hands swirling around a crystal ball, revealing inside a portable oxygen machine

Is a Portable Oxygen Machine in Your Future?

My sister told me she saw someone with a portable oxygen tank and asked why I didn’t have one. Well, I wondered the same thing. It was around Christmas time, a few years ago, and as it is always a tough time of year for me because of the snow, ice, winds, cold, and dry weather. Visiting is tough anytime but around Christmas, it is worse because the ground is usually frozen with ice making it slippery and unreliable.

The weight of D tanks

At home, I use a concentrator for my day-to-day needs, but leaving the house is another story. My continuous flow tank feels like it weighs 100 pounds instead of its 8 lb. girth. Dragging my big coat and a scarf around my neck and face is a huge chore and I am exhausted just getting to the front door. Thankfully, my sister has put a chair there for me to sit and catch my breath.

Finding your saturation levels

Easy test

The first step to changing any equipment that has to do with O2 saturation is having an overnight oximeter test. This is an easy test that records your oxygen as you sleep. Your pulmonary doctor will request it and the doctor or your O2 provider will lend you the equipment. The oximeter is attached to a recording device.

Recording during sleep

You will tape the oximeter onto your finger, put the recorder under your pillow and go to sleep. The machine records oxygen saturation levels while you sleep, and the results are read off the machine and sent to your doctor. They will discuss if your oxygen needs to be increased, decreased, or stay the same. Do you know what are your oxygen saturations are during the night?

My needs

My O2-provider talked to me about why I wanted to change, and my biggest complaints were the weight of the tanks and having the tanks in the house. A full-size tank that is knee-high, a “D” tank, can weigh up to 8 lbs. It doesn’t sound very heavy and it probably isn’t for most people, but for me, it was not easy to carry with destroyed lungs and limited upper body strength.

Different forms

Pulse oxygen

The O2 output is triggered by an intake of breath through the nose and therefore uses less O2 than continuous O2 tanks. This makes the tanks half the size and easier to carry. However, it becomes a hindrance if you can’t breathe through your nose all the time, as most people can’t when short of breath.

Smaller Tanks

Using tanks that are half the size will be adequate for short, quick trips, but you better take a few of them in case you get stuck in traffic or run late.

Portable O2

I had coverage for a portable O2 unit, so I requested one, but it’s not that easy. I was told that the portable one is not sufficient for users with higher O2 needs. My provider came to my home and monitored me doing a 6-minute walk test. It turned out that my needs were greater than what the portable machine was able to provide. My O2 levels plummeted.

Liquid oxygen

I settled on liquid O2 a 98% pure oxygen. I have an enclosed porch and that is where the big tank sits, among my bench and plants. It is filled just before we leave the house. It gives me 6 hours of usage from a full tank.  If you need longer than that, you must supplement with a D tank because liquid O2 evaporates. A liquid O2 tank is ½ the weight of a “D” tank.

Do you use a portable oxygen machine? Let us know about your experience in the comments below!

Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on January 7th, 2024, Barbara Moore passed away. Barbara’s advocacy efforts and writing continue to reach many. She will be deeply missed.

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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 COPD.net 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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