My public debut tethered to my portable personal oxygen device

With a concert to see, how would I manage on a concentrator? Well — mostly.

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by Caroline Gainer |

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I remember my first outing with my Philips Respironics SimplyGo portable oxygen concentrator (POC) like it was yesterday. The reason I remember it now is because it’ll soon be time to use it again for the State Fair of West Virginia.

My friend and I had tickets to see Alabama years ago at the fair. A few weeks before the date, I suddenly became short of breath and made an appointment with the pulmonologist. I was prescribed oxygen because my saturation level was below 88% (with normal 95% or above). The pulmonologist checked my saturation at 2 liters of oxygen per minute (lpm), and the nurse set me up with a provider.

That durable medical equipment (DME) provider arrived on time and began setting up the stationary oxygen concentrator. We engaged in friendly conversation, which led to discussion of the state fair. I told him I had tickets and wanted to go, but didn’t know how I could do it anymore.

He told me that was no problem. How many days did I think I’d be going? I told him one, so he left me with six tanks, a regulator, and a shoulder bag.

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Once reality set in, I knew the tanks weren’t a satisfactory solution because I couldn’t carry enough of them to last me the day. Plus, the car would be close to a mile away from our spot in the fairgrounds. These problems led me to search for a means of portability that didn’t entail oxygen tanks.

Portable oxygen concentrators let the oxygen user be mobile. Remembering that, I called my DME provider, which told me I could rent such a device from them — but for what I considered an outrageous amount of money. At least now I had a brand and device name that the provider said would meet my needs. I began searching for the best deal to get it.

I then tried to order the device so that I’d have it in time to go to the fair. I filled out all the information, put in my credit card number, and pressed “add to cart.” Instead of giving me the order complete message, it now wanted my prescription and my doctor’s name. I tried several companies, but the same thing happened.

What was I to do? I didn’t have a prescription. I called my pulmonologist’s office, which told me to put 2 lpm for the oxygen prescription and that my doctor would confirm it when the provider called to verify.

My POC arrived two days before the fair. I told my friend about the concentrator, the cart, and the extra batteries I’d have to carry, then questioned if she still wanted me to go with her. “Well, of course,” she said. “Why would I not want you to go?” What a relief that was, as I’d read there was a stigma about wearing supplemental oxygen.

As it turns out, the struggle wasn’t over. When we got to the grandstand, we were told that our seating had to be changed because of an emergency — and our move was all the way to the grandstand’s top. The steps were twice the height of regular steps, which gave me an extremely difficult time navigating with the POC and cart in hand.

My friend was ahead of me, but thankfully, a genuinely nice young lady offered to carry my equipment. I’m not one to accept help, but she seemed to have been sent from above.

In our new seating area, we had to sit on concrete slabs. I placed the POC on the slab, and my friend and I settled in to watch the concert. But then four women crowded in next to us, and one was quite obviously agitated. She looked at my friend and said there’d be plenty of room for all of us if she (meaning me) didn’t have her “cooler.”

I was granted the wisdom to keep my mouth shut, and the four moved to another location. The seats are marked with the numbers corresponding to the tickets, so we could see they took someone else’s seat. My friend, my “cooler,” and I were only taking up our two slots.

After this first outing with my POC, every other time has seemed like a breeze. I’ve never felt ashamed to be seen with my portable oxygen concentrator, but I know that a lot of people are. One of my friends says to look at it like a pair of glasses or false teeth!

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.