Wearing an oxygen mask is not difficult or painful, but it is a definite challenge and can become tedious and quite annoying. So why do people do it?
I recently sat next to an elderly man on a 2 hour flight to Florida; and as he untangled his long plastic tether and made room for (what he called) a concentrator he apologized for the inconvenience. As we got talking about our long awaited trip he told me he had COPD, a progressive disease that makes it hard to breathe and he needed oxygen to help him breathe easier. I was surprised to hear that his machine was FAA approved and that he could use portable oxygen to travel and visit his family. He explained that he didn't need oxygen all the time, but without it, it would be a much bigger challenge for him to breathe without having to rest constantly. He called it his little miracle worker.
This luxury machine allows him to leave the house and become an active part of society instead of being stuck inside with a handicap. However, he also talked about what its like to wear an oxygen mask and how long it took for him to feel comfortable outside the house because of how people started to look at him. Most people assume that he is the result of a lifetime of chain smoking, and although cigarette smoking may be the leading cause for COPD, it is not the only effect. He worries about what people think of him while wearing the oxygen but he compromises his new found image for the ability to get out and continue to live his life. It is at home sitting calmly that he is the least bothered by wearing the oxygen, but staying at home would eliminate his chance to become lively again.
Why should he have to be imprisoned by the need for oxygen? This is why he turned to a portable oxygen concentrator that changed his life for the better. He should not be punished by his vital struggle to breathe. In addition, it is becoming extremely more common to see people getting around with an oxygen unit being dragged on a wheel cart or carried in a travel case. It is amazing to see what these machines can do for those in need of some assistance as oxygen has become completely portable and reliable for travel. I learned a lot on that 2 hour flight that made me think differently about the image that oxygen gives to the elderly; and this man is as happy as can be with his ability to become active with his portable concentrator. He can now travel and share his wisdom and experience to the world without something as simple as his oxygen needs holding him back.