. I’m so goofy!

This was the worse meal I had at the hospital. Plus it had pepper on it.

This was the worse meal I had at the hospital. Plus it had pepper on it.

The food here was something else. I was stuck choosing from the Heart Healthy diet on a paper menu but I started to get smart by penciling in requests like a bagel and a chocolate chip cookie. The bagel, I got! The extra chocolate chip cookie, I did not. *pout* However, K did go down to the in-house Starbucks and bought us some goodies. For him, he bought a couple of blueberry muffins.. the kind with crumble topping… and for me, 2 chocolate chip cookies of which he snagged one. By the way, all the vending machines in the hospital only had healthy selections..even the soda or other beverages were diet. Gross! After lunch, I couldn’t believe I was able to get a 2 hour nap. It was AWESOME! Then K was like, let’s get your butt up and walk the hall. We did this the first day and he won’t let me get lazy just because we’re in the hospital because he knows that the more time I spend in that bed, the more my lungs lose function and I can have a set back. So, staying active was our main goal. As long as I wasn’t dizzy or woozy, I walked twice a day with him.. or my nurse tech when K had to go home for the night to take care of some errands for his mom and take care of our dog.

K use to sing and act out this song by the Beatles (A Day in a Life) for me.

K use to sing and act out this song by the Beatles (A Day in a Life) for me.

After hanging my motivational picture on the bathroom door, I wrote on the patient information board. It’s a dry-erase board in my room. I wrote my Day’s Goal as to “Be A Ray of Sunshine.” Cute, huh? [Picture shown on Day Three post] I wrote it because I was so cranky the previous day. Before K left for home and while I was in the bathroom, he wrote me a goodbye motivational message on the board that he knew I would know what it meant. I came out of the bathroom and saw that he was guarding it so that I couldn’t see what it was that he wrote. I was thinking that he wrote something to the nurses to get me to walk that evening. I mean, he kissed me goodnight and made me pinkie-swear to walk that night no matter what. I thought it was so cute that he would pinkie-swear with me that I just went ahead and pinkie-sweared. Well, when I read what he wrote on the board, I almost cried. I know that to you it’s just lyrics to a Beatles song but to me, it’s a happy memory that makes me laugh out loud. He’s so good at writing the perfect thing that will touch my heart and lift me up.

On the second day of my hospital stay, the labs came back with an even higher than MY normal of CO2 (or bicarbonate) level. The doctor was concerned, thinking that he should adjust my diuretics but I told him that I have normally high bicarb and my kidney does a good job at balancing my pH level. I told him that I would prefer that he would consult with my PH doctor before changing any diuretic she prescribed. Personally, I don’t like one doctor messing with another doctor’s orders. He did say that he was ok with that and he agreed with not changing her orders but he was going to watch it. That doctor is my Pulmonary Hypertension doctor and there are good reasons why I’m on the medication that I am on. I brought a 15 page history of my major health history (with test results) just in case something went wrong and they’d need more information. I even gave it to my nurse, which she copied, but I don’t think the doctor even looked at. I don’t know for sure but I did it because I’ve never been to that hospital before. I do what I can not to only protect myself but also to protect K in the event that if something happened during this stay in the hospital, he’ll know what to do to get information he needs about me to make the right decisions.

Apparently, at the starting dose of Tikosyn, which is the higher dose, my QT Interval was too long on the second day. The doctor had to make an adjustment to my dose that evening. I was now taking the lowest dose.. 125mcg twice a day. He told me that by the last (5th dose) and after the EKG, he would know if they could send me home with or without the medicine. Remember, anything under 500 is good.

Day One… It begins… Tikosyn!

Living On Oxygen for Life

Lemmon chicken with red potatoes from my garden.

Lemmon chicken with red potatoes from my garden.

On April 26, 2016. I woke up at about 4:30 am and I couldn’t fall back asleep. That’s pretty typical for me when I have something major happening that day. I grabbed my phone while in bed and I flipped through Pinterest to try to get myself sleepy again. Hey, it works sometimes! This time, though, I came across a recipe that I found myself mentally checking off all the ingredients it called for in comparison to what I have on hand. Well, what do you know… I had everything I needed to make this Lemon chicken with red potatoes from my garden.

I hopped out of bed, threw myself in and out of the shower and then got to cooking. When I was done, I went ahead and ate some. I know it was morning but who said you can’t have dinner for breakfast? If you can have breakfast for dinner, why not the other way around, right? *goofy grin* It was pretty good! At least now I had something ready for K to eat when he came home from the hospital. By cooking, it took my mind off of having to be in the hospital for the next 3 days.

The hospital finally called. You see, first the doctor’s staff said that the hospital will call when a bed is ready for me to come up to the hospital to be admitted. Then, the staff said that the hospital will only if there isn’t a bed available and if they didn’t call, for me to go up to the hospital to wait for a bed which worried me because I can’t just sit around at the hospital with my limited supply of oxygen. I’d have to get the hospital to supply me with their oxygen. I decided to call the hospital the day before to find out which method of calling was true. It turns out that the hospital calls me when they are ready for me and they did. However, when they called, they told me a room was held for me but there was an emergency and it was given to someone else. After shuffling patients around, they called me back with a bed ready. I got up to the hospital and into my room at about 1pm lugging my bipap, my 50ft tubing (theirs isn’t as long), clothes, all my medicine (you’ll hear much more about this later!), snacks, and yes, even my yarn! And that’s when the chaos began.

Selfie in the hospital to try Tikosyn.

Selfie in the hospital to try Tikosyn.

Once in the room, I was told to change into this high fashion gown made of pure, authenticated, designer cotton (tied in the back to obviously supply my back with the most opportunity of cold drafty air). K had to help me tie the back. I mean, who can tie those things?? Really!

Day One: blood draw & IV.

Day One: blood draw & IV.

Then, I was told I had to have an IV. Oh man.. I was so not happy but what could I do about it. I begged though. I’m not below begging when it comes to an IV, you see… I’m sensitive to adhesive and let me tell you… it itched and was painful the whole time (2 1/2 days!). And then there were the sticky electrodes that stay on. Ugh! Thankfully, I actually already had a lunch tray of food waiting for me. I couldn’t believe my luck! The food I made earlier in the morning for K, I ate as breakfast. So, I was pretty hungry by 1pm. Before I could eat, I had my blood pressure checked while sitting, lying down and standing up to get a baseline. It was all normal. Everything was going along swimmingly until I hear this pulsing dinging sound which kept going off loudly. Seriously, it was loud and sometimes it was continuously. It got to one point on the first day that I was fed up with hearing it and I asked my nurse, “What the heck is that noise??” She told me it was the nurse’s call button and my room was situated next to one of the two speakers of this bell. LUCKY, LUCKY ME! *rolling eyes*

At 4pm, I took my first dose of Tikosyn. I mentally braced for impact. I just didn’t know what to expect and neither did K. The doctor did come to see me later that evening. He kind of breezed through. I was unprepared to ask any questions.. so my mind went blank. Argh! I hate it when that happens. When I took my first dose of Tikosyn, they wait 2 hours and then they do an EKG. They do this for every dose of Tikosyn you take to see if you are at the right dose of Tikosyn. They want to know that your QT Intervals are under 500. Don’t ask me what that means because I just really don’t know. All I know is if it’s under 500, we’re doing good!

I missed my dog Rocco while in the hospital. So I drew him from the picture I have on my cellphone.

I missed my dog Rocco while in the hospital. So I drew him from the picture I have on my cellphone.

I was SO cranky the first day. I knew K had decided to not stay all night at the hospital with me and I was ok with that. I was riddled with anxiety because everything was chaotic while, at home, everything is controlled. I know what to expect when I’m home. I take my medicine at MY usual time, I sleep in my own bed, my tv has more channels (hehe!) and people are not coming and going in and out of my house as they are at the hospital. Plus, I missed my dog, Rocco. I got out my notebook and drew him from a picture I have on my cellphone. I didn’t realize how much I would like the way it turned out. Drawing isn’t really my talent and drawing it in pen…well, I got lucky that it doesn’t look like a bunch of scribbly lines.

So much more to tell you but I leave that for Day Two! I don’t know how many of you like long blog posts. Therefore, I am breaking the whole even into separate day posts. I hope that’s ok. For those of you who don’t know what Tikosyn is… it’s an anti-arrhytmic medication for my heart. You can read more about it by clicking on the link. I don’t have Atrial Fibrillation. I have PSVT (paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia), Ventricular tachycardia, Cardiomegaly, & Secondary Pulmonary Hypertension (Functional Class III)

A fun adventure to get me outside.

Living On Oxygen for Life

Sometimes it’s hard to get motivated to get my butt outside, especially when it’s either cold or hot outside. K likes for me to stay as active as possible while on my days of feeling good. He also likes for me to push myself a little bit (just a little bit mind you!) even when I don’t feel 100 percent. Ok, well, that’s virtually everyday but let’s not be technical about it, right?

So, what gets me excited enough to get out in my yard? Gardening! Not just any kind of gardening, you know… With flowers and what nots.. I’m talking about growing food! Now my yard isn’t big. K says it’s about the size of a postage stamp but I make it work for me. That’s right… I use raised garden beds and half whiskey barrels because, having Pulmonary Hypertension, bending down is difficult for me. This year, I’m growing potatoes (red & white), spinach, carrots, cilantro, thyme, chiles, Bibb lettuce, garlic and a few onions.

This year (2016) K built this raised bed for me to have more garden space.

This year (2016) K built this raised bed for me to have more garden space.

Last week we had 2 major hail storms that damaged our house and K’s car. I feel a little bad because my van was in the garage. hehe! Here’s a picture I took of the second storm. It was so loud!

This hail did some damage to our house and to K's car.

This hail did some damage to our house and to K’s car.

Thankfully, and quite unbelievably, my gardens survived both beatings! Maybe it’s because of the netting I have over them. I use it to keep out the bugs. I’m looking more and more like a farmer everyday! Even my dwarf orange, lemon, & lime trees survived.

My first attempt at growing carrots!

My first attempt at growing carrots!

My first attempt at growing Bibb lettuce.

My first attempt at growing Bibb lettuce.

Because I use a Bipap, I tend to have a problem with too much air in my tummy sometimes. When I eat iceburg lettuce or onions, it only makes the problem worse. I like salad but most salads have iceberg lettuce in them. I can eat spinach with no problem though. I thought I would try growing the Bibb lettuce as a way to eat a Spinach & Bibb lettuce salad instead.

I like to work around any problems that come up. I call it MacGyvering! Don’t forget to follow my blog to stay up to date with all of my adventurous moments. Happy Easter Sunday everyone!

I was scared…seriously…

Living On Oxygen for Life

On the day that I had my endocrine appointment something happened that I didn’t tell you, my readers, about. In fact, I only told one person… Thanks for listening Michelle. Of course, K knows because he was there when it happened. I’m telling you now because maybe it’s something important that someone out there on the Interweb can relate to or has experienced. Maybe YOU can help me.

If you’ve already read my last post about my last doctor appointment and the following adventure to the Dallas Arboretum, what I’m about to tell you is what happened on the way home from the Arboretum. I know… I didn’t go in great detail about the adventure. Sorry. I love sharing my passion about photography. I’ll make it up to you, my readers. I promise you.

When I got to the Arboretum, my neck was starting to hurt which is a sure sign of a possible migraine coming on. I only had with me a half of a Phenergan pill which is for nausea. Yeah, I know… double crudbuckets! I still felt well enough to go to the arboretum. It was just a strain and I thought I could be ok. I mean, my portable liquid oxygen tank only lasts me 2-ish hours and I figured we’d leave at that time.

It was pretty hot that day which I didn’t really count on so much… but I had a bottle of water and we took shade breaks often. Took a LOT of pictures too! YAY! We decided that we both were pretty tired when the 2 hours were up. So K wheeled me back to the van in my groovy wheelchair which I have yet to bling up.. I know! What wrong with me!?!?!? haha!

That’s when I felt the nauseation kick in. What do you tell your husband after having a great day at the Arboretum taking lots of pictures? “Uh, honey, I’m really, really sorry but I am tanking and I think I might throw up.” That kind of puts a damper on the whole day. Poor guy. He just sighs and tells me to hold on because we both know it’s over an hour drive home. I’m searching all over for a cup to, you know, just in case.

As we get closer to our house, I’m getting new symptoms that I haven’t quite experienced to this magnitude but one other time. Except this time is worse. I was starting to feel weak. Really weak. My arms muscles felt heavy and weak and my breathing was shallow. I had to concentrate on breathing as much as concentrating on not throwing up. I just shut my eyes and started to purse breathe.

By some miracle, we made it home without any vomiting despite all those stupid pothole all over the roads. K had to help me out of the van and into the house. I went straight to bed after taking more Phenergan and some Extra strength Excedrin.

K crawled in bed when I asked him to stay with me. I don’t think I was more scared for my health than in that moment. I told K that I felt so weak that I didn’t even feel like breathing. Thank God for my Bipap. My head hurt badly and my whole body was weak now.

I didn’t cry. I wanted to but I didn’t want to do that in front of K because I knew he was starting to get scared too. He held my hand until I let go to roll over to my left side, which is the best side for my breathing capability. I don’t know how I did it, but I feel asleep with my bipap & oxygen on for about an hour and a half.

When I woke up, by some miracle, I felt my headache and nausea was gone which totally shocked me. I thought this was TOO good to be true. So, I just laid there for the next 30 minutes. I still felt a little weak but for the rest of the night, I took it easy. Today, I feel just fine.

I plan to tell my Primary doctor what happened at my next appointment. I don’t know if he can give me answers as to why it happened or what he can do about helping me. It just seems to me that as years go by, with the migraines I have, they are starting to wreak havoc with my body and leaving me very vulnerable and very scared. I mean, I really enjoy breathing, you know? haha!

My question to you is: Has anyone had a migraine, and also breathing problems, resulting in this kind of weakness with their breathing? Let me know ok? I hope I didn’t just scare y’all but I’m reaching out for information from anyone with similar experiences & health.

New video!!!

Living On Oxygen for Life

For those of you who do not use Facebook, you probably do not know that I just completed and uploaded a video. I’ve been receiving a lot of searches concerning the use of a Bipap machine. I’d like to do a series of videos to answer the questions that I can about the Bipap. If you’ve seen any of my videos, you know it’s hard for me to remember everything I want to say. So with that in mind, have fun watching my video which is almost 8 minutes long. I know! Nearly eight WHOLE minutes of fun-filled excitement! What are you waiting for??? *wink*

Want to know more? Let me know in a comment.

[2015] ** I’ve noticed that my blog doesn’t show the YEAR of each post. That’s why I’m placing the year now at the bottom of the posts. You know… in case you were wondering. haha! I hope you are having sunshine where you are! *love and hugs* to you all. Be well!