Tethered

I use supplemental oxygen 24/7.  That means wherever I go, I have a cannula strapped to my face and a plastic tube connected to my oxygen source.  When I’m on the go, I use a short tube attached to a portable oxygen tank. But at home, I have a 100 ft. “umbilical” that snakes between me and my oxygen concentrator.

My oxygen supplier frequently warns me I shouldn’t use anything longer than 50 ft. because the longer the tube, the lower the O2 flow.  But with my 100-foot tube, I’m free to roam just about anywhere in my house. So, I’ve worked out a compromise — for bed, I plug in with a 25 ft. tube and save the ultra long cannula for daytime.  Convenience has its price, though.  Like when I get myself all wound around the island in the kitchen.  Did I go right or left?  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to the kitchen for something and started back out, only to have my head snapped around as the cannula pulls tight. The kids still smile when they see me backtrack and do a reverse circuit.

Feet pose another obstacle.  It’s not tripping (for me at least) so much as it is standing, as in, “please move, you’re standing on my cannula.”  Standing on my tubing doesn’t hinder the oxygen flow, but it does stop me in my tracks. I thought when I switched to a green high-flow cannula, this little annoyance would be rectified. To my surprise, the family tromps even more on the highly visible green tubing.  My guess (hope) is that they’ve grown so used to my O2 set-up, they don’t really notice the cannula anymore.  Or it may be self-defense on their part.  Whenever my cannula goes taut, I give it a yank, figuring it’s just caught around a corner.  Recently, I’ve been hearing squeals when I tug on my tubing. Seems I’ve been tripping up the kids a lot more than I realized!

Then there are the frequent snarls. Everyone has grown used to me standing in the hall outside my bedroom and growling as I work through another knot. My tubing gets caught on drawer pulls, chair legs and just about anything left on the floor. The dog, of course, takes it all in stride.  He’s become quite adept at disentangling himself whenever my cannula slides by.  And I usually manage to stay fairly unencumbered myself…except for that time I twisted one too many times while making the bed and did a face plant into a pile of pillows. Yes…there were witnesses. We all burst out laughing.

I’ve often thought a portable tube reel (kinda like those retractable dog leashes) would solve a lot of my problems. Unfortunately, nothing like that exists and I am no engineer. Of course, the real answer is “tubeless” oxygen, like wireless Internet.  Oh wait, that’s called “normal breathing”.

In the meantime, while I still have these lungs, I’ll be tethered.  But being tethered isn’t so bad.  The limits of my cannula have forced me to slow down and refocus. I spend a lot of time talking and hanging out with my kids — unhurried and undistracted.  And I’m closer to my brothers than ever.  It’s amazing what happens when you stop thinking about where you should be and concentrate on where you are.

I’ve heard lots of people say they are “grateful” to their disease for waking them up to what’s important in life.  I’m not grateful to IPF — it sucks big time.  But it is part of my life,  a big honking bump in the road. And like all the other bumps, twists and turns I’ve encountered, I’m trying to learn as much as I can from the experience.  So far I’ve discovered that I am surrounded by amazing people eager to help — I just didn’t notice until I slowed down and let them in.  And I’ve realized that if you get stuck heading down one path, you can always backtrack, unwind yourself and try another route.

Photo courtesy of 123rf

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18 thoughts on “Tethered

  1. Pingback: Tethered II | Reality Gasps

  2. I can relate a little to being tied to the switchboard with my headset and cord…I can’ t tell you how many times I’ve tried to walk away from my desk and taken the whole switchboard with be. Remember that scene in “It’s a Big Fat Greek Wedding?” Too funny. Glad you are keeping up your sense of humor.

  3. Oh gosh, I swear sometimes we live parallel lives… lol. I not only have gotten tangled but have managed to cut my tubing with a sharp knife while chopping veggies and talking to the dog, with scissors doing cutouts with my grandson, and oh yeah, TWICE I’ve gotten it caught in the oven door and found out the hard way that tubing melts at 400°. And that’s with only the 50 ft. Lord knows how much trouble I’d get into with 100 ft. Thanks for sharing and you’re in my prayers. ((Hugs))

    • LOL! I haven’t cut it yet, but I’ve come close. I have caught it in the refrigerator numerous times, the dishwasher, the dryer door, the dog’s water dish (I’ve learned to keep a cloth next to his bowl), and the oven (once, and I noticed before it melted!). I see we both talk to the dog while cooking. 🙂

      ((Hugs)) back at ya, and you are in my prayers as well. We gotta keep laughing, right?

      • Oh yeah… if I didn’t keep laughing, I wouldn’t stop crying… my dog was smart and moved his bowl himself to an area I don’t go in… lol… guess he got tired of me emptying it. I also swear he grins at me when we go outside and his leash lets him go farther than I can. Sigh…

      • My dog does the same thing. I stand there on the deck stretching as far as I can while he glares at me. His favorite spot is ALWAYS just beyond my reach!

  4. My son is on an FLL (Robotics) team. This year’s challenge was “Senior Solutions”. Using technology they had to come up with an innovate solution to make life better for seniors. My son’s team designed a robot that carried concentrated oxygen for people in your situation. The robot followed around the user homing in on a wireless transmission. No more tangles! The program is really cool in that one team across the United States will have their idea marketed. Sadly, my son’s team did not win. How useful would their idea be to so many?!

    • Sign me up as a beta tester! That sounds so cool! I’ve seen a service dog that carries O2 bottles for a 3-year-old, but never a robot. Tell them to keep at it. Maybe we’ll see them on “Shark Tank.”

  5. Lori I am always so moved when I read your blog posts! You have inspired me with your strength and courage as you wrestle with the challenges you are faced with right now. Thank you for being vulnerable and honest in your journey…you are an inspiration.

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