After surviving a serious and complicated cancer operation, my stepfather nearly died from lung failure. As with too many people who stopped smoking some fifteen years before, the damage had been done.
This meant having to live with long term oxygen therapy. Many people need additional oxygen to survive. It can be all the time, as in 24 hours a day, or for shorter, specific periods - at night or when exercising, for example. In this case it is 24 hours a day.
We all take breathing for granted but for a large number of people, and each day there are more, this isn't the case.
Many times oxygen deprivation symptoms are there you just don't recognize them or perhaps don't want to acknowledge them or simple you haven't yet had the check up you need. In other cases the crisis appears after major surgery, as was this case.
The following is a brief and simplified look at the stages my stepfather went through.
The First Stage:
Shock, fear, tension. The unknown is a frightening place. There are mixed feelings - times when you feel heroic, when you feel small and lost, when you feel despair and when you feel hope.
You imagine that the changes that are coming into your life will be so limiting that you wander about the point of it all. It takes courage to say "yes" to life.
At this stage most of your waking thoughts revolve around oxygen and breathing. This includes having the equipment nearby, learning to use it, making sure you have reserves on hand, getting used to the nose cannula, learning to set the flow and reading your oxygen saturation.
The Second Stage:
You have been home for a time and you are managing day to day activities. The oxygen tanks are a permanent company. At this stage you are coping.
You are coping with the oxygen supply. Your home unit and your mobile unit.
Although you still have thoughts of the before and now the after, your life is getting back into shape. Your social activities are coming back. Your friends and family have gotten used to your new look and are supportive. Sometimes this can get on your nerves but on the whole you feel you have adjusted. In fact life is much better than you thought it would be.
You can drive, although you still worry about running out of your supply. And this worry will probably be with you always.
You now have a routine but you still feel constrained in your movements.
The Third Stage: A portable oxygen concentrator.
This does make a great difference. Oxygen tanks have supplied you with oxygen for a couple of years now and though they have done a great job it is not easy to carry them around with you, to have them refilled continuously.
But (and this was a some time ago) new designs in portable oxygen concentrators are now available. Your life style is now much more complete as you can now go just about anywhere you want.
All in all, quality of life is higher and the most important part is that you are freer than before and this is perhaps the most important part, you feel free to pursue your life.
As they say, even if it does sound corny, long term oxygen therapy is no longer a sentence, it is a lifestyle.