A new oxygen breakthrough
November 1, 2005
I was trolling around on the Internet looking for oxygen supplies and came across a listing for the world’s most comfortable cannulas. I clicked on the site, http://www.softhose.com, and was intrigued to read that Paul Thompson, an engineer in the medical industry, had invented this cannula for his aunt Delores when she was put on oxygen, to make life easier for her.Cannulas are the “bridles” of plastic tubing that oxygen patients wear: two prongs up the nostrils, over the ears and cinched under the chin to keep it in place. The psychological problems of getting used to life on the tether are, to understate it, huge, and the physical problems with the cannula run a close second.The cannulas hurt your nostrils and hurt your ears. If you don’t cinch them tight enough they tend to wander. For the first couple of years I was on oxygen I had to tape the tubing to my face at night because I would rip the cannula off in my sleep and throw it on the floor. Even now, after 6 1/2 years of toughening up, it takes several days to break in a new cannula. So when I read that Paul Thompson’s cannulas addressed every hateful complaint I’d ever leveled against the cannulas currently on the market, I immediately winged my $8 check to San Diego.What I received by return mail was, hands down, the most comfortable cannula I have ever worn. You can barely feel it, and it stays in place without cinching! Instead of stiff plastic, the tubing is almost as soft as cooked spaghetti; it hangs lightly over the ears and rests gently in the nose.Five minutes after putting it on, I knew I had to get some of them for my mother, who will be 99 next Monday and is on oxygen in New Jersey. Her cannula keeps ending up in her ears or up on her forehead, is always hurting and abrading her nostrils and has to be adjusted constantly.Paul’s wife, Chris, who handles all the mail requests, rushed my order (10 cannulas for $50, very reasonable) to coincide with my impending visit, and it was the best present I could have taken to my mother, who is bedridden in a semi-fugue state but kept commenting that “this thing” was “so much better.””This thing” should be the cannula of choice for every hospital and oxygen provider in the country (make that on the planet). When oxygen patients get wind of it, they will demand it because it’s the biggest oxygen breakthrough since liquid oxygen and Helios tanks. Those were big-ticket items, and this is a very small ticket item that can make a big difference for everyone on oxygen.One of the major cannula manufacturers – Salter or Puritan-Bennett – will surely buy the patent for it, and it will, ideally, become standard equipment.Or maybe they will buy the patent and sit on it, preferring the cost savings of the present, cheaper models. Meanwhile, I’m going to stockpile, and urge all of you on oxygen or who know people on oxygen to try these cannulas and start spreading the word. Su Lum is a longtime local with no personal or financial connections with the Thompsons. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.