Man with oxygen walking at the mall, taking a shower, and putting his oxygen tank in the car

Odds & Ends

Last updated: February 2019

From speaking with other folks who have COPD and/or chatting online in dedicated groups, you sometimes pick up some good tips for dealing with things or addressing situations.

These are some of the ones I’ve come across recently.

Exercise in the cold

Here in the Northeast, Fall/Winter is unpredictable. Some mornings, the temperature is reading in the mid 50’s. By 2:00PM in the afternoon, we could have a foot of snow and temperatures in the low 30’s!

That’s why, when I can’t make it to my pulmonary therapy (it’s a bit of a drive), I can get to the mall (10 minutes). I strap on my backpack with my “D” cylinder and go for a 20-minute walk around the mall.

I’m not a big mall guy. Never was. I was ordering things from LL Bean and Cabela long before Amazon came along.

If it’s a suit or something that has to fit precisely, I’ll go to Lord & Taylor’s if I have to. Other than that, “Babe - where’s my J. Crew catalog?"

Showering with oxygen

I found this out the hard way.

I’d been trained so effectively in pursed-lip breathing that when I first stepped in the shower, cannula firmly lodged in nostrils, oxygen pumping away through the tubing, I didn’t think twice and nearly choked to death.

As I breathed through the cannula, the shower water traveled in with the oxygen.

I choked and coughed and probably took in a gallon or two. Not seriously, but I had to sit down on the tub’s edge.

As we all know very well, everything about COPD is different from person-to-person. So, it may not affect you this way. But since that day, I still have the oxygen traveling through the cannula but I keep reminding myself, “Breathe through your mouth!”

Carry a spare tank (or 2) in the car

I’m not that smart - trust me - or maybe the shower/oxygen incident is a good clue?

But I was a Boy Scout so, believe it or not, at times I am prepared.

It was probably 3 or 4 years ago, we were traveling for Thanksgiving on a ride that usually takes about 90 minutes to 2 hours to the cousins. But, that year, there was a horrible accident on the Parkway and we sat in traffic - not moving- for over an hour.

I don’t know about you but, there are times when I’m in the middle of something or I’m distracted but I haven’t noticed that I’ve drained the cylinder/tank empty. Especially when I’m sitting and writing or reading - I don’t notice the difference. I breathe pretty well (without oxygen) when I'm not active. But my oxygen was quickly becoming depleted as we sat in traffic.

My son, Sam, was driving so it wasn’t an immediate danger. But there must have been something in my face because Marisa (my wife) asked, “Are you OK?”

I said, “I think so why?”

She said, “I don’t like your color, Is there oxygen in the tank?”

And God bless her, there was not.

But a buddy of mine from a COPD support group (boy - do I miss them) gave me a heads-up long ago and asked, “You’ve got the spare in the wheel well, right?”

I said, “Of course. It’s inflated up to its recommended PSI!” He said, “I’m not talking about your spare tire, dopey. Talking about your spare oxygen cylinder!”

And from then on, I’m glad I do, “carry a spare.”

Check your equipment

A few weeks ago, I was feeling less than OK. I could tell my breathing was more labored than usual and I found myself using portable oxygen more than usual.

I began to think the inevitable had gotten here way before I expected it.

I use oxygen continuously when I’m asleep. It’s usually set at “3” and I’ll leave it going for a little while when I first get up to give my lungs a chance to get acclimated to the day.

The gauge on my concentrator - an “EvenFlo” is a small tube with round metal marble floating in it that moves when you adjust the flow. (“0” to “5”)

“3” is right about the middle.

As I was shutting it off, I saw that the gauge was at about 1 and ½. I checked the air flow coming out of the cannula and hardly anything was coming out.

I called my oxygen supply company and, over the phone, they ran me through a few drills to check the equipment.

Sure enough - the gauge was malfunctioning but I was able to reset it with their guidance.

The next day, after sleeping with the correct oxygen level, I felt better. Two days out - I was back to normal.

My takeaway is to check all my oxygen systems (concentrators, gauges) once a week to make sure everything is operating as it should be.

Hope you do the same!

Kevin shares additional tips in part 2.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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