My Quest for a Portable Oxygen Concentrator
Like many of you, I am on oxygen twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. I got pneumonia, was hospitalized, and woke up on oxygen. It was a stark reality, and I felt I had lost part of myself. With or without an air tube attached to my face, I wanted my life back. It was a game-changer for me. I want to share my oxygen experience in hopes that it will help someone else.
Getting started at home
Initially, my doctor was involved in helping me get set up at home with a concentrator and a few tanks that I could use to go to the store or when I needed to run errands. However, it didn't take me long to discover that if I went very far, I would have to find a portable tank.
I wasn't the least bit happy about life on oxygen, but my urgency for normalcy took over as usual. However, when I was dealing with this, I had no one to help me make decisions. My doctor had very little knowledge regarding portable oxygen, so I basically blundered my way through it.
Feeling rushed to make a decision
I always stayed with my children and grandson for the Christmas holidays, so I was overly anxious to find a portable machine that would allow me to board a commercial plane by December. Christmas with my grandson was my greatest joy of each year. Finding a way to fly again seemed extremely important at the time.
I am not sure how much has changed, but I found very few options that would pass the airline's criteria for COPD patients. I was still pretty new to the whole idea of oxygen dependency, but I felt pressured to get all of my ducks in a row. So, I decided to purchase a specific brand based on the company's marketing skills and the fact that it was approved for flying.
Take your time and do some research
Today, I wish I had taken more time, read more, and known a little more before making that purchase. I hadn't owned the unit very long before I realized that the settings on the machine were just that. They are simply manufacturer's settings and not liters. Had I realized this fact, I would have done more research.
When purchasing the portable unit, the sales representative talked me into a lifetime warranty. After I had been using the equipment for about a year, it started having mechanical issues. The service department informed me that parts would need to be replaced every year or so. This was understandable; however, it would have been nice to mention it during the sale's pitch.
My personal experience
Over the past year, the company has sent me several refurbished units. None of them function reliably. Honestly, I am not sure that at this time there is a portable concentrator on the market that will meet my requirements. I am not going to rush out and look for something different to buy. But I do want you to know I am not angry or upset with the company. I didn't know enough at the time. I was in too big of a rush.
There are so many variables that you need to consider before purchasing a portable unit. I think the biggest question to ask is, "what will you be using it for?". I planned to use mine for all of my travels, walks, and errands. What I discovered is the unit I have is excellent for when I am sedentary. It works when I am riding in the car. It works fine while pushing a cart in the grocery store. However, it does not meet my needs for exercising or even just walking my neighborhood. For outdoor exercise, I use a small, lightweight cylinder tank that I get from my supplier.
Little did I know
I am still learning to live with COPD, and it has changed my life so much more than I realized it would. Not long after getting out of the hospital, I developed a fear of traveling very far from home. After nearly three years, I have started to overcome the fear of travel, but I may never fly again. As for time with my kids, I now see them in the summer. Life is good, even while connected to a machine. I am finding my way.
If you are looking for a portable oxygen concentrator, do your research. Ask questions, read reviews, see if your doctor has any knowledge about the equipment on the market, and don't rush to buy something. It is a significant investment, and you will want to feel satisfied once you do buy.
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