Happy September!!

Living On Oxygen for Life

Happy September everyone! I’m super excited! First because it’s September! Second because it’s almost my birthday. Third because it’s almost my 25th wedding anniversary! And fourth because, well, it’s almost Christmas!!! haha! Here in Texas the heat of the summer is starting to cool down. Unfortunately, a hurricane hit. It’s very sad. People are struggling to clean up the mess after realizing everything they owned is ruined or washed away. It’s most likely going to go down in the books as the worst hurricane disaster in the United States’ history. Hurricane Harvey dumped 25 trillion gallons of rain on Houston and the Southeast area of Texas. Please donate to Red Cross Organization if you can. God bless Texas.

I have been away from blogging for a bit (2 months!) and for that, I’m super sorry. I have been going through some health changes that needed some “lifestyle” adjustments (again)… which blows… However, I’m here now, ready to entertain you once again with my exciting life of living on oxygen. So, let’s begin! YAY!

Today, I went to my doctor appointment. As the nurse weighed me, she asked if I wanted to get my flu shot today. I was like, “What? You have them already???” [insert confused, surprised look on my face] I normally get my flu shot in October. Not that I find it superstitious to wait until October, but it’s always been my thing. Ok, maybe it’s a little superstitious. hehe! I could get it now but I don’t want to feel tired and achy around my birthday and 25th wedding anniversary. So, I’ll wait until next month. I never miss getting my flu shot. It really helps!

If you can get a flu shot, do it, but I know some people have negative reactions to them. Be extra diligent about washing hands after touching things in public.

As I was driving home from the doctor’s office, I was looking at the gas stations. They still have no gas in them. Some have diesel fuel left but not unleaded. A lot of people panicked and ran out to get their gas tanks topped off, filled up and some even filled a gas can the last few days. Now, no one has gas left. I’m sitting on just under a quarter of tank of gas. K’s car had a quarter tank left this morning but I’m not sure if he’ll have enough to get to work tomorrow. I hope gas comes soon. It’s starting to freak me out.

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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. 

Little emergencies can be big problems.

Living On Oxygen for Life

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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!

Up all night…

Living On Oxygen for Life

Officially, it is Friday and Veterans Day. First, I would like to take a moment to say Thank You to all of men and women who have and are putting themselves in harms way to protect our freedom and our way of life. Many have sacrificed their life to give us the freedoms that we should never take for granted. We should always remember the price those men and women, throughout history, have paid for our rights and our freedom of choice.

Last night I was super tired and ended up going to bed at 8pm only to have to get back up at 9pm to take my Tikosyn. Because, you know, that pill has to be taken every 12 stinkin’ hours! Argh! Fear not, I was still super tired and promptly fell right back asleep. That is, until now, 1 o’clock in the morning.

I’m here under the covers in the dark bringing you my late, late, night ramblings of what happened to make me so tired. Yesterday, I had a doctor appointment. I got there a wee bit too early. I had to sit in my van for nearly 30 minutes because I wasn’t sure my portable oxygen tank would last long enough if I went in early. I have a 75 pound liquid oxygen reservoir tank in my van that I use to drive around on and to refill my portable. After about 30 minutes, I went into my doctor’s office for my annual physical. Yay what fun right? Actually, my family doctor is pretty darn cool!

According to all the labs I had done about two weeks prior, it looks like I should live another few years, at least! My doctor was surprised at how awesome my cholesterol and other test results were. Yay! I can continue to eat my pop tarts! Haha! As usual, my bicarbonate was high and my chloride was low but my kidney is keeping my pH level in balance. Thank you Jesus!

We did talk about pain management. Because my lungs don’t work as well as they use to (which wasn’t that great!), my options for pain management is VERY limited. My scoliosis is getting worse in the lumbar area of my spine and causing right hip pain which can be horrible at times when I sit or stand too long. Taking a whole Tylenol3 pill (that has Tylenol and codeine) is far too much for my body to handle. I have to break the tablet into quarters and take a fourth of a pill at a time. Even that much sometimes causes a migraine and troubled breathing. Alcohol has the same effect on me now. Instead of being able to drink a glass or two of wine or alcoholic drink like in the past, I can only drink about 1/3 of a cup before my breathing is affected. I still pour about 1/2 inch of wine in a glass occasionally to drink but never go for refills. It’s just not worth it. I think it affects my heart too much which I think is causing the breathing problems.

When I got home from my doctor appointment, I promptly took my diuretic medicine because I had to skip the morning dose. Then I dove right into making dinner, meatloaf, only to find out K will be late coming home. So instead of a full meal, we ended up eating meatloaf sandwiches. We love meatloaf sandwiches!! I’m not very good at being able to coordinate having all of the meal cooked and ready to sit down at the table to eat at the same time. I just don’t have that talent. haha! K is VERY good at it. He use to be a chef. No, before you ask, he does not cook on a regular basis at home. That’s my job. I don’t know where I went wrong in this scenario because he’s really good.

For the rest of the day, I plan to spend time with K. I am thinking about making a batch of my famous peanut butter cookies. I don’t bake cookies as much as I use to because it’s become harder and harder to mix the cookie dough. I don’t have a heavy duty KitchenAide mixer but I’m hinting towards one for Christmas. I can only get so far with a hand mixer and the rest has to be mixed by hand. The hardest cookie dough I’ve ever had to mix are the Chocolate with peanut butter chip cookies. Next would be Oatmeal Scotchies. Both cookies I LOVE! There’s nothing like a homemade cookie, right?

I’ve already started my next Need a Hug afghan. The last one was sent out to Jenny who lives here in the U.S. Click Need a Hug in the menu above to see how you can get your name on the list for one of my Need a Hug afghans.

I hope everyone has a great day. Stay well and warm. It’s finally down in the 70s here!

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

Day Three — Tikosyn & the following month

Living On Oxygen for Life

By now, you probably realize that I went home with a seven day supply of Tikosyn. Hooray and Lucky Me! I get to be on another high-dollar Specialty medication that THANKFULLY my health insurance will cover. I’m kneeling down and thanking Jesus right now….and…. *amen!*

Getting Tikosyn from a pharmacy was a pain in the rear end because it is a Specialty medicine and it must go through the “specialty” mail order pharmacy which is different than the regular mail order pharmacy. I could have gotten my first month’s supply of Tikosyn through a regular pharmacy like a CVS or Walgreen’s but I would’ve had to pay $600 for the 30-day supply. Yeah, right. I don’t think so. I’ll do the little extra leg-work to get the prescription faxed to my “specialty pharmacy” myself. That’s what I did. I got the correct fax number, stopped off at a CVS, explained what I needed them to do (showed them my notes I took while on the phone with the specialty pharmacy while in my hospital room), and off the fax went into cyberspace to hopefully not get lost on the way. I called numerous times everyday until they could verify that they received it but it had one tiny problem on the prescription. There was no pill count on it, making it impossible for the pharmacy to process it. Now I had to somehow get the doctor’s staff on the phone with the pharmacy (each saying that the OTHER needs to call them first). OH! You’ve heard of that game too? Grrr… I finally got the pharmacy to put me on hold to dial the doctor’s number to correct the prescription. Finally, that’s taken care of which was great because I wasn’t going to go back into the hospital for 3 more days because they couldn’t iron this problem out in time. I had to have my 30-day supply within 7 days or it’s back in the hospital for me to restart Tikosyn.

Tikosyn is NOT a medicine that a person can take just whatever time she or he remembers to take it. Oh no! This stuff, I actually have to set my alarm clock on my cellphone at the same times everyday, twelve hours apart. Granted when I left the hospital, they had my doses at 4am and 4pm. If you know me like I think you should by now (okay… I’ll cut the newest readers a break.. Here’s your chance to learn something new about me. *cheesy grin*), I am a night person. I don’t like waking early in the morning because that’s when I get my best sleep. Makes sense to me too! So, over the first week and a half at home, I slowly bumped the night time medicine time an hour later every few days and adjusted the morning time accordingly. By the end of two weeks, my medication time was 7am and 7pm. That’s a bit more achievable for me.

Now that I’m good and into taking Tikosyn, I’ve noticed that my blood pressure is back to normal but I have increased shortness of breath which is very noticeable. I’m getting very discouraged because I went today to the Cardiologist who prescribed Tikosyn. He ran an EKG and said it was normal and that my shortness of breath isn’t from the heart medicine. If I got paid for every time I heard THAT sentence…well, I could buy myself a whole lot of ice cream with the money! Ugh! I just realized I’m out of ice cream too! I should have stopped on the way home. Drats!!!

My cardiologist said for me to talk to my PH doctor. Sometimes, I feel like I’m on a Merri-Go-Round without all the pretty horses to ride. Or is that a Carousel? At least I still have things to look forward to in life. It looks like Klondike, my rubber chicken will be off on another adventure next week and next month I will attend the PH International Conference. I’m super excited about both. My next post will be about Klondike’s adventure! Stay tuned in!

Be well! Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog so you won’t miss anything exciting!