Life on oxygen " it’s getting better |

Life on oxygen " it’s getting better

It is hard to believe that I’ve been on oxygen 24/7 for almost nine years, having been felled by adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) on Jan. 29, 1999.

If this had happened 10 years earlier, the chances of even surviving ARDS were pretty much zip, and, if I had hung on, my life would have been radically different. The oxygen equipment option available then was limited to dragging cumbersome metal canisters of compressed oxygen, and it was easier to just stay home and die.

When I was first being diagnosed, my doctor brought out a brand new device called an oximeter. Put your finger into it and ” voila! ” it gives an instant reading of your oxygen levels.

After I (finally) got out of the hospital, visiting nurses were sent around every other day to take my oximeter readings, because this was very expensive, specialized equipment.

Thanks to the aging and ailing baby boomers, oximeters are now as common as dirt, used not only by the increasing number of oxygen patients but healthy people into serious sports. You can get them on the Internet for less than $200. (Google “pulse oximeters.”)

Liquid oxygen was also just coming into vogue, fought fiercely by oxygen providers because it required more maintenance (i.e., filling the tanks), and as LOX became more available, the Helios tank came on the scene, a liquid oxygen delivery device that lasts for eight to 10 hours and weighs less than three pounds.

If you’re on oxygen, don’t hold your breath for your providers to tell you what’s new on the market. They will not discuss anything that isn’t covered by insurance, as I found out when I accidentally discovered, on the Internet,, which manufactures the most comfortable cannulas (the bridles that go up your nose) ever made.

These cannulas are so great, I carry spares with me and ambush anyone I see on oxygen. I tried to include my oxygen providers ” “You know whose ears and noses are hurting, give them one of these ” on me ” just tell them about them,” but no soap. If they did carry them, their lips were sealed.

At Carl’s Pharmacy, I pressed one of these cannulas on Allen Best, a man who turned out to be a writer for my own mother newspaper corporation, and he, in turn, gave me a lead to an amazing-sounding oxygen machine called the Sequal Eclipse, which I purchased a couple of months ago.

The Sequal Eclipse is a concentrator (meaning it makes oxygen out of thin air) that works on electricity or on battery packs, can plug into your car outlet, can be used either with constant flow or intermittent flow (puffs audibly but lasts longer on batteries), weighs 17 pounds and, best of all, can be taken on most of the major airlines except (no surprise) United. Delta and Frontier, here I come, free at last!

While it performed well on a road trip, I haven’t put it to the flying test yet. Since it is so new, there are bound to be problems with security.

The Sequel is pricey ” mine cost $4000, a discount off the list price, but, if you’re in for the duration, that’s a fifth the cost of a cheap new car. I bought mine from Gordon Wesener at American Medical Sales and Repair, got it two days after I placed the order. Call (800) 280-2677, or go to

Gordon told me that an even more fantastic machine is on the drawing board, one that can make LIQUID oxygen, from which I could fill my Helios tanks and be more mobile than ever. With one of these babies, an oxygen patient could cut out all the middle-men and insurance companies, an event whose time has come, and I’m glad to be here to see it.

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