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Breathing To Work, Working To Breathe

For Jose, every breath he takes is work. A patient at CHRISTUS St. Mary’s Clinic, Jose has a history of asthma and was chronically short of breath, especially when working. His asthma medications were no longer helping, and he was finding his work as a pool repairman a struggle.

About two years ago, Jose was repairing a pool when his client noticed his obvious respiratory distress and offered the services of pulmonologist. He was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, a stiffening of the lungs that decreases the ability of oxygen to be absorbed by the body. At that time, he was given a portable oxygen concentrator so that the oxygen concentration in his body would be high enough for him to continue to work.

It was very important for Jose to work, as his income paid for the rent, food and all other household needs for himself and his family. So every day, Jose strapped the concentrator to his back and went to his job in construction and pool repair.

On his visits to CHRISTUS St. Mary’s Clinic, he expressed his concern to Sister Rosanne Popp, M.D. about his oxygen concentrator breaking. He asked Dr. Popp about helping him find a “spare” to have on hand if needed. “I explained that the machines were very expensive, and we would cross that bridge if and when that happened,” Dr. Popp said.

A few weeks back, Jose’s oxygen concentrator stopped working. As a result he could no longer go to work. “He was very distressed as he would no longer be able to pay his living expenses or put food on the table,” Dr. Popp said.

Dr. Popp pondered the situation (and the cost) and determined that anyone who would go to work in construction every day carrying an oxygen concentrator on his back deserved all the help he could get.

A generous donor came forward, and the clinic purchased a new oxygen concentrator (with double batteries to increase use time between charges) for Jose. As soon as the concentrator arrived, Dr. Popp called Jose. “He seemed somewhat amazed to see the new shiny gadget,” Dr. Popp said. “We assembled it, and he immediately put on the oxygen tubing and with a smile in his eyes, said, ‘I can breathe again.'”

Jose returned his job with his new oxygen concentrator strapped to his back. His work of breathing has been decreased, and he can now “breath” to continue working.

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