Thumbs Up!

Contributed by Jim Nelson, consultant to CAIRE Inc.

Some of the biggest problems in the world of lung disease are awareness and the reluctance of patients to be seen wearing their oxygen nasal cannula.

I would like to ask for your help in promoting my idea, by talking to your family and others, sharing this posting, and otherwise spreading the word.

What if, whenever someone sees a person wearing a cannula, they give the wearer a “thumbs up” gesture? It would acknowledge that the civilian noticed the cannula, and that they knew that the patient was doing what they should to stay active. It would act as a sign of encouragement to the patient. It would hopefully take away some of the “shame and blame” nonsense that accomplishes nothing other than deterring patients from protecting their hearts and brains by maintaining their saturation.

The more people that we can get involved, the more effective it will be. I would recommend accompanying the thumb with a genuine smile. Can’t hurt.

I truly believe that a simple gesture of goodwill, which costs you nothing, truly gives a tremendous amount on both ends. If you do it, you will feel better, more generous. If you happen to be the cannula-wearer, it will provide a rare feeling of recognition and approval! What a deal for everyone involved!

Okay.  That is all well and good, but what will it accomplish? Well, a little explanation.  Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is the third largest killer in the United States, after heart disease and cancer. Yet, the funding for research for a cure for COPD is the stepchild of research funding. I have nothing against patients with HIV or AIDS. I only use them as a example because of the difference in research dollars. For example, in 2012 the amount spent for research per AIDS patient was $2,787. During the same period, the amount spent for research per COPD patient was $4. That seems impossible, but those are the figures.

So, why the difference? AIDS kills relatively few people these days, but the money keeps pouring in. Meanwhile, COPD affects some 30 million people in the U.S., and we are really hurting for research money. Why would that be?

In talking to people who were around during the first years of AIDS epidemic, the consensus is that the advocates for AIDS research were highly visible and they were loud! They held rallies and they marched in parades, and the general public and the people who make laws could not help but notice! It was considered a serious epidemic, and Congress and state legislators threw money at it. Celebrities of all kinds got behind the cause, and Tom Hanks starred in “Philadelphia,” a wonderful movie about a dying AIDS patient. The responses, the support, and the noise were overwhelming.

So, what are we doing? We are refusing to wear our cannulas where anyone can see us.  We are staying home rather than exerting ourselves to gather up our oxygen equipment and going out to live our lives. We are bearing the self-imposed shame and blame because we smoked years ago. We are sitting around feeling sorry for ourselves, instead of working the rest of our bodies to stay strong. We are doing everything we can to avoid drawing attention to ourselves!

The “Thumbs Up” campaign isn’t parades and rallies and movies, but maybe the friendly gesture will be a start toward convincing COPD patients that being seen wearing a cannula is not nearly the worst thing in the world. The thumbs up might just start a conversation.

We could certainly use one…

Take care,

~ 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.

*By submitting this information, I authorize CAIRE to contact me including by phone.

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