Having an emergency preparedness plan is crucial for people with COPD

A backup power source allows me to keep using necessary medical devices

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by Caroline Gainer |

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Those of us with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) who use oxygen therapy must have a backup plan for emergencies like power outages and equipment failure. Even if you don’t use oxygen, it’s crucial to have an emergency preparedness plan if you use a nebulizer or other medical devices that require electricity.

I probably have overdone my plan, but being prepared is something my father drummed into my head at an early age. We had running water, but the old pitcher pump sat in a cabinet under the kitchen sink just in case the electric pump went out. We did have occasion to use the pitcher pump to acquire water for drinking, flushing the toilet, and bathing.

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My public debut tethered to my portable personal oxygen device

My backup plans

A small, stuffed Pillsbury Doughboy is seated on a chair at the author's dining room table. The walls are a deep green, and there's a large wooden cabinet in the background.

My Pillsbury Doughboy. (Photo by Caroline Gainer)

I still remember the phone call I received from the pharmacy in 2013: “Mrs. Gainer, we have a prescription for a nebulizer for you, but the only one left is shaped like a panda for children, and we didn’t want to insult you.”

“I won’t be insulted,” I replied. Secretly, I thought the panda would look cute next to the Pillsbury Doughboy I have sitting in a chair at my dining room table.

The little white panda with pink ears and I had many fine chats as it produced that mist that helped open my lungs and clear out the mucus. Last week, the sweet bear could no longer blow hard enough to do the job, so I had to lay it to rest.

Thankfully, I had purchased a portable nebulizer to use when away from home and as a backup when the power went out.

I also have a battery-operated portable oxygen concentrator I can use in these situations. I charge it using a solar storage battery and solar panels. This system provides enough power for me to keep the lights on and charge my cellphone in the event of a power outage.

However, this alternative power source does not provide enough power to run my heating system, so I have a fireplace and kerosene heaters to keep the water pipes from freezing. I must caution that neither of these backup heating sources is deemed safe for use with oxygen, so I am saving my money to purchase a whole-house generator.

I have flashlights and candles stashed around the house to use in areas distant from my storage battery. A little butane camping stove allows me to brew coffee and heat canned food.

This backup system will allow me to be warm, have coffee and food, continue oxygen therapy, and nebulize my medication for up to a week if there’s a power outage. Should I have to be without power for an extended period, I would call the fire department for help transporting me and my big concentrator to a local shelter.

We need to prepare for emergencies and equipment failure so that we do not aggravate our COPD symptoms and possibly cause an exacerbation. I feel comfortable with the systems I have in place, but I keep an eye out for improvements I can make.

Note: COPD News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of COPD News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.