You always have choices…

Contributed by Jim Nelson, consultant to CAIRE Inc.

~ It is all about choices…

I was diagnosed with severe COPD, (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), in 1995.  I had always had weak lungs. It was just part of my life, something that I had accepted. Premature birth, a childhood enveloped in second-hand smoke, the invisible toxins of third-hand smoke that are absorbed into upholstery, carpet, clothing, and hair, and 20 years of personal smoking had pretty well doomed me to breathing problems.

Nonetheless, the diagnosis was a shock. My tests showed that I had 33% of the lung capacity that I should have had, given my age, weight, etc. I also happened to have a severe case of double pneumonia, so I suddenly found myself with an oxygen cannula in my nose, full time, for the next several weeks.

That was where the choices came in. When a patient is diagnosed with a chronic disease, a disease that is not going to go away, they can choose to sit down, grab the TV remote, and wait to die. That is a choice. Mary and I chose to learn as much as we could about the disease, alter our lifestyles to accommodate it, and order a treadmill. I have, in the intervening years, worn out three treadmills.

The exercise, the stubbornness, the attitudes that we chose to adopt have all served us well over the years. I was able to maintain the 33% lung function level for almost 15 years by wearing my oxygen cannula for sleeping and exercising as prescribed. While I was logging all of those miles on the treadmill, Mary was quietly, gradually taking over the responsibilities, the duties that I had traditionally performed. Caregiving is truly a life put on hold. It is one of the most loving acts that anyone can offer to another. Even so, it is dramatically underappreciated.  Each day can be different, depending on the condition of the patient, on outside pressures, on the weather! It is the responsibility of the caregiver to serve, to assist, to take up the slack.

The caregiver must walk a fine line. As the condition of the patient deteriorates, they will likely lose the ability or the energy to perform tasks that they have habitually performed. The caregiver must either learn to take over those duties or find help from family, friends, or professionals to accomplish them. Meanwhile, the feelings, the ego, of the patient must be considered. It is all too easy for the patient to feel a loss of control over their lives, and that must be taken into consideration.

At the age of 71, I had the incredible fortune to receive a double lung transplant. That was almost 6 years ago, and that gift has allowed Mary and me to travel to COPD conferences, to give inspirational speeches, to teach, to touch the lives of hundreds of others who are affected with lung disease.

~ Uncle Jim

Jim Nelson is a double lung transplant recipient and a patient advocate for COPD patients throughout the U.S. and around the world. He and his wife, Mary, are well known patient advocates and brand ambassadors for those organizations who tirelessly endeavor to help those individuals who suffer from a variety of respiratory diseases and the caregivers who support them.

If you have been prescribed oxygen therapy, learn more about CAIRE wearableportable and stationary oxygen concentrators by visiting or calling 1-877-704-0878 to talk to an oxygen advisor. 

When using any oxygen therapy device, please consult the applicable product instructions for use for product indications, contraindications, warnings, precautions, and detailed safety information.

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