Roxlyn G Cole is a COPD Patient who has pushed the boundaries for many years. In her efforts to fight her disease she has brought much needed exposure to lung disease. Lyn has been kind enough to share her story.
It was the 2002 holidays, a pounding fast pulse rate and extreme blood pressure spike (while baking cookies) resulted in me deciding to get a stress test. It was during this testing the medical technician said my hands turned blue, which indicated a pulmonary problem. Many tests later, a diagnosis of COPD – moderate obstruction, primarily bullous emphysema, diffusion problem, and a ventilation / perfusion mismatch.
These “issues” caused ANY moving to be a challenge at the 5500 ft. altitude where I live near Denver.
I would need supplementary oxygen! It arrived on Valentine’s Day 2003, an E tank and a concentrator. At the time I didn’t know oxygen was better than chocolate! Within a day of using extra O2, a miracle it seemed, O2 = energy! Thrilling! No longer sleepy all day, or feeling exhausted by small exertions. Learning how to manage my disease, and what medications plus life style changes helped. Using an inhaler worked wonders, + 3-15 L of oxygen, all combined allowed me to slowly rebuild fitness from my severely deconditioned state. My muscles were very weak & endurance almost zero.
Attending Pulmonary Rehabilitation (and being scared wit-less) shaped my discipline & dedication to exercise. Two years of slow steady small increments in moving to get back to normal. My poor 43% DLCO (diffusion) causes my oxygen saturation to drop like a rock. My best tool – a pulse oximeter that can tell me if I’m maintaining a safe blood oxygen saturation level, any lower than 90% may start to damage vital organs. My personal Oxygen comfort level is 96% – 98%. I find this is my “Normal” saturation level.
The ultimate best help to me physically was having a TTO = Transtracheal oxygen delivery system. That enabled me to do so much more – Before diagnosis I was not an athlete, it was after I started to use O2 I fell in love with events starting with a 6/10th mile – American Lung Association fund raiser.
I felt ALIVE! Muscles gained and endurance improved over YEARS, made walking a Half Marathon possible – at first pulling my oxygen tank on an old golf cart, then pushing a Baby Jogger Stroller that can hold 5 liquid oxygen portables. Not many my age (65-77) will be hooked on athletic events. My choice is extreme, obviously NOT a fun goal for everyone.
Others may choose to work towards a fun for them goal, perhaps to go sailing, dancing, a long shopping day or evening at a concert -. With time, perseverance, patience – even if it seems to be a glacial pace, improvement will follow. If you start at 8 steps, adding one step per week- 52 possible in a year- it might even get you out to the mail box, a super goal if the start is with 8 steps.
In the last 12 years I have done 10 half marathons, 10 Lung association stair climbs up 56 stories, 10 – 5Ks called Stadium Stampede, and climbing the last 6.1 miles to the top of Mt Evans… 14,260 ft. elevation. Averaging 3 events a year + training of course. Currently training to do those 56 stories an eleventh time Feb. 21, 2016. VERY SLOWLY.
Set your own personal goal and move a little bit more every day any which way you can… Compete with yourself. Do better, feel better. Finally it adds up to better breathing and living. The more you do, the more you can do. It will help delay the progression of COPD too. Have your medical team guide you. Mark Mangus (respiratory care specialist) told me, Keep moving, “any age, any stage” you’ll benefit from exercise and gradually improve fitness – Dr. Tom Petty told me to “Titrate as I Migrate” . It all WORKS!
“Lyn” (Roxlyn G. Cole)