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Sudden COPD Flare Gave Me a Dose of Reality

I’m a 61 year old male. I quit smoking in 2000. I had been smoking 3 packs a day. My cough from smoking became terrible. I knew I was killing myself and feared I’d never be able to quit. The good Lord spared me the fight and I have been free of smoking since. Unfortunately the damage was done and in about 2010 I was diagnosed with COPD. The doctors prescribed albuterol at first, then later added Spiriva. For a long time I would only occasionally use the albuterol. I have been a wildlife photographer and when outdoors climbing around in the mountains was more than I could do without it. In the past 5 years I had maybe one flare and that was treated with a nebulizer treatment at the hospital.

Up until just about a couple weeks ago I still thought I was going to be able to just get along with the inhalers for a long time to come. My doc had seen me and suggested I either go on a serious diet or even consider a gastric bypass. I opted out on the bypass with the idea that I could get determined and lose 50 pounds. So on Thanksgiving I had a little bigger meal than usual. It was after that meal that things changed a lot. I was aware that when I had big meals in the past that it always made me short of breath. This was different. I felt bloated and was struggling to draw air for two days. I kept thinking it would pass but it only got worse to where I was so short of breath I really feared I was going to suffocate.

I finally had my wife take me to the hospital. I was unable to get to the receptionists desk. I was spent completely. The nurses put me on O2 immediately. They said my O2 was below 80 and my heart rate was 120. After numerous nebulizer treatments they admitted me so I could undergo tests galore. The cough I have had has been so difficult to handle. It is so exhausting. They never were able to rid me of that cough. They sent me home with prescriptions galore. Albuterol, Speriva, Combivent and more meds. I have been set up with 3 liters of O2 to be used when active. My resting oxygen level with no oxygen is 90 and with it is about 94 to 95. If I walk around the house at a slow pace with no oxygen it drops quickly to 83 or 84. This sudden decrease came on so fast . I’m still a little in shock because I just did not imagine me being on oxygen today with this sudden restriction on my activities. I know it is not a death warrant. I know I will adjust and be able to establish a norm soon. But for now I still want to kick and scream some. I’m glad I can treat it with O2 and meds and Im sure some exercise. I am all about accepting the reality of the severity of this disease. So I move forward from here and will keep coming back here to see how all of you are doing. I pray for the best for everyone, thanks for sharing.

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.


  • jackyjo
    4 years ago

    Thx for your story Greg this is the first year my copd has curtailed my activities on the holiday I was diagnosed about 5 yrs ago and it was very helpful to read about the flare ups I was feeling pretty down about everything but reading your post helped.

  • Dana Lortie moderator
    4 years ago

    Hi Greg B!

    Thank you so much for telling your story and being a valuable member of our community! We are glad to hear you are doing better now and hope the positive progress continues!

    You are certainly not alone in having trouble adjusting to oxygen and we hope you find some valuable connections here within the community. You sound like you are a very strong person!

    Feel free to come by any time to share update with how you are doing, connect with others, or just browse around! We are happy to have you here!

    Stay strong,
    Dana ( Team)

  • Barbara
    4 years ago

    Greg, I am sorry to hear that you have had a rough go lately… I was diagnosed with COPD in 2007, and was able to maintain control with minimal meds, until 2014. My heart started giving some issues, beating 200 plus beats per min…resulting in a pacemaker implant and coming home with 2.5 L of O2. I had not used O2 before this.. All this in April 2014… I had several flareups during 2014 that resulted in hospitalization; however I was determined to show COPD that it didn’t control my life. I am thankful to say that I have been free of hospital for 11 months now. I am still on 2 L of O2 when at rest and 2.5 when active, Albuterol via nebulizer, Advair, and Combivent, plus long term antibiotic (3 times per week) to help keep down infection,,,blood thinner, and several vitamin supplements.I get angry sometimes and wish for my previous normal, (I too love photography, though not professional) I am limited to the amount of time I can be outdoors and taking my pics, but I am learning, as I know you will; each day brings a new normal and we will adjust as long as we continue to remain strong and refuse to be defined by the term COPD. Breath easy.

  • Greg B author
    4 years ago

    Thanks Dana. This such a great resource for info and inspiration.

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