How technology saved the day and my COPD presentation

When a mild exacerbation is both a fitting example and a problem to solve

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by Caroline Gainer |

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No matter how well I plan or how much I want to do something, I have to remember that my chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is in control.

One such reminder happened two weeks ago, as I was rounding up suitcases, securing a driver, and ensuring my house sitter would have plenty of food. The driver would be taking me to the nearby Thurmond, West Virginia, train station, which is unattended. That’s why I didn’t want to leave my car there, even though it’s within the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve.

My round-trip train tickets were from Thurmond to Philadelphia, where I’d speak at the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease‘s International COPD Conference as part of its patient forum. Beyond that excellent opportunity, I was also looking forward to a few days with old friends and meeting some online colleagues in person.

My presentation was on avoiding exacerbations by implementing a COPD action plan. My talk would closely resemble a column I wrote on the topic.

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I am making final preparations for my trip to the GOLD conference

COPD takes charge

I was set to leave on a Sunday. As I prepared for the trip, I got up Thursday morning and started my routine. But I noticed that when I blew my nose, both ears popped. I’d never had both ears pop at once, but I knew that when it happened to one, I needed to pay attention to any signs of an ear infection.

That afternoon, I felt drained and lay down to rest briefly. When I woke up, I was dizzy. I tried to walk down the hall to the bathroom and ran into the wall several times. Consulting my action plan, I learned that I had to contact my doctor.

I retired early that evening and rose to even more dizziness and brain fog on Friday morning. The most distressing symptom was a lower-than-normal oxygen saturation level. I knew I had to cancel my conference plans and call my doctor. I was disappointed that my trip was off and I wouldn’t be able to give my presentation.

That morning, I spoke with my doctor and started taking an antibiotic and over-the-counter Mucinex (guaifenesin), since I had these two medications on hand. My doctor rotates the kind of antibiotic I have so that I don’t build up resistance to a specific one.

I took the medicines, went back to bed, and slept until the afternoon. I was still dizzy when I woke up, though the brain fog had mostly passed and my oxygen level was back close to normal. I canceled my train tickets, sent an email to the forum organizers, and expressed my desire to participate somehow, if it were still possible.

They replied that they’d find a way for me to present. I met with the tech people at Temple University, the conference host, via Zoom three hours before I was scheduled to talk. They set me up for my presentation, helping me control my slides and telling me to leave my computer on and not to change the settings.

I realized that maybe COPD gave me a gift, as I then had an example of using my COPD action plan to keep a mild exacerbation from becoming a severe one. And I used it in my presentation!

COPD was still in charge of what I could do, but thanks to technology, I was still able to deliver my presentation. If I choose to live a life resembling normal, COPD often forces me to think outside the box.

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.