A Long Awaited Update! September/October 2017

Living On Oxygen for Life

Let’s be honest… I’ve missed blogging and I know it’s been since before my birthday (last month) that I’ve posted anything on my blog for you to read. In my defense, the last two months have been incredibly… what’s the word I’m looking for?… trying?…no. Hectic? You could say that. Let’s throw in challenging with a bit of a MacGyver twist and super stressful at times. If you wrap all that up and include my two road trips that I took (one to Oklahoma to see my family & one to South Padre Island for my birthday/25th anniversary), I have to admit, it’s been a pretty awesome adventure.

It all started with my birthday/anniversary vacation that we try to take every year. We both took turns driving down to South Padre Island which took us about 9 hours even while having to stop nearing every two hours (when K was driving) to get out and stretch our legs and walk the dog. Rocco loved sniffing new territory but I hated having to use convenient store or McDonald’s bathrooms. Not just because I never knew what to expect going into one of those things but also because getting in and out of the car and walking to the bathroom now wears me out and makes me short of breath in the worst way. That’s something new.


We made it to Padre and it was overcast but that’s ok because we knew Hurricane Harvey just past by and almost everything was up and running again on the island. Yay for us! Two days after we arrived, a boat washed up on the beach which drew everyone, including the Padre Beach police, to check the boat out. We should have set up a beach chair next to it and charged people for us to take their picture! It took nearly a week for the boat to wash up this far on the beach.


K and I normally go for a nice steak dinner for our anniversary celebration. But who knew that there wasn’t a restaurant on the island, nor close by on the mainland, that sells a good steak? Instead, we had a small party of two at our condo with a gigantic birthday/anniversary cake that K intended to share with the waitstaff had we gone to a restaurant. Thankfully we brought our big ice chest and I had some square foil pans to save the leftover cake to freeze and take home. You better believe that I ate it all once I got home (K had the last piece..darn him!). I LOVE birthday cake!

We really had a lot of fun and took a few goofy pictures. I was even a pirate! Argh! After ten days in Padre, it was time to go home and on the way home, the craziness began. We were north of Austin, Texas when it happened. I was reading and K was driving… thankfully. Our grill from the front of our van broke loose and flew over the hood and smacked our windshield and then continued over the top of the van. It scared us so bad. Thankfully, no one was behind us and we looked but didn’t see it land on the highway. We get home ok and called our mechanic to see what it would cost to get it replaced. $600! Are you kidding me? The thing was made mostly of plastic. K and I had the same idea… look on eBay for the part. K said he could fix it himself and I was, like, “You go Rambo…you get into that MacGyver mode!” Sure enough, it cost us a total of $200 and K attached it with no problems! YAY K!

What K didn’t tell me was that on the way home from Padre was that he was starting to see floaters in his right eye. Then when he went to work, he called his optometrist and they told him to come in RIGHT NOW. He had a detached retina. I was so worried because now he had to have surgery and this was his eyesight!. The first time I went with K to his optometrist, K told me that he had been telling the doctor about me because he has a daughter who has some similar health conditions. Let me tell you that I have no problem that K talked about me. I mean, I blog… so of course I don’t mind. I was really excited about meeting this doctor to learn more if he wanted to talk about it. Naturally, I knew this appointment was about K but I did bring a printed copy of an x-ray showing my scoliosis. This doctor was really neat and very personable. K and I really like him. But what excited me the most was his waiting room. Holy cow… the moment I walked into the building, I was thinking that EVERY waiting room should be like this one. There were crocheted afghans on a blanket rack next to the door and in each waiting area there was a card table with a puzzle to be put together. I immediately zoned in on the puzzle. K knows. I love puzzles and there was an older man sitting there working on the one I noticed. I just blurted out … “Oh yay a puzzle!!!” (I know you’re visualizing that.. aren’t you? haha!) The man heard me and started to get up saying that I could work on it. I told him to please stay and I can work on it with you. I told him that I love puzzles and this reminds me of when I worked on puzzles with my dad. Awww! I know, right? I was so engrossed that I didn’t even hear K’s name called by the nurse. What’s so awesome was that there was ANOTHER puzzle in the waiting room in the back! I was in waiting-room heaven!

K’s surgery went well but I wore myself out having to drive him to appointments and waking up to check to see if he wasn’t sleeping on his back for the first week after surgery. That was stressful but after the first week, he could sleep on his side but NOT on his back. You would think that it wouldn’t be a big deal but people move around while they sleep and K is accustomed to sleeping on his back. So, I had a lot of waking up to do to check on him. With everything that was going on with K, I truly had an eye opening experience about how much he does for me without complaining. He drives me to doctor appointments that are an hour away, he pushes me in a wheelchair when I need it, he takes care of everything in the background when I have migraines, not to mention doing most of the chores and all of the grocery shopping now…and most of this is done without me having to ask. I got a taste of what he does for me when I needed to take care of him for a change. I was definitely humbled and I gained a new appreciation for what he does for me. Not that I never appreciated it but my health is changing faster now, requiring K to do more and I don’t always see what he does for me.

Lots of love to you all! Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog to follow along! Leave a comment too! Have a great day!!!

Advertisements

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. 

Going the extra mile…

Living On Oxygen for Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

U2 concert 2017!

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

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

Waiting for the U2 concert… Lumineers will be first!

Lots of love to y’all!

I’m famous!!! *wink*

Living On Oxygen for Life

Yay! I have a podcast thanks to the interview I did while at the Pulmonary Hypertension International Conference in June of 2016 and to Steve Van Wormer’s awesome PHAware Global Podcasts. He helps bring awareness to Pulmonary Hypertension. He gives those of us who have the various forms of PH an opportunity to share our stories of what it’s like to go through the process of becoming diagnosed and then living with this incurable disease.

I was pretty nervous about being interviewed. I hope you will check out this website that includes my podcast and many others’. You can listen to me here (so cool!!):

My podcast by PHAware.global to help spread awareness of Pulmonary Hypertension.

Please support this effort by going to this website: “Donate now to support pulmonary hypertension research. Engage for a cure with phaware.” You could even get an “I’m Aware That I’m Rare” t-shirt to spread awareness when you donate. I highly encourage you to check it out.

After you listen to my podcast, come back to my blog and click on the tab above, “Pulmonary Hypertension,” and scroll down to the section that says “My PH Story.” This is something that I wrote that includes everything I wanted to say additionally to what I said in the podcast.

Love y’all! *hugs*

Staying Active…

Living On Oxygen for Life

I AM SO EXCITED!!! K built me a second raised garden bed so that I can plant even MORE vegetables this year. He knows that my energy is waning but he is wanting me to keep active so that my lung function stays stable. Plus, staying active makes me happy even though it takes a lot more energy. So, this year, K has committed to helping me with my garden whereas, last year, he told me it would be my responsibility to take care of it.

Here’s some of my gardens:

I planted 8 seed potatoes this year.

Carrots, Broccoli, & Herb garden.

I know what he’s doing and I appreciate it very much. He’s getting more involved in hopes that I will be encouraged to keep moving which has declined over the last 6 months. In fact, we even went out clothes shopping for me last week. I normally hate shopping but I hadn’t had any substantial new clothes in years. I’m someone who will wear what I own for years before I become willing to shop for new stuff. Shopping makes me tired and again, K was so instrumental in helping me make shopping for clothes really fun. He helped me pick out clothes (because he’s SO good at! haha!), came in the dressing room and helped me get clothes on and off if I needed it, went out for exchanges for different sizes, told me to rest when he saw I was getting tired, AND told me, as I was showing off each piece of clothing, how much he liked it or asked me if I liked it or will I be comfortable in it. You see, I have scoliosis and clothes don’t always fit right. It can discourage me a lot when I go out clothes shopping. So having K there in the dressing room giving his opinion was SO helpful. He’s never gone into the dressing room with me before. So, yeah, he’s noticing and really trying to make a difference in my life and our happiness.

Today, I have February’s Need a Hug afghan being mailed out to a sweet lady, Linda. I’m still working on March’s afghan. It’s about half done. I hope I can finish it by the end of this month. I hope everyone is doing well. Much love to you all! *HUGS*

P.S. I just told K that I need a new Rubber Chicken. *sniff* Klondike’s (my current chicken) finally broke his neck *cringe*. It’s so sad because he’s been on some amazing adventures! When I get a new one, I will need help with naming him (or her). I’ve never had a girl rubber chicken before! Yes, I know I’m a bit strange about these chickens but they are our Road Trip Mascots. They go on our vacations with us for good luck. *sigh* So far, over the last 29 years, we’ve had Poke, Poke Jr., Mr. Chicken, & Klondike as our mascots. It really is a fun thing to do. haha! Like I’ve always said, finding something fun to distract me from my health, no matter how silly it can seem, is how I deal with life.

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.