Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Learning to Live as a Lunger

The Original Lunger

The term lunger was a spiteful term addressed to Doc Holiday (played by Val Kilmer), who suffered from tuberculosis, by his enemies in the movie Tombstone. Although I don’t have TB, I figure my breathing makes me a lunger.

Monday was a day of sleep—a kind of imposed Sabbath resulting from a sense of exhaustion that overcame me. Sunday was a day of sleep, too, but I didn’t feel exhausted. I attempted to watch the two National Football League play off games; however, I nodded off during both of them—a couple of times I nodded off during each of the games.

Monday’s sleep was different from Sunday’s. First, the sleep seemed beyond my control. It wasn’t a comfortable sleep; rather, I slept because I lacked the energy to do anything else. Second, Alex seemed to share my exhaustion. Each time I awakened, the furball was asleep in my bed—on top of the comforter (and my body); snuggled beside my chest with my hand curled around him; or Alex in a ball, beneath the comforter and nestled by my legs. Perhaps we are both developing narcolepsy?

I expected the oxygen to provide me with more energy. Thus far it has not. What has happened is that I have developed a constant need for it. Before I was provided with it, there were times each day when I would panic because I could not breathe. It was terrifying. Now, during those moments when I switch from the oxygen concentrator to bottle oxygen (the logistics of fifty feet of hose need me to sometimes use the bottled oxygen) I literally cannot get my breath and I feel as if I am going to pass out. Furthermore, my nose has been stopped up quite a bit, which is problematic since I must breathe the oxygen through my nose. My nose has also been bleeding frequently, which I understand is a possible side effect of oxygen therapy.

Still, I am thankful for the VA supplied oxygen. I had not realized how poor my ability to take in air had become.

Above is a photo (taken by Tasha) of the well appointed lunger. Notice my open mouth. Not good. The portable oxygen tank has a regulator on it to conserve the oxygen so that I only receive it when I breathe in through my nose. Breathing through my mouth—something that through the years became my norm because of my clogged nose from allergies—is a difficult habit to break.

The photo above is my new oxygen concentrator. I still have the one I’ve owned for about twenty years. It is attached to my CPAP in my bedroom. This new one is located in my spare bedroom, because that room is in about the center of the house. This allows me to walk almost anywhere with the fifty-foot hose ruining from the machine to my nose.

Above is my month’s supply of oxygen tanks. The small ones I can use when I must leave the house. Each one is good for an hour or two of breathing. The larger ones I use to move around my house to places where the hose doesn’t reach. I will also put one in my car that I can use when driving, so as not to use up the oxygen in a small bottle when I travel.

The humongous oxygen tank above is about five feet high. It is an emergency back up—just in case.

Well, that sums up my new life as one dependent upon oxygen. I still have a lot to learn. So does Alex, such as not chasing, clawing at, and otherwise harassing my nose-hose.

We All Need It!


  1. I hope you will be able to manage alright...

  2. Wow I never thought how long, or should I saw short, those bottles of oxygen last. Becoming dependant on oxygen is scary. I mean that one blackout we had back a few years ago (I think you missed it) we were without electric for 9 hours. Thank goodness for your emergency tank. I hope you get all settled in with your treatment.

    Thanks for the "lunger" clip. I love Doc Holiday in that movie. Does this mean you get to be Doc Holiday for Halloween?

  3. Tombstone - good movie.

    You could always convince Alex to sit on your mouth - that would remind you to breathe through your nose LOL

  4. it is quite an eye-opener, reading about what you have to go through. we take so much for granted in life. is there anything you - or the docs - can do to make you less reliant on the tanks, over time perhaps?

  5. Always something, isn't it?

    Side affects, no matter what you attempt to do in life.

    Stay positive and even that has side affects! ; (


  6. I see that the YouTube link to the Tombstone clip has disappeared. I hope it returns.

    THE LONE BEADER: Thank you. I believe that my life attached to a nose-hose will improve as time passes and my experience with it increases. I hope.

    BARMAN: Part of the reason the oxygen in the tanks lasts such a short time is that I’ve been prescribed 3 liters/minute. I understand that that’s quite a bit. It’s three times what I have been using for 20 years with the CPAP. I hope I never have to use the oxygen in that huge tank, but I’m very glad it’s there—just in case.

    ENOLA: Yes, Tombstone is a good film. I have it on DVD and have watched it several times. I hope that the YouTube link to the Tombstone clip returns to this post. Alex would have no problem with sitting on my mouth: he has been known to fall asleep on my face.

    MAXXO: I had no idea what this oxygen therapy would entail until I got into it. And I’m still learning. I really don’t know what the options are for healing my lungs. Thus far I have only spoken with technicians who have tested me. They can’t—or won’t—answer my questions. I’ve never seen a physician about my lungs.

    COFFEE MESSIAH: I suppose everything good has its negative side. If what I’ve experienced thus far is all there is, I shall be very happy!

  7. Nick, I hope that within time your body is able to adjust. Take care of yourself.

  8. You know I feel for you, you will be able to retrain your mind over time. Now we need Alex to leave your hose alone.

    Hang in there.

  9. I haven't seen the film but I will look out for it on Sky now.

    I so feel for you Nick, to be dependent on canisters of oxygen, it must really restrict what you can do and where you can go. xx

  10. My Uncle Sonny had tubes in different colors, and matched them to his outfits. He had "formal" and "casual" nose clips, depending on the occasion.

    He was kind of a nut.

  11. Do remember to keep breathing Nick!

    My mother-in-law has recently become reliant on oxygen. (I mean in bottles as opposed to the normal air that we all breathe!)

  12. It seems that most of us have disabilities of some sort or another, some very minor and others much worse. So sorry about yours and hope you can become accustomed to the oxygen delivery system. I enjoyed the film clip. ec

  13. All of that paraphernalia. Looks like one of those "Can't live with it, can't live without it" kind of situations. Like many situations are. Marriage, religion, kids, you name it. It can all be so cumbersome, yet so life-giving.

    Love your picture of AIR.

    You'll be in my thoughts, Nick.

    On a more trivial note, I also like your yellow and green walls.

  14. I didn’t know oxygen could be so complex. Thank God you have it.

  15. Take care, Nick. You are important to this crazy world.

  16. Nick,
    Staying positive is an absolute must. And I second, third and fourth what angus said "You are important to this crazy world."

    Angus, WELL SAID!!!!!

  17. I'm so very glad that the VA moved so quickly with this, as I've said before. I now hope that they are as good (if even not as quickly) with the follow up - ensuring that you are using it correctly, that the side effects are, indeed, normal, etc. Please write a list of questions/ side effects, and take it with you next visit!

    Much luck, many prayers...and yes, I loved Tombstone also!

  18. Our son was on oxygen for several months when he was first born. The damn hoses and tanks drove me flippin nuts! Him too! He became his own Alex - swatting away at his nose hose! Sometimes I'd join him!

    I suspect the extreme fatigue is because of oxygen starved tissues suddenly being flooded with oxygen: they've been fighting for 'air' for so long that now they finally have it - all every cell in your body wants to do is sleep and rest a bit! Don't fight it Nick - just sleep, and rest up!

  19. Very interesting! I didn't see anything in the pictures that indicates being dependent on electricity to work. Do the tanks work, regardless? I suppose this comes to mind as we've been having so many power outages lately.

  20. SILVER NEUROTIC: Thank you. Perhaps after all of the years of my life I may learn to take care of myself. I really don’t know.

    PENELOPE ANNE: Oxygen to my brain is really good! Alex playing with the nose-hose isn’t. I really don’t mind him chasing and batting it, it’s the clawing and chewing it that concern me. I fear he may cut the hose.

    ALELAMALU: Thank you for your concern. I have only been “out” once since I got the oxygen. I’d had hoped to visit my mother, who is some 50 miles away, but I need to implement my idea of installing one of the larger tanks in my car first.

    THOMAS: I may find a way to color coordinate my nose-hose. So far as I know, my only alternatives are clear and blue. Of course, since like your uncle, I’m rather nutty, too, I may be able to come up with something.

  21. LIZ: Thank you. I hope to keep breathing. It is rather nice to now turn off the CPAP and be able to move around without the crisis of being unable to take in air.

    MR. EDDIE: Yes, I agree. Growing older and having disabilities (or whatever) is something I accept. I learned that from an observation that Joseph Campbell made a few years before his death.

    SAN: Thank you. That’s an excellent philosophical observation. I went looking for a picture of “air.” I was considering using a blue sky with fluffy clouds until I came upon that one. I glad you like it. The walls of my home are painted unique colors. Years ago I decided I was sick of the rather uniform color affects of most of the homes I visited. The green, which is in my study, is my favorite.

    JEAM-MARC: I, too, thank God I am again breathing!

    ANGUS: Thank you, my old friend. You really should become a blogger.

    MONDAY MORNING POWER: Yes, positive attitude is the only way I can be. Angus, who I’ve known since 1964, has a Celtic way with words.

  22. TUG: Yes, the VA moved quickly after I finally got the appointment with the right clinic. They are to schedule an appointment for my at the clinic in about 3 months, The VA is also responding to my need for sight and audio testing. I have those appointments this month. I hope the wait at those clinics isn’t too long—I don’t want to run out of oxygen while I’m waiting!

    ETERNALLY CURIOUS: I’m so sorry that your son had to put up with a nose-hose so early in life. I, too, at time feel the desire to swat at mine, so I know an infant would. Thank you for the suggestion that the fatigue I’m feeling may be from my oxygen starved tissues now receiving oxygen. That makes sense and is a real positive explanation.

    THAILANDCHANI: Thanks for the question. It’s the oxygen concentrator, the machine in the second photo down, that requires electricity. That’s what I use most of the time and to which the 50’ nose-hose is attached. I’ve had a similar machine attached to my CPAP for about twenty years. Whenever there was a power failure, I couldn’t sleep. Now if there is one, without backup I may not be able to live.

  23. Please just make sure that the 'side effects' are normal, as are your reactions. Everyone's different...and eternally curious had some very good points - just please make sure.

    Many ((hugs)) and prayers to you...

  24. Thank you, Tug. Tomorrow I’ll call the respiratory therapist with the company that’s supplying the oxygen for VA and ask him.

  25. :-)

    I hope they reassure you that your body is just LOVING the oxygen, and all is well. Will look for an update!

  26. You are a silly human and your nose-hose makes you sillier. I wrote about your silly hose and how you don’t want me to play with it in my blog today.

    Now, please stop playing with your computer and let’s go to be ‘cause I am cold and I want you to snuggle me under the blanket. OK?

  27. TUG: OK, I'll post something as soon as I find out.

  28. Nick you truly do not look well. I don't think this covers how worried I am about you, but I hope you get better.

  29. hmmm... thank God for small mercies like oxygen... keep smiling!

  30. PHISH EZ: You are so right: I don’t look well, nor do I feel well. It’s as if I’ve aged 20 years in the last year.

    SWEETASS: I was reflecting earlier this morning on how long I’ve had breathing problems with no treatment for them. Between when I returned to Louisville in the fall of 1997 and 2004, I was hospitalized three times with pneumonia and once with chronic bronchitis. That was the beginning and I’ve not improved since. Ouch!

  31. I hope this gives you more freedom and a better time Nick. Cheers!!

  32. Cats are like empaths,aren't they? I got that word from "Star-something" (as I say to my husband the SciFi fan.)
    Really though, you say Alex has been sleeping with you, by your side through it all. Cats know. I can remember once having the stomach flu when I was a teen and our cat Atocha followed me back and forth from my bed to the toilet each time I was sick. He was a great comfort, as I'm sure Alex is for you.
    Be well, Nick. I'll add you to my prayers.

  33. Hola Padre! I certainly hope that your not sneaking cigarettes/pipes/cigars while near all that O2.

    I'm sure you'll quickly adjust to the new arrangements (and I hope Alex does as well).

    If you need me, I'll be here longing for a nap.

  34. Hello! I wandered over here from San's place.

    I hope that your nose hose ends up being just the ticket to help you feel better. I do know that they dry out nostrils, so some kind of nose lubricant is called for - non petroleum-based!

    I also checked out your humor post from the other day. It was great.

    I think that I will be visiting more often.

    Hopes for Peace & Oxygenated Lungs

  35. My father has an oxygen tank and hardly uses it- even though he has low oxygen levels because of his emphysema, due from smoking. Lincare brings over one huge tank for him. He has to breathe out through his mouth too, because his nose doesn't intake air due to clogged allergies as well. Awful thing to go through.

    Do you think that you've grown a tolerance to the oxygen? They say that too much oxygen isn't good, but I don't know about those who have a lack of it.

    I hope you feel better...and I hope your breath gets easier and easier with each passing day.

  36. I hope that you adjust,Nick.. I had no idea what all is involved with taking oxygen..God Bless you ..

  37. TUG: Thanks for your advice and concern. I promised you earlier that I would check out the side effects and so I have checked them out with the respiratory therapist. He said both were probable, but the tiredness is not usual. Of course, I’ve felt exhausted for a long time. The bleeding nose is more usual and he suggests a nasal moisturizing solution spray that I can get at the drug store.

  38. We don't have the small portables but other than that it all looks familiar.

    Ray had the nose bleeds when he was on oxygen 24/7. Post surgery, he can go for stretches without which is a blessing.

    Hope the side effects clear up soon and you can have the benefits without the misery.

    Hi to Alex.

  39. Thank you! Get some rest...and please keep us posted. I hope that the fatigue goes as your body gets used to the oxygen it's been missing.

    ((hugs)) and prayers!!

  40. I hope that you adapt quickly and that the oxygen makes you feel much better. Take care Nick.

  41. ` !! Nick, being bound until I couldn't move and thrown into the water floating facedown with a crooked facemask (remember my near drowning experience?), I can relate to being so afraid you'll horribly die of suffocation.
    ` It must be so weird to go through that in normal daily life!!

  42. Thank you, Sir, for writing about being a "Lunger." I have just begun to require oxygen therapy. You have answered some of the questions I have better than any article I have found on the Internet.