Jim and Mary Nelson – Our story – Part 1

Contributed by Jim Nelson, consultant to CAIRE Inc. ~

It has been suggested that I interview someone with lung disease as a subject for my blog posts. I decided that, as a beginning, I tell the story with which I am the most familiar… ours.

Buildup to the diagnosis …

Humor has always been vital to me. Premature birth and a childhood of second-hand smoke, (Thanks, Dad), left me with lungs that would never allow me to be the star athlete, the guy that people admired due to his physical abilities. Humor, the ability to make others laugh, to laugh with them and at myself, seemed to draw people to me, to make them comfortable around me. It is hard to have a sour attitude if you are laughing …

Even though I myself smoked for 20 years, beginning at about 15, I was really quite active outdoors in the earlier years, hunting big game in the Colorado mountains, fishing and boating on Lake Powell in Utah, and tearing around the hills on a Yamaha dirt bike.

It was one of the Lake Powell trips that finally made me quit smoking. A buddy and I were fishing and swimming, and I apparently inhaled a really nasty bacteria that landed me in a hospital bed with an oxygen tube up my nose for the first time in my life. Double bacterial pneumonia. As I lay there, I kept having a vision of a skinny old guy shuffling along, oxygen cannula in place, dragging one of those big oxygen bottles. I had smoked my last cigarette.

Wasn’t easy, but I was blessed with a fine case of the stubborns, and that got me through the withdrawals. My attitude did suffer somewhat during the first few months. My lovely and mostly patient wife, Mary, repeatedly offered to either go out and buy me a carton of cigarettes or kill me in my sleep. My choice.


As the years went by, I found myself doing more fishing and less hunting, more traveling by motor home and less jumping over things on a dirt bike. Like most, I was beginning to compensate for the deterioration of my lungs. Finally, after repeated pulmonary infections over the next few years, the VA Hospital in Grand Junction, CO, treated me to my first Pulmonary Function Test. The results were staggering! I was 55 years old by this time, and I hadn’t smoked for 20 years, so there was always the hope that the skinny old guy would be held at bay.

Wasn’t to be. My lung function was dismal. I was diagnosed with severe Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), the third of four stages of the disease. Stage four is also sometimes called “end stage,” which is a bit of a misnomer, but nonetheless disquieting. It was explained to me that I would continue to lose function, and that I really should begin using supplemental oxygen for sleeping and especially for exercising. I listened, stubborns aside.

~ 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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