I learned a little known fact the hard way this past weekend, and quite honestly, it could have cost me my life. Please read and share with any of your family or friends who may have breathing issues and might be flying soon.
Did you know the air on a plane contains less oxygen than the air we normally breathe in? This means there is lower levels of oxygen in you when flying! I have been fighting post Covid-19 complications since July of 2022. This past weekend I was traveling to receive some new therapy to help me long term with my breathing. I brought my portable oxygen concentrator but had not needed to use it for several months. I have gotten to know my new body state with the current condition (called organizing pneumonia-a complication of Covid-19) and when I needed to rest due to low oxygen or high heart rate – or both – I would. So I wasn’t too concerned about needing to use the concentrator. I also brought along my oximeter – the little device you put on your finger to determine oxygen saturation levels.
Upon arriving at the airport, I met an older lady who was brought to departures by her granddaughter and we found we were going to the same place. I told the granddaughter I would look after grandma and get her to our destination safely.
We were flying about an hour into a two and a half hour flight when I closed my computer and sat back. I was cold. Really cold, but no one else seemed to be bothered. I asked for a blanket but there were none. The attendant said she’d look at the temperature. I also had a headache. I don’t get them often but this was definitely there. My stomach was churning too and I felt lethargic – but not short of breath. I don’t know why – well I do and will explain further below – but I decided to check my oximeter to see where my saturations were.
I put it on and was shocked – it read oxygen at 66 percent. It must be wrong or not working I immediately thought. I texted my sister at home and asked her to google whether these units work on airplanes. In the meantime I lowered my chair back and started to deep breathe. Surely it must be wrong I thought. But within minutes she came back to me; yes it works on planes. I shakily replied, okay then I’m in trouble. I called upon Jesus and asked for help, to his Mother Mary and began to say over and over, Jesus I trust in you, Jesus I trust in you.
Grandma – Nadia is her name – was sitting across the aisle from me. She tapped me and asked if I was okay. I don’t know how she knew, but I said I just needed to rest. I hadn’t expected to use my portable oxygen concentrator unit on the plane so had it stowed beneath the seat in front of me. It was FAA approved but airlines sometimes get hung up on makes and models so I asked my sister to look on the airline to see if they approved my unit. I didn’t want to turn it on and have it mess with the pilots and their navigation – they do tell us to turn off all electrical devices. She couldn’t find anything. At this point I’m up in the 70’s, but understand, Doctors get concerned with anyone reading below 95! I flagged down the attendant and asked if she had an approved list of concentrators. She asked another attendant and they came back with a questioning look and a no. I told her I was low on oxygen and needed to use my unit. She checked again and came back with a yes, you may use it. Praise God!
It took all 5 liters and several minutes to get my levels back up. I pray I did not harm my organs during this time of deprivation- probably was twenty minutes in all. It was a very scary situation. I kept it on the rest of the flight at a lower level. Nadia reached over and said she knew something was wrong, was very afraid for me and was praying.
While we were waiting for our luggage, Nadia turned and said, “I know you were in trouble, but I saw Mother Mary with you so I knew you would be okay.” I started crying, realizing how I was not alone – that it was Mary who nudged me to look at my saturations and take action. I was stunned with her revelation. Not sure why I didn’t know I was not left alone in this struggle. She always has my back. We hugged and said goodbye. It was a crucial time – I could have fallen off into unconsciousness and those around me would think I drifted off to sleep.
Once in the hotel I realized I brought the cord to the charger, but not my spare battery. I also didn’t have the cord that can be used to charge and use the unit at the same time. I had all sorts of issues with my room with things not working. They moved me. Then my concentrator quit working for awhile. I kept offering prayers for those in need, for sick, the dead, those who don’t know our Lord like I do. I had to pray to curb my fears as during these two day my numbers were going up and down and I had very limited mobility. But I kept surrendering every attack against me with a “Jesus I trust in you, and I am not in control. Help me, heal me, protect me.” I also said a million prayers to Mary asking for her intercession and protection. I had friends and family call and kept me covered with prayer and love.
Today on day four it seems the storm has passed. My numbers are staying in the 90’ or high 80’s. For my condition, that is acceptable. I will still be watching for pitfalls and traps. I will be calling ever so much for the Saints and Angels to keep guard over my steps. And I ordered a second battery which arrived already. I am now prepared for battle and am fully armed for the return flight home. I learned how quickly things can go the wrong way by just a few assumptions.
If you know someone who has a lung condition please have them be tested before the flight by their doctor on if they can withstand the altitudes without oxygen. Or buy a concentrator to take with it on the trip. Breathing is not something to mess with!