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Why aren't there innovations for COPD patients

["Walt's World with Walter Jones"]
Walt's World with Walter Jones

Walt's World with Walter Jones

My first real job was in psychiatric nursing at the Nova Scotia Hospital.

This was in the late 1950s and things were much different than they were today. For instance, homosexuality was considered a mental illness and people were admitted for treatment, almost anything that your doctor considered deviant could get you admitted.

Cancer patients were only given enough pain medication to take the edge off, and it was taken at specific times. If it didn't hold, tough. this pain thing wasn't just in psychiatric hospitals.

I had to rotate through all the Halifax hospitals and treatment was the same in general hospitals as well.

Times have changed. Quality of life is now recognized to be important. We have pain pumps where patients can give themselves medication when they need it. We are now allowed to request our life be ended if we can't stand the suffering.

People are put into drug induced comas to ease them into death.

We have palliative care to look after our social, emotional, spiritual and physical problems.

Better health care improved machines, but there is one aspect of care that has not advanced. That is the treatment of COPD patients.

They are still using the same equipment that was available in the 50s. In home oxygen is supplied by an oxygen concentration. A simple machine that has an on of switch and a dial that you turn by hand to adjust the amount of oxygen supplied and a decibel level so high you wouldn't want it in the same room as yourself.

You also have an oxygen tank on wheels, heavy and cumbersome, that you can use if you want to travel outside your home. It’s all simple and cheap – and not satisfactory.

People with COPD do not have static oxygen needs, they vary with what the person is doing. If you are sitting you might need two litres, or if you are bathing six litres, climbing stairs eight litres.

Lifting requires more oxygen.

In this age is it not possible to make a machine that has a remote control setting that could be adjusted on the fly, or something that feeds on demand to an oxy-monitor?

There are small machines that you can buy if you can afford it, that will give you as much as four liters weigh seven pounds and sling over your shoulder like a purse.

Perhaps these machines could be improved to give six or even eight litres. the controls are on the machine and easy to change as needed.

Pushing a heavy tank on wheels increases your need for oxygen. If you simply set the machines for your maximum oxygen needs then most of the time you are getting too much. This will result in a shorter life. Is it possible nobody cares?

I for one am going to send this off to the minister of health, Randy Delorey.

Walter Jones lives in Amherst. His column appears weekly in the Amherst News.

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