This Is the third in a series of posts about the campaign that I started a couple of weeks ago… So, just why am I repeatedly annoying you about it? What do I care?
Well, I do care. I was blessed with a double lung transplant a little over 6 years ago, but the memories of the struggle are still fresh. I’ve been there. Until I found that St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix would consider me for a transplant at the age of 70, I had pretty well reconciled myself to a future of green tanks, hoses, cannulas, and concentrators. Mary and I had settled in to our routine.
I talk a lot about choices. My first significant choice after my diagnosis of severe COPD, (33% saturation), was to order a treadmill. You may have heard me discuss the fact that I have worn out three treadmills since that first day in 1995. I started my first episode with COPD wearing oxygen full time. I will freely admit that I started with the all-too-normal reluctance to be seen wearing my cannula. Thankfully, after I defeated that bout of pneumonia, I was told to wear the oxygen at night and while exercising. We had an accounting office, so my days were not physically draining, and I got along just fine without the hose. I shopped for and found one of the early Nonin pulse oxymeters. It cost me over $300, and I had to lie and tell the seller that I was an airplane pilot. Seems that they have to keep track of their saturation, and my insurance wouldn’t cover it. I bought it anyway. I was determined to keep my saturation above 90%. With daily exercise and judicious use of the oxygen, I was able to maintain the 33% for almost 13 years.
Once I progressed to the point of needing oxygen during the day, I was faced with another choice. I could either follow the normal pattern and hide at home, going out only at the risk of losing my saturation level. Or, I could get stubborn and gather up the necessary stuff to go out and live my life. I wore it at the office, I wore it to Rotary meetings and Chamber of Commerce gatherings. NOBODY CARED!!! A few people asked if I was okay, but by and large nobody even noticed! I quickly quit caring if anyone did stare. If they did, I didn’t see it.
So why this obsession with saturation? Well, I knew that my lungs were pretty well shot, but I also knew that prolonged low saturation can cause the right side of the heart to enlarge. It is the right side that pumps blood to the lungs, and the lower the saturation the harder the heart has to work. It can grow weak, leading to congestive heart failure and heart attack. Even worse, low saturation can damage brain cells! Now, I don’t know about you, but it has been pointed out to me that I don’t have any brain cells to spare. Consequently, I religiously tracked my saturation.
In addition, I flat refused to be trapped at home by any fear of stares. I am much too stubborn for that. I bought a portable concentrator, packed a few extra bottles in the trunk of the car, and went on with our lives. There were certainly times that I was just too tired or sick to motivate, but generally I was out there doing, living.
So, that’s why I keep ragging on you to get out of the house and enjoy life! If you see someone looking in your direction, throw them a thumbs up! Please tell your friends and family to do the same thing if they see someone wearing a cannula. I want to encourage everyone to wear the hose in public, and to look around for elevated thumbs. I hope that, as time goes on, you will start to see the sign of encouragement.