Using and Wearing Supplemental Oxygen
Last updated: April 2023
At least once a day, I hear someone say how much they dread wearing supplemental oxygen. Some because their vanity dictates it, some because of prejudice, and others because, the truth is, wearing supplemental oxygen is a general pain in the buttocks.
I make no judgment either way. I understand the argument from all camps.
Modern style for our unstoppable generation
Our generation never really stopped wearing make-up, and we are all still fairly young and cool, or like my buddy, Jeff said, "We are old-cool." We truly think we are.
We are not our mothers or grandmothers of the past as we rarely go out without our make-up and hair done or clean-shaven and beards trimmed.
Embracing oxygen cannulas with confidence
The attraction is lost if you wear a cannula, and we shy away from it because our imagination works over time by thinking people will stare at us or that they will care that we wear oxygen.
But they rarely do.
Even if they hold their eyes a bit longer than normal, at that moment, it is over and done with and rarely mentioned again. I try to use these moments as educational moments when it seems like a good fit.
There is a prejudice to having a lung disease. The first question people always ask is, “Did you smoke?”
This question raises the shackles on my back and makes me feel like they are pointing fingers at me and saying, “You made your bed, now lie in it.”
I like to answer the question with question, “Did you know that smoking is not the only cause of COPD?”
Overcoming challenges and stigmas in the workplace
I went to work many days, leaving my oxygen at home because I was embarrassed to wear it. Going days without it took its toll on my heart and lungs and worsened my symptoms.
I feared that if I started wearing supplemental oxygen regularly, they would fire me. It wasn’t far from the truth, and finally, I had to leave my job.
Believe me when I say that wearing supplemental oxygen is no walk in the park. The tanks, no matter which kind of oxygen you choose, are heavy and awkward to carry.
Those of us with diminishing lung capacity need a walker to carry our tanks and leave us with a place to rest when we get short of breath.
Our home concentrators are noisy and cumbersome. The nasal cannulas are in constant need of untangling and are very uncomfortable.
Using oxygen doesn’t mean we never get short of breath; we still do it regularly.
Navigating storage, equipment, and reliability challenges
The tanks need to be stored properly. The equipment doesn’t always work as it should, and sometimes our tank runs out of 02 sooner than we thought it would.
There is no terror like being out and about and running out of oxygen. On the whole, we are lucky to have the opportunity to use supplemental 02, but it is far from perfect.
Where do you stand with your COPD?