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!!