Tag Archives: Pursed Lip Breathing

Oximeters Save Lives – Be Aware

The Oximeter can train the COPD patient to check our own blood/oxygen levels and to learn to trust our own body awareness.  That’s why I bought my own Oximeter some years ago.   I didn’t want to guess and needed to prove to myself that Pursed Lip Breathing (plb) really works.

It does work and the oximeter shows our sats rise as we plb.   Rehab teaches us to use the 1 – 10 level of awareness and it certainly works great for guessing pain level.  I don’t think it works as well guessing our blood/oxygen level.   I want to see those numbers rise back into the safe mode.  My oximeter actually once helped save my life on an airplane ride and I’ve told that story before.

Harrison Medical Center gave me a chart to use on my last hospital visit and discharge.  I liked it and began using it every morning to track my daily statistics.  It shows progress or lack of and I began to add a few other things to track including first thing in the morning oximeter reading, temperature and how long I slept.

Not all COPDers doctors use the Oximeter to check their patient blood/oxygen level and so the COPDer should track their own stats and take it to doctor appointments.  A daily record taken first thing in the morning is a far better record of the patients real stats compared to the moment in time measurements during a doctor office visit.  Maybe not… maybe a medical person would tell us.

I have no idea if this chart will be useful for the average doctor or not.  I’m seeing my pulmonologist this week and I’ll let you know what he thinks about it.

Heartfelt thanks to the Old Guy who formatted the chart so I could show it here.  I sometimes wonder if he would have stopped to offer water in his Sierra Cup to the strange blonde who smoked when she finally stumbled into the first rest stop on the Olympic College Mountaineering Class climb on Mount Washington going on forty years ago had he known what was ahead.   I’ll never ask.

My oximeter has gone through three batteries in the years I’ve had it…seven or so years and was calibrated at Harrison Medical Center about the same time.

These are the tools I use…  they can be calibrated on a doctor’s visit.

More later…thanks for listening… Sharon O’Hara

February Heart Month – 911 – CK Medics and Me

February is Heart Month…. And I called 911 for help.

I called 911 for myself early morning a couple of Saturdays ago.  I thought I was having a heart attack.  I’d migrated from bed to sit right here in this chair in what is loosely called my ‘office’ next to my computer and a wall phone and waited until the pain in my throat and down into my chest subsided.  Trouble is it got worse and tighter.  The pain exploded in my throat and chest with every cough.  Pursed lip breathing didn’t seem to help.  My airway felt like it was closing.

I dialed 911 and told them how to get where I was.  Afterward, still conscious, I called the Old Guy and told him company was coming.

I remember the relief when the paramedics put a C Pap mask on me and I could breathe easier – most comfortable mask I’ve ever had on… and remember the tough time they had getting me out of here –too many steps – to the unit parked in the driveway.

Thank you CK 911 responders!  You were efficient and lifesaving…same with Harrison when you got me there. I appreciate the professional help, but especially those really special nurses and staff who understood that I have to maintain whatever degree of independence I have.

The Progressive Care Unit was a new area for me with – again – outstanding care.  Without exception, they helped me maintain my independence even though it took longer.  From the cheery “Darlin’” nurse to the incredibly kind assistants who make things work well for patients to the MD’s, Barbora Volovarova, (Attending) and Dr. Irina Case –to the well-done discharge RN, Debra Clough Russell and to the cheery Rhonda who wheeled me on out the front door to await the Old Guy bringing the gas guzzler.

The diagnosis was Bronchitis and the pain was pleurisy – the exact diagnosis the Norwegian doctor gave when I got sick in Norway in 1997.  The prescribed meds in Norway 1997 allowed me to finish a tight schedule there and get me home.

Shortly after getting home in 1997 and running out of the medications,  I was in Harrison and life changed forever.  I stopped a 40 year smoking habit and learned the real meaning of the word “addiction” as I fought against the sudden gut wrenching cravings to smoke that continued over the following two years and occasional cravings to a lesser degree, even beyond.

I was scheduled for a stress test at Harrison, but I opted out after the tech helped me do a perfect first scan and we had several delays.  The cardiologist asked about my throat and I told him the pain was still there and he kindly suggested that it probably wasn’t my heart but that the stress test would give a good base – I already have Right Heart Failure.

What I didn’t think to mention is that with all the sitting my legs, Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) began acting up and I doubt I could have held them still for the second scan.  The Mirapex I take for RLS doesn’t work like it used to.  The stress effort would have been wasted without a good second scan.  They planned to do the chemical stress test since it seemed unlikely I could do a treadmill testing.  Too bad they don’t do water stress testing where they can get the heart pumping hard as they want without the external problems popping up – such as RLS.

The bottom line for me about Harrison is that they do not treat their patients all alike – they help each patient maintain what they are able to do and encourage that independence.  For that, they are unique and a special place for patients like me fighting to maintain strength even as we are there for medical help.

I missed that Saturday’s swim session with Coach Marilyn but her lessons stayed with me in that I was able to swing both legs up on the bed and gurneys using my new found core strength and beginning muscle protection for my left hip.  And we were back on track for the following Monday hour session.

I’m including a scan of a great morning tool Harrison gave me on discharge to keep track of such things as heart, weight to catch a heart attack before it happens.  I’ve added a blood/oxygen check (Nonin) column and check the time too.



I use the following sheet every morning to keep track of what is going on and will take it to my next doctor appointment.

The single one thing I will change on the sheets I see every day is to change the “Heart Failure Log” to Heart HEALTH Log.

As a patient, I do not want to see “Failure” before me every morning.  Heart HEALTH Log is more accurate.

More later…. Sharon O’Hara

Meet Alec

Alec is the flip side of the dancing COPDer you see in the television commercial. For the COPD TV commercial dancer, all it takes is one inhaler, a few puffs and like magic, the lungs are okay and off to the dance floor.

Alec is a COPDer on oxygen, living right here in Kitsap County. .Alec doesn’t dance, he is barely able to walk. The other day he walked for less than two minutes before he was exhausted and had to sit down. He has a doctor appointment with his primary in the next week or two and wonders if he can get strong enough by then to make the appointment.

When he called for an appointment with a lung specialist in town, he was told that he missed five appointments during the past twelve months and she wouldn’t give him another appointment. Ouch. I can relate to missed and late appointments with my doctors. None, so far, has refused to give me another appointment.

My phone rang last week and a man asked for me by name. He gave his name and went on to say he had gotten my name and phone number from a article Chris Henry wrote one month short of five years ago. The article mentioned physical fitness and EFFORTS, my online support group.
I told him about the years I wasted not knowing what I could do to help myself. It wasn’t until I found EFFORTS (Emphysema Foundation For Our Right To Survive) online and learned to go BEYOND my shortness of breath to gain strength and muscle that life began again.
I encouraged Alec to begin rehab to get strength back and talk with the doctor he has a good relationship with to begin a team effort to regain as much muscle and fitness possible,..unless there is some medical reason he cannot exercise.

Alec didn’t know about Pursed Lip Breathing, the oximeter, none of the basic tools COPDers NEED to be the best we can be for the best quality life possible. He has not seen a doctor for his oxygen use in a year!.
We exchanged email addresses and this is where I became aware of unintentional gross neglect of a COPDer by not educating him in the most basic how to PLB breathe! He didn’t know why a COPDer has to exhale twice as long as he inhaled! Why not? How many other folks do we have in Kitsap County, feeling alone and trapped without knowledge and encouragement to work toward a better quality life?

I’m guessing Alec is the tip of the iceberg of ignored people right here who need help! COPD can be a gradually isolating disease.

I suggested he join ‘Walkers’ on EFFORTS, contact the American Lung Association of Washington and the Shortness of Breath Self-Management Study at the University of Washington.

Following are emails I exchanged with Alec and his permission to use here.
11/27/2009 8:32 AM

Hi Sharon..I contacted my doctor’s office, although he was off, and the nurse said go ahead and keep my appointment and discuss with him about being my medical partner in my quest with EFFORTS. Hope you are doing well.


On Sun, 29 Nov 2009 09:29:29 -0800

Good morning Sharon….I am having a tough day today and have become discouraged ,a little. I thought I would exercise by walking slowly as many minutes as I could..If I didn’t have my faith in God, I don’t know where I would be! I started walking and realized just how bad of shape I’m in. I couldn’t make it 2 minutes ,with my 02 !!. Then I realized I hadn’t prayed or eaten or anything….and that’s not like me. So I prayed and ate and started again. I could barely make it over 2 minutes walking slowly. I realize you probably don’t want to hear all this, but I will leave you alone after this. I have a week from tomorrow to get in some kind of physical shape to make it to the my doctor’s appointment. I do want a better quality life. You have given me the inspiration to do that. I didn’t have much luck finding an exercise regimen on EFFORTS, so I will look on ALA for some ideas. I am going to keep moving forward no matter what happens, even if they are slow, or as you put it, one foot in front of the other! I just get down sometimes, but my God always picks me up and says…keep your eyes on Me, not your circumstances.. I’m sorry to unload all this on you, but I won’t bother you anymore. I will continue today to increase my minutes. Thanks for listening…..

To: “…
Sent: Sunday, November 29, 2009 11:07 AM
Subject: Re: Discouragement

…..call 911! Or your doc. No one should be in the kind of shape you mention and by yourself…no one!

Please…call for help…NOW. Sharon

On Sun, 29 Nov 2009 09:48:00 -0800

Sharon…I’m okay if I’m sitting down and not walking for a lengthy period.I don’t believe I need 911, as I breathe okay if I’m not walking or exercising.I’ll be okay.I think it sounded worse than it is! I’m alright! Please don’t worry yourself. Believe me, I know when I need 911……..Please…I’m so sorry I startled you …….

Sent: Sunday, November 29, 2009 11:26 AM
Subject: Re: Discouragement

Alec…Thank you for sharing with me. I’m astounded that no one has helped you build muscle and that you are alone through this and I wonder how many more of us are out ‘there’ that are in the same boat? We need to help each other with encouragement … will you give me permission to use this email exchange (I won’t use your name)to emphasize the NEED for education for COPDers in my blog?

11/29/2009 12:12 PM
We’ll do it together, Alec…okay? AND, one day, you’ll be riding a recumbent trike…one step at a time, one cycle wheel turn at a time and have fun too.
God has a sense of humor, I am convinced of it. Do you have a goldfish, bird, birdfeeder…any pets?
You are not alone.
11/29/2009 9:34 AM

Yes, you are right Sharon. God is in control and has a sense of humor! There’s never been a doubt in my mind about that. I didn’t know you would get so worked up about it or I wouldn’t have e-mailed you. I’ve been here for over 4 yrs. by myself! I had a dog, but he got attacked by raccoons and had to be put down. I still cry about that one! Malcom. Great dog. Half Akita, half Spaniel. Big! He was 12 and had a hole tore in his throat by the raccoons over some dog food. Malcom stood his ground, but it cost him his life. Reminds me of ….yea….Jesus! The Vet said he could patch him up, but he was 12 and bigger dogs don’t live as long as smaller ones. He said he probably wouldn’t last long if he couldn’t eat. He couldn’t get up to eat. It was all so sad. I called the Humane Society and they came and carried him away. I’ll never forget the look in his eyes. But I’ll see him again when I join him in heaven.But it still hurts.Poster Child? Never considered myself one of those. I don’t want to lose what little freedom I have. Can you understand that? I hope so! If I told people just how bad I was they would freak out.We do need education in the rehab area. People caring about other people! My family lives out of state and I hate to ask someone to call me everyday or drop by because they all have families, except Louis, and he’s very busy at the church.My goal is to get healthy enough to ride my recumbent bike, go to church, prayer warrior’s on Thursdays, and to go and tell people how much their God loves them! Not to much to ask is it? Nothing is to big for God! I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! I am going off-line to read my Bible and study. So I’ll talk to you later.One step at a time…you’re right. And fun….I used to love to swim. Couldn’t get me out of the water in the summer. You are a dear, with a big heart. Talk to you later…..Blessings…….

On Sun, 29 Nov 2009 09:21:42 -0800

Sharon…alot of people have said that I am brave to be on my own and in the shape I’m in. No one has even offered to help me get in shape. Maybe that tells me something about who my real friends are! I’m sure there are other people like me who are alone. If something serious happened I would be in a jam ,especially if I couldn’t dial the phone! But then again, most people I know have families and can’t come help me, plus I feel like I’m intruding, and I am, if I ask them to help. I have a single friend at church who is very busy with the holidays this time of year, but I don’t think he realizes how out of shape I’m in. Yes, you can use the e-mail exchange. I don’t know if I want to read it or not, but yes,use it. It’s just one of those things. I just happened to be alone when this all happened. What else can I do? I don’t think I’m bad enough to be in the hospital, but I do need someone to check on me daily or come by and see how I’m doing.. My friend came over yesterday and looked at my computer. I left a message for him to call me at his convenience when he gets home from church today. I’m going to ask him his opinion about whether I need to be in the hospital or a care center, since I live alone. He’ll be honest with me. …

The following article provides a good reason why COPDers tend to have panic attacks as they get more and more short of breath….

“The portion of our brains that is responsible for registering fear and even panic has a built-in chemical sensor that is triggered by a primordial terror — suffocation. A report in the November 25th issue of the journal Cell, a Cell Press publication, shows in studies of mice that the rise in acid levels in the brain upon breathing carbon dioxide triggers acid-sensing channels that evoke fear behavior.” More at http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091125134651.htm

1. Education and rehabilitation for the COPDer.
2. Find the COPDers like Alex…let them know they are not alone and what they can do to help themselves to a more active life.
3. We can help each other if for nothing else but a cheery “Hi, How are you?” voice on the phone.
4. Where are you?

More later… Sharon O’Hara