The “Thumbs Up” campaign … again

Contributed by Jim Nelson, consultant to CAIRE Inc. ~

Whenever you see anyone wearing an oxygen cannula, please favor them with a “thumbs up” gesture and a smile!

As I have explained previously, I am trying to ignite the COPD Community. For entirely too long, we have been invisible! The first stages of COPD, as well as those of many other lung diseases, are so subtle that no one knows that anything is going wrong. Even the patient is many times unaware of the slow advancement of lung damage during the initial few years. Once diagnosed, once the patient discovers that the shortness of breath and other symptoms represent more than simply growing older or being out of shape, they will hopefully make some lifestyle changes that will further slow the progress.

If the diagnosis warrants it, the patient will frequently be prescribed supplemental oxygen while sleeping and exercising. Both of these activities can be done out of the eye of the general public, so again there are no overt signs that there is anything wrong. So, we remain invisible, going about our daily activities as we always have. We perhaps accomplish some things a bit slower than we used to, but then we are after all getting older.

Then there comes the day that our lungs are no longer capable of absorbing enough oxygen from room air to keep our blood oxygenation level at the recommended figures. We reconcile ourselves to the wearing of a cannula 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Do we suddenly appear in public with the whole compliment of oxygen gear, proud that we are doing what we must do to stay mobile, to remain active, to survive? No, we do not! We choose instead to just disappear … to become even more invisible, to vanish from the world, to go hide in our home for fear of the stares of strangers!

Have you ever used crutches? Have you ever had a cast on an arm or leg? Did anyone “stare” at you? If you will admit that our sensitivity leads us to interpret a casual glance as a “stare,” then you will have to admit that anything out of the ordinary, anything that keeps you from blending into the crowd, will draw a look or two. So, I ask you, what? Perhaps the sight of an oxygen cannula means something to that particular stranger, brings back memories of a friend or relative that wears one, wore one. Perhaps the stranger admires you for doing what you know you should in order to live your life! It could happen.

So, you ask me, what? What difference does it make to me that you choose to hide, to remain invisible? Well, first, you are effectively destroying any chance for you to experience a good quality of life. Do you remember the lunches, the shopping, the visits to the theater with friends or family? Well, it could not come as too much of a surprise that you can still do those things! Assuming that you are feeling good enough, and that is one of the purposes of the cannula, there is really no reason not to get out there and enjoy your life!

So, that brings us back to the “Thumbs Up” idea. I have been trying to convince patients, caregivers, and literally everyone else to give a thumbs up gesture and a smile to anyone you see wearing a cannula. If I can get enough people to habitually recognize and show approval for anyone who is sensible enough to be out there in the world with their oxygen gear, maybe we won’t be quite so reluctant to be seen. That would be a wonderful thing. It would be very freeing for a big percentage of our population, and it just might result in the funding for lung disease research to rise from its dismal position. Realistically, why should lawmakers vote for anything that is aimed toward improving the lives of our community if they never see anyone wearing a cannula? How bad could the situation be if there is no visible evidence of it?

Please help. Throw a thumbs up at whoever you see with a cannula. If they just look at you quizzically, explain the reasoning to them, and ask them to join the campaign.


~ 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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