Wednesday, September 13, 2006

All Hail Helios

I have been the RN signature of a CNA program for several years and didn't really have much to do with it except to review the curriculum and make sure it was in compliance with state regulations. I didn't even take the pay they offered. I was busy with my full time job of Director of Nursing in a long term care facility.

However, COPD was kicking my butt as well as the stress of my work. I was getting more and more short of breath and it was harder to stay well. My pulmonologist wanted me on oxygen long before I agreed to it. In my mind, having to use oxygen was akin to saying that I wasn't a good nurse. That I was less of a person because of a disability and I would become one of the "lungers" I had taken care of so many times. I cried and cried when I finally realized that I would need the O2 to make my life better. I conceeded and began using it a year ago.

At the same time, I resigned as Director of Nursing and felt devastated. I had been making a very comfortable salary and had great health benefits, loved my job and the people I worked with. But I couldn't keep up with the demands of the job and take care of myself at the same time, so I left. Working and not taking care of myself was the reason I was in this predicament. I was so depressed as I thought I would never be a nurse again and there was nothing else that I wanted to do. How would I support myself? Would I be on disability? Would I still be able to keep my home? How would I pay my bills?

What I've come to learn is that the oxygen has given me a new life. One that I couldn't have had without it. Yes I'm on disability, my FEV1 was 29% when I quit work. But now I can breathe easier and that allows me to move better and more often.

I went to pulmonary rehab, which showed me that there were still things I could do, maybe just a little slower. I used my oxygen and cranked it up as I worked the treadmill, the upper body machine and the nu-step. I did exercises at home with weights. I learned how to breathe in through my nose and out longer through my lips. I learned how to really breathe with my diaphram. I learned that while I would never regain lung function lost, I could make my muscles use oxygen more efficiently through exercise and save more oxygen for my vital organs.

As I became more used to wearing the O2, it didn't bother me so much to be seen with it on. I love teaching people about it. In a grocery store, a child asked his mom in front of me why I had that hose. She said "Why don't you ask her?" It was my pleasure to respond that I needed more air and the tank supplied it. I can go anywhere with it because it's so portable. I can wear it as a back pack, on the waist or over my shoulder. I have a short canula for trips out, and a long canula at home so I don't yank the tank onto the floor from the counter when I'm working in the kitchen. I am never hooked up to the large filling canister or a concentrator unit. I am free as a bird!

So fast forward to the CNA program ~ I am alive and well and able to work effectively as a nurse and be an advocate of pulmonary rehab and oxygen therapy! Who'd have thought that a "lunger" could educate the medical community and feel so good about it! I am not only responsible for the content of the program, I also teach several modules. I never thought that I'd like teaching, but I do. I have also been offered a position with an MD to do home visits to his patients, and I may also do this. All of my doubts about working with oxygen are fading in the distance.

Life is good again and all hail helios! I have a life again and I can still be a nurse!!


Mother Jones RN said...

What a great story. Would you please contact me. I went to your other website I couldn't find an e-mail address. I have an idea I want to talk to you about.
My e-mail address is


Moof said...

You're just amazing! I'm looking forward to reading more about your on your blog. Thank you for persevering with the blog difficulties you've been having so that you could share yourself with us.

LJG aka Pennsylvania Independent said...

I was at the Doctor on Friday and asked my doctor about respiratory rehab and she referred me to a respriatory therapist so they could perform tests. My doctor wants me to get a test for the Alpha-1 and that is going to be done along with the other tests they want to perform. I have to return to the doctor on tuesday morning because my BP was 167/142 and was a little concerned about that.

LJG aka Pennsylvania Independent said...

My FEV1 was at 50%, which is slightly lower than normal. I guess I shouldn't complain, it could be worse.