Lum: Attack of the killer oxygen tank |

Lum: Attack of the killer oxygen tank

Su Lum

My liquid oxygen tank tried to kill me again Sunday morning.

I woke up around 6 a.m. feeling horrible and thought I might faint on my way to the john. I made it back to bed and lay very still but the fainting feeling persisted.

As I keep saying, the first thing that happens when your oxygen is low is that you get stupid and never think until the last second that feeling terrible might be caused by a lack of oxygen.

I finally reached for my oximeter and the reading was 47 — way past time to be in the hospital. My feeling of faintness was my close proximity to passing out.

I keep an oxygen canister by my bed for just such unpleasant occasions. It is all set up so that all I have to do is turn a little plastic wrench, turn the setting dial and put a cannula up my nose, something even someone with a very low two-digit IQ can master.

I then tried to call my friend Hilary in the shed but the phone was acting funny and I wasn’t quite sure what her number was. Turned out I was trying to call her on the remote control to my radio.

The canister was cranked up as far as it would go, and when it went up to the 90s I was feeling back to myself again and set out to find the cause of the problem, which was the second of two 25-foot oxygen tubes, the one attached to the killer tank in my office.

The tank itself was bubbling and hissing and covered with ice and the first 10 feet of the tubing was stiff and filled with ice. I had been getting no oxygen at all, and I assume it had been tapering and dwindling for who knows how long during the night.

I disengaged the frozen tube, turned off the liquid tank and connected the second tube to the concentrator, a machine that runs on electricity and makes oxygen out of thin air. The little irony here is that I was using the safe liquid tank in case of a power failure that would kill the concentrator as I slept.

That evening, the concentrator started beeping and the “needs service” light turned on.

Now what? Hilary found my last package of tubing, a 50-footer that she attached to one of the liquid tanks in what we call the oxygen room.

OK. Then Hilary discovered that half the lights were out in the kitchen as well as the one on the concentrator and that we had blown a fuse. I can’t even remember the last time I blew a fuse — and we never knew what happened this time. Hilary flipped the fuse switch and all has been working well since, including the concentrator — enough oxygen problems for one day.

I’m changing the subject now.

You know the riddle of the Sphinx? What walks on four legs in the morning, two in the afternoon and three in the evening? Answer: man — crawling in all fours as a baby, walking on two legs when grown and walking with a cane in old age.

Now I’m on six legs with my new walker and I would never have believed that I would ever be so thrilled and excited by the delivery of a walker of all things. Or “Rollator” as they call it. Lumex Walkabout Lite Jr. Rollator, $87.89. It has a seat which lifts up to reveal a basket for carrying things — usually food — brakes if you’re going down hills, it easily rolls over tubing, doesn’t bang into every corner of the house and has made my limping life a lot easier.

My back is still killing me but it is better with the aid of miracle work by Carrie, my visiting physical therapist massage whisperer, an electronic pulse device and various meds of the prescription and marijuana kind (the former work better).

My old plain Jane walker was forty times too big for me, got stuck on every tube and corner, had no seat or basket and no brakes, not that you’d need them, you never got up any speed.

Walking with a cane caused back spasms, and imagine trying to walk with a cane in one hand and a bowl of soup in the other. Now I can just pop everything in the basket.

Everything is relative. I am delighted with my Rollator.

Su Lum is a longtime local who needs a new spine. Potential donors should email her at This column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.

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