Take the next steps

Contributed by Jim Nelson, consultant to CAIRE Inc. ~

What have I done that has helped improve my quality of life

since being diagnosed with COPD?

First and foremost, exercise!! Lots and lots of exercise! In our writings, or for our lectures, we stress that the COPD patient always has choices. After the shock of the diagnosis wears off, when they become certain that the fear that they have harbored for months or years is a reality, they may choose one of two main roads. They may decide that this is it, that they can’t breathe anyway, and that the best course of action is to head for the couch and the TV remote. The results of that decision is likely obvious. Weak lungs make it hard to breathe. Shortness of breath makes any form of exercise unpleasant. Lack of exercise leads to weak muscles. Weak muscles can do nothing to help the already weak lungs. Weaker lungs and weaker muscles make it harder to breathe.

And the cycle continues. That is a choice.

Alternately, they can reach down to where the stubborns are kept and decide to learn, to figure out the possibilities of living with a chronic, progressive disease. That is the choice that we made. I was diagnosed in 1995, with 33% of the lung capacity that I should have had, given my age, height, etc. There was far less information on the Internet about the disease than there is now. Nonetheless, we immediately dived in and began the research that continues today. We are both rational beings. Before the diagnosis, I had known for years that my lungs were not what they should have been. We lived at about 6,000 feet elevation in western Colorado, and I loved the mountains. I hiked and hunted big game for years, happily wandering the hills.  However, as the years went by, I found myself doing more fishing and less hunting, more exploring by four-wheel drive vehicle and less hiking. Knowledge is indeed power, and we quickly learned that exercise was absolutely vital in the attempt to maintain a decent quality of life.

I ordered my first treadmill. We set up a spare bedroom as the “exercise room.” Originally it consisted of the treadmill and a TV set. Then came the VCR, so that I could watch movies as I accumulated the miles. Then, a small mini-trampoline upon which I could run to the rhythm of Huey Lewis and the News or Creedence Clearwater Revival. Then, a little stair-stepper for the thigh muscles. Rubber resistance bands for upper body stuff. A set of barbells from a garage sale. I religiously spent an honest hour a day in that room, sometimes with supplemental oxygen, sometimes not, but pushing myself so that I could hopefully have a chance to spend more years with Mary, to live life as I wanted to. I credit all of the exercise for allowing me to maintain a good quality of life for a lot of years at high elevation and with wimpy lungs.

13 years after my diagnosis, I still maintained the 33% lung capacity. Besides the strengthening of my body so that my weak lungs were less of a factor, there are always the delicious feelings of self-satisfaction that are gained by finishing an exercise routine that is obviously beneficial!

I have since worn out three treadmills. That speaks to the seemingly millions of steps over the years, or perhaps to the fact that I buy cheap treadmills…

~ 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 www.cairemedical.com 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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