Contributed by Jim Nelson, consultant to CAIRE Inc. ~ I recently posted a plea for help in a new campaign called “Thumbs Up.” It urged everyone to throw a thumbs up gesture and a smile at anyone seen wearing an oxygen cannula.
I believe that the simple gesture of goodwill, which costs you nothing, 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 feeling of recognition and approval!
We were at a theater last week, and as we were leaving I noticed a woman standing in a corner with her cannula, apparently waiting for the rest of her group. I approached her, excused myself and briefly told her about the “Thumbs Up” campaign. I explained that we were trying to increase awareness about lung disease, and then said, “So, here you go!” I smiled and gave her a thumbs up, and was rewarded with the most beautiful smile in return! She thanked me sincerely, and we parted company. The whole encounter took less than two minutes.
Mary and I habitually strike up conversations with anyone we meet. Roughly 90% of the time, we get quite positive responses. A simple “How’s your day?” can open up a brief encounter that leaves both parties feeling a bit better. If you are uncomfortable speaking to someone who is toting an oxygen bottle or a personal oxygen concentrator, try just smiling and using the gesture of encouragement. If they look at you quizzically, explain the effort to increase awareness.
Asking a cannula-wearer about their day may result in an answer that will depress both of you. Find a common subject … ask them about something in their shopping cart. “How do you like that (insert brand or flavor or style)?” or “Did you see the game last night?” Better yet, “Have you heard about the Thumbs Up campaign?”
If you are the one with the cannula, it is actually easier to strike up a conversation. If you catch someone’s eye, just throw them a thumbs up yourself! Your smile will acknowledge their attention, and they will either smile back or turn away and go about their business. No harm. If it happens to be a kid, so much the better! Point to your cannula and ask them if they know what it is. Explain that that you need help to breathe. If you want to blame smoking, it just might save them from a future problem.
We in the lung disease community need to work on awareness of our struggle. We are refusing to wear our cannulas where anyone can see us. We are staying home rather than exerting ourselves to gather our O2 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.
We are doing everything we can to avoid drawing attention.
All of this helps to explain why I have taken up the “Thumbs Up” campaign. Maybe the friendly gesture will be a start toward convincing COPD patients that being seen out in the world wearing a cannula is not nearly the worst thing. The thumbs up might just start a conversation.
We could certainly use one….
~ 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.
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