3 Products That Make My COPD Life Easier
Twenty one years of having COPD had passed before the progression of my illness forced me to retire from work. Another three years later I was prescribed oxygen after falling blood oxygen levels started to make me dangerously ill. Using oxygen has allowed me to get my life back. My vital organs such as my heart is now protected, although as most of you guys know using oxygen does not mean becoming breathless is a thing of the past. Amazingly, even my wife Lynne assumed that because I now used oxygen I could do what I used to, that running, skipping if I wanted, was all on the table. If only that was true. No sadly, although recovery from any activity is much faster, breathlessness remains on activity. We are prescribed oxygen to raise blood saturation levels to protect our heart and other organs. Without which we would most likely die.
My FEV1 fell to less than 30%, today it is at around just 25%, and my breathlessness, and often exacerbation, were a cause for concern. I had to find a way to make life easier, to allow me to 'have a life'. To take back some control. I needed to find ways to enjoy life while if possible becoming less breathless. That meant looking for products that might help me meet that aim.
During the last few years I have employed some major aids that I call essential. Each making life more enjoyable. I now sleep better. Am able to use the whole of my house with ease, and to drive to the seaside for a trip along the promenade, or into the city to enjoy a little shopping. So which aids do I now use that I value most, and which you are most likely to find helpful at the severe stage?
The first of my aids was an adjustable bed. At one time I like many of you guys would prop my head up with as many pillows as possible in trying to help me to breathe easier, and get a good nights sleep. Lying flat just did not do it for me. I would wake congested, and my breathing would be worse.
The pillow trick failed miserably. Often I would wake, pillows fallen to the floor as I thrashed around in bed, laying flat, and breathing bad - until I dreaded going to bed. That was when I decided a new adjustable bed was the way forward. A solution to help my breathing, and enable me to sleep better. Now I use only one soft pillow, raising the head of the bed to the position I am most comfortable with. This does vary. At times of infections I raise the head more than other times. I still wake a couple of times a night, but that seems a part of COPD. But not because of lying flat or chest congestion. During times of exacerbation the bed also helps me to be less congested when I rise in the morning.
As I progressed into the last stage climbing the stairs at home became harder, until more than once climbing the stairs to use the bathroom I became so out of breath I decided to stay upstairs. Unable and unwilling to attempt that feat again, at least for a few hours.
My stairs had become my personal Mount Everest. A move was considered to a one story property. But that would have been expensive, and anyhow we wanted to stay where we were. Although quite expensive a stair lift was a great choice. It is such a joy to sit in the chair, press a button, and move to the top landing, arriving at the top not struggling for breath.
We have to also consider that as our COPD slowly progresses, walking the stairs can become dangerous as we will be more likely to fall. Chair lifts can be costly, although grants are available to the disabled to help with some or all the cost in some places, and all the UK.
As my mobility decreased I simply did not enjoy going out. After all how is it possible to enjoy the great outdoors when having to stop every few paces to regain breath. Now having to carry a 7 pound oxygen bottle wherever I went, for oxygen needs made going anywhere much harder, many times all but impossible unless the walk was very short. It was obvious I was going nowhere unless I found a way to make life easier. I had at that point long stopped enjoying going out because it was such a struggle. While I also felt how very unfair it was to Lynne to have to keep stopping, and for her to not enjoy her walks when with me.
I remember a trip to the South West of England, and a visit to Paignton Zoo for a day out a few years ago. The venue was hilly, and there was not a chance I would make it around the zoo, let alone enjoy myself. The zoo hired scooters to those with a disability. I hired one as I wanted to enjoy my visit.
I remember today the pure joy I felt as though yesterday, as I rode around enjoying the many sights. No longer was I struggling for breath. I was enjoying a day out. Probably the first day I had truly enjoyed for many years. The deal was done. I knew then for certain, I had to buy my own scooter. "Red" was about to be born.
Within a short while I had my scooter safely tucked away in the car. Those that know me on social networking will often notice me referring to "red". It might seem corny to many but it seemed a good name as my scooter is indeed red. I can now, with "red", go to amazing places. Shopping, around amusement parks, or as I have done ride around coastal paths. Department stores are easily navigated, and Lynne can walk along the promenade as fast as she wants while I ride alongside her.
I also hire a large scooter called a tramper often for photography expeditions on rough terrain. These machines can climb mountains. The picture above is one of me out in the wild taking photographs. For safety reasons I have to be accompanied, and have to ensure I have ample oxygen with me for the time we will be 'in the wilds'.
I have a hoist to make lifting red into and out the car easy. The scooter is strong enough to carry my photography equipment when out for a shoot, oxygen sits on the back seat so now as long as the weather is fine I can enjoy life outdoors. I am accompanied when out and about for safety. As if I was to have a problem I would need help. But as you can see, life can still be enjoyed. Even us at the end stage of COPD.
I hope you have found this article about my personal aids useful. I am lucky that I have been able to get these items over the last few years to make life easier. If any of you guys have any aids that help you, or you decide to invest in one of the three I have, I would love to hear from you!
Until I write again. Breathe easy and enjoy your day.
Do you live with any sleep disorders (eg. insomnia, RLS, sleep apnea) in addition to COPD?