My Emphysema Journey

I began this journey nine years ago at 72 when I was in the hospital for a compression fracture of T12. Obviously, I had emphysema long before then without knowing.

The start of my journey

The doctor set me on my journey with oxygen at night, a daily inhaler, and a stint at pulmonary rehab. I worked hard to eat healthy, exercise, and learn all I could about living with emphysema.

With my Inogen G4, I managed to live a relatively normal, active life up until a year ago. I started needing more oxygen when walking or exercising, so I graduated to the heavier G5. But shortness of breath became a familiar symptom unless I was at rest. In addition, I couldn't maintain my O2 saturation in the 90’s without connection to a concentrator. This was a definite change that caused me some concern.

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Exacerbation or decline?

I wondered if this was the beginning of an exacerbation or just the natural progression of my disease. I worried and I waited. The next available appointment with my doctor was months away, so I sent him a message to give my data. His said I should go to the ER or an urgent care if I was concerned. Well, that didn’t answer my question.

Instead, I caught a mild case of CORONAVIRUS 19 after four years of successfully avoiding it. It was just a bad cold, but ever since then my emphysema symptoms have gotten worse.

Last year the test showed I needed 4 liters when walking and 2-3 when at rest. Now I get short of breath walking with 5 liters and my saturation drops into the low 80’s and sometimes into the 70’s.

Life changes

I started sending out my laundry a couple of weeks ago, and my cleaning lady now changes the sheets on my bed. And I have become a total couch potato. Even taking my daily shower is a long process as I must stop and catch my breath. Next I will have to wear my oxygen as I shower less often.

I’m still plagued by the question: is this the natural progression or am I working toward an exacerbation? It probably doesn't matter other than is this the new normal? Will I ever be able to go for my walks without SOB?

I wonder, should I go back to continuous flow tanks rather than the pulse feed G5? Should I just ride my mobility scooter more often? Should I just stay connected even through a dinner out with friends?

I have been so fortunate these past nine years, so perhaps I just need to adapt to this new progression.

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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