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. 

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.

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

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!

I wasn’t ready for a change…

Living On Oxygen for Life

For those of you who read my blog and use oxygen, have any kind of breathing problem or any kind breathing device, you know life can be challenging. Life is filled with highs and lows. When you get in those high places, it feels like you are accomplishing the things you want to do in life. Unfortunately, those high places don’t always last as long as we want them to last. At least, that is how it seems to me. Sometimes the lows can be pretty low and lasts for what seems like a lot longer than I’d prefer.

Switching over to Tikosyn from Cordarone involved a lifestyle change for me. It’s been a crushing blow to my happiness. Instead of one step back in health, it feels more like two steps back. It made me really frustrated, thinking and wondering what I did wrong. It’s made me have to, once again, reinvent ways of getting things done around the house. Some of the things, K has completely taken over which adds more stress for him. Both of us were hit hard with this unexpected change in my ability level. I get short of breath from scooping a cat box (which he now does) or using a broom on the floor.

K takes good care of me and I’m grateful for his love and understanding. He’s come a long way. *wink* He stopped thinking that I was just being lazy about ten years ago. He’s always known that I have breathing problems as well as the pulmonary hypertension on top of everything else. He just didn’t realize or understand how much & how quickly the Pulmonary Hypertension would progress over a relatively short amount of time.

So now, I’m going to take care of him. I’ve decided we’re going on a much needed vacation since we haven’t gone on one in 3 years. Right now all I can think of is how good the sand will feel under my feet with the water washing over them. This will involve a lot of planning for my oxygen needs but it’s always been so worth it. I’ve already secured our accommodations and I’ve even bought travel insurance just in case we have to cancel at the last minute or if one of us becomes sick while on vacation. It’s good to have a backup plan just in case there’s a hurricane too!

We both really need this getaway. We rarely watch TV while on vacation. We leave our worries behind while on vacation too. So it’s like we’re on an island made for us.. though, technically we’re not. This is our way to get back to a healthy mind and release all the stress even if it is for just a little while.

I just wanted to let you know that I’m getting into the swing of the new changes we’ve made. I’m back to blogging and YES Klondike will be going with us on our vacation. My sister sent him back to me! Yay! Stay tuned in for more blog posts from me! Stay well everyone! I enjoy talking with you on Facebook and by email! goredrider@gmail.com is my email address for those of you who have questions or would like to say Hi!

–Christine