It was slow, almost unnoticeable at first, my need for oxygen. However, my difficulty climbing stairs, or walking uphill eventually increased until even walking on even ground made me breathless.
Then dressing or undressing meant I had to have a ‘break,’ a sit down, and making the bed was done in stages.
Then two things happened. My physiotherapist noticed my difficulty and took me on a six-minute walk test. We did not go far. My oxygen levels dropped quickly. Her comment… ‘You need to be on oxygen’ and she sent the result to my doctor who was on holiday at the time.
Then, rather reluctantly, I took my son’s advice and underwent a sleep study. The result of that had the person giving me the results say I needed to see the doctor immediately, my oxygen levels were dangerously low. She had me ring the surgery from her office.
In the metropolitan area a General Practitioner cannot prescribe oxygen so I was referred to the hospital. In the meantime, so that I could be factual at the appointment I bought an oximeter (Measures oxygen levels) and discovered my oxygen level is normally low, exercise takes it to an extremely low level.
Start of the journey to home oxygen
Well, first there was a hospital appointment to Pulmonary Physiology. I was there last year for a flight simulation test, and I had spent a lot of time there in previous years with my late husband. He had the tests done every six months.
I also had arterial blood taken. It’s painful. (Mainly because the artery is deep and the doctor has to find it.)
“An arterial-blood gas (ABG) test measures the amounts of arterial gases, such as oxygen and carbon dioxide. An ABG test requires that a small volume of blood be drawn from the radial artery with a syringe and a thin needle…”
Then came all the breathing tests. At least nowadays the ‘box’ the patient is shut in for one of the tests is clear.
Yes, a peg on the nose is used.
Oxygen at home
A truck delivered an oxygen concentrator, three medium sized oxygen cylinders – a word about them later – and a large one in case the power goes out.
The medium-sized ones are for going out. Portable is not a word I would have used. At five kg it is a challenge to lift, never mind to put in my four-wheel walker.
Living alone, the eighteen metre (fifty-nine feet) tubing is reasonably easy to not trip. Roll it up going one way and unroll it the other way.
Bed, well that’s more of a problem. I have to make sure the tubing crosses the bed but is not in the way on the floor if I have to get up in the dark.
This is ‘sneezin’ season here, and since there was a lot of rain all the trees, shrubs and ‘the bush’ is alive and beautiful with blossoms. (Pollen-causing blossom.)
When my nose runs or is blocked, the oxygen cannot get through. Then there are the nosebleeds. (I won’t show you the pile of tissues from the last nosebleed. Blood thinners clearly aggravate the problem.)
So, living with oxygen is a challenge
As my home help said, ‘You think it is going to be simple, and you are going to be able to breathe easily, but it’s not, is it?”
No, it is not, but it is not impossible. It is just a question of finding work-arounds – and paying for home delivery on shopping.
The first few hours with the noisy machine purring, hissing and popping away had me glowering at it from my study and wondering how much electricity it was chewing up. It is on twenty-four hours.
There is a whole list of safety rules:
Clean the filter once a week.
Keep the oxygen bottles away from any source of heat.
Stay three metres from my gas cooker. So, it has to be briefly turned off so I can cook.
Stay away from smokers. There are rules in Australia about not smoking near entrances to shopping centres, not allowed at all on hospital grounds – but smokers are not good at keeping the rules. Not having a go at smokers, for many it is stress relief as well as addiction. But if that ‘lady’ had kept coming at me the other day – would she have blown us both up? Maybe. There were nine hours of oxygen in that bottle. When I asked her to stay away because I was using oxygen, there was a torrent of abuse directed at me.
There is a book with all the do’s and don’ts, but it is the simple daily things, like showering and hair-washing, bed making and simple household chores which contribute to the learning curve.
Another learning challenge