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Breathing Better

This was a request for donations to help me purchase a portable oxygen concentrator. I received a goodly number of contributions which, when added to my meager savings allowed me to purchase an Inogen g3 unit. Therefor have closed the Go Fund Me account. Thanks to everyone that helped.

I’m not sure I’d call this a “Good Adventure” but I entered a new stage of my life Last Wednesday: living with supplemental oxygen. Breathing has gotten much more difficult over the last year. A couple of weeks ago I went to the pulmonologist received a prescription for supplemental oxygen. Since I live on a small sailboat on a canal off the Saint Johns River in Central Florida the use of oxygen tanks was out of the question. The solution had to be a portable oxygen concentrator. I spent hours on line looking at various makes and models. I decided that either the Inogen G3 or the G5 would be what I wanted. The Inogen G3 is one of the concentrators most often mentioned as a top unit in dependability and durability. Trying to find out what the damned things actually cost, and I mean this about ALL the manufacturers, not just Inogen, is worse than trying to get an auto insurance quote online. Everyone requires you to give them an email address so they can clutter up your email inbox with spam for the rest of your life. I finally broke down and gave my info to a couple of companies that seemed to offer the best info, less prices. A brand new unit runs a bit over $3K.

Doesn’t Medicare cover the expense? Well, sometimes, but not often and it’s really convoluted. What it boils down to is you have to require oxygen 24/7. I don’t. Even if you do, then Medicare will ONLY cover the costs of RENTING a unit from an oxygen supplier. I was sorta stuck, so I have to go ahead an buy one.

I talked to someone who had a G3 for sale on Facebook Market Place for $800, but after sleeping on it for a night decided I didn’t want to take the chance on a used unit with no warranty. But I did find a refurbished Imogen G3 with a one year warranty for a grand less than a brand new one with a three year warranty. Hell, I might not even be around in three years what with three stents in my heart as is so the single year is okay by me.

So Wednesday the unit arrived. We’ll see if it actually changes my life.

There are two lithium ion batteries. Of course it’s shipped with the smaller one but that’s supposed to give four hours running time alone at the second setting. They claim the “double” battery, at $350+ will give up to 10 hours running time.

It’s not very big. Nine inches high, eight and three-quarters wide, and three inches thick. It weighs in at a bit over five pounds. Came with a carrying case with a shoulder strap, a 110 volt power supply that charges the battery while also operating the unit, and a car cigarette lighter plug thingy to charge it while you’re driving.

I was a copywriter for an ad agency once so I know how all that stuff works. In all the literature about the various portable oxygen concentrators there are pictures of people with these things stuck up their noses doing stuff like running marathons, playing rugby and white water rafting. Not that I’d be doing any of that crap if I didn’t have COPD and I did exaggerate a tad about what people are doing in that promotional literature, but they all have cat that ate the canary grins on their faces. Me? I’ll be happy if I can walk a city block without collapsing as I did in Chicago in July. Well, not total collapse, but I had to stop three times in one block and the last time I was down on a knee because I couldn’t get enough air in my lungs.

When I got back to The Swamp with the unit it only took a couple of minutes to set it up and hit the power-on button. I’d watched several YouTube vids in advance. So, after going on my boat for my computer in a backpack and my oxymeter on its cord over my neck I sat at the picnic table a little winded. as usual. The oxymeter gave me a blood/oxygen reading of 91%. I put the cannula on and within a couple of minutes the reading was up to 97%. I kept a log of my blood oxygen levels through the month of August and rarely saw it hit above 92%. Generally it was hovering in the upper 80s and lower 90s.

I gathered my stuff and headed to the air conditioned “pod” a couple of hundred feet away. I know that’s not far for almost everyone who might be reading this, but often I would have to stop at the half to three quarters mark until I could breathe well enough to continue, and when I’d get to the table outside the pod I was usually done in and need to take a couple of hits off my inhaler.

The G3 is NOT a miracle. But I was able to make it all the way to the table in one go and, while winded, I didn’t feel the need to use the inhaler. Honest I didn’t.

My 02 reading said 91% but it was back up to 97% in under a minute and I was breathing like the rest of the world shortly after that.

All the literature about COPD and the doctors I’ve consulted all say that exercise, while seemingly counter intuitive, is necessary for patients to do. I have some exercises I’m supposed to be doing and now I’m going to start walking again to build up strength in my lungs once more.

Next will be going out in public with this thing stuck under my nose. But I’m sure I’ll get over the embarrassment, Took me a little while to get over the embarrassment of holding a stupid sign at the airports when I was doing pick ups for a limo service pre-9/11. And if anyone it going to offer me sympathy because of my condition I’m going to milk it to the max!


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Remembering The Storm

It was on this day, 17 years ago, that my beloved New Orleans was torn apart and drowned. More than 1,800 people lost their lives. I was living in Fort Lauderdale then and gazed in horror watching televised reports of the devastation filmed just blocks away from where I had lived.

It wasn’t just New Orleans. St. Bernard Parish, which abuts NOLA to the east and southeast, and where I lived on my shanty boat for almost 3 years, was completely destroyed when the levees there gave up the ghost and a tidal wave from Lake Bourne engulfed the Parish. Depending on which report you choose to believe. less than a half dozen buildings were left undamaged there. 

The area of death and destruction is hard to comprehend. If you got in your car and drove along I-10 at 70 mph you wouldn’t be in the clear after driving 4 hours in either direction from the Big Easy. 

Katrina made landfall in Florida between Hallandale to the north of Miami and Aventura to the south of the city. It passed over Fort Lauderdale on its way to Louisiana. A dozen people died in south Florida including three in Broward Country where I lived who were killed by falling trees. She left a mess. North and south along the turnpike it was a landscape of blue roofs…hundreds of houses covered with polytarps from Home Depot, Walmart, and Lowe’s because the storm had blown away the shingles. 

My roommate and I faired well. We’d bought a generator a few days before and were able to keep the food in our refrigerator cold. We charged our neighbor’s cell phones. We wouldn’t go hungry. Growing up in the hurricane-prone areas of Cape Cod, Louisiana and Florida, at the start of every hurricane season when I’d do my grocery shopping I’d always pick up a little extra. Instead of two cans of tuna I’d buy three and put one aside for when stores would be closed. I also learned to fill the bathtub with water. Not for drinking, but because when the water was shut off because of a storm it you didn’t have all that water you only got to flush the toilet ONCE!

One thing that has always angered me is when I hear someone say that the 26,000 or so people who sought shelter in the Superdome were fools for not evacuating. Most of those people were poor. The majority of them didn’t even own a car with which to flee the oncoming storm. And where would they have gone, anyway? I ran a large yacht in New Orleans for several years. The wealthy owners packed their Lincolns and Mercedes and fled inland. But you know what? They had NOTHING to come back to. Their houses out near Lake Pontchartrain were sitting in water up to the eaves. Were they really better off?

I haven’t been back to the Big Sleazy since the storm. Parts of the city and surrounding areas have not been rebuilt and I recently read that many are STILL living in the FEMA trailers that were trucked in so people would have a place to live while rebuilding. It would break my heart to see that.

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I don’t like lists. Lists are for sissies. People without a sense of adventure write lists. People who are afraid to wing it write lists. Sometimes in the grocery store I’ll see another geezer, like myself, but peering at a list in his hand. “Wing it,” I tell them. “Put some mystery in your life.” 

Those guys usually say that they’ll forget something. I tell them, “Well, it’s another excuse for gettin out of the house for a while, then.”

My ex wife was a serious list maker. But she had to be. She was the stage manager for the three dinner theaters we ran in Lauderdale By The Sea, North Miami Beach, and Boca Raton. In addition to those three theaters there as always another play in rehearsal as we rotated the shows through the chain. Her job would have been impossible to accomplish without lists. I know that.

I went to do some grocery shopping the other day. No list, of course. When I got home I discovered I hadn’t bought cream cheese for the bagels. No carrots or potatoes for the pot roast though I DID buy the onions. I wanted bacon to add flavor to the chicken livers that were sitting in the fridge, but NOOOOO!

I’ll go get those things when I leave The Swamp off the Saint Johns River in Central Florida tomorrow but I’ll be damned if I’m going to make a list to take with me. 

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I Could Use Your Help

My name is Richard.I am an 80-year-old man who needs your help to keep me alive. 

I’ve been battling COPD, a progressive disease, for over a decade. Once it gets ahold of your lungs, it just keeps getting worse. You can’t stop it. All you can do is cope as best you can. Currently, I am puffing along on 21% lung capacity. 

Working on the computer or lying down reading a book, my breathing is as normal as anyones. When I have to move, I fall off the cliff. 

Right now, I can’t walk a city block without having to stop two or three times to catch my breath. A portable oxygen concentrator would allow me to walk and do light exercise, which would tremendously increase the quality of my life.

Good brands like the Inogen G5, Philips Respironics, and the Invacare Platinum are EXPENSIVE. They easily cost as much as $3,000! And an extra battery for up to 8 hours of working time goes for more than $300. 

I exist solely on SS. The cost of a new machine is nearly 25% of my gross annual income. That leaves me in a real bind.

“Aren’t portable oxygen concentrators covered by Medicare?” The answer is: Sometimes. 

Typically, Medicare won’t pay for a portable oxygen concentrator unless you need oxygen 24/7. Well, right now, I DON’T have a 24/7 need. The doctor also has to provide evidence that alternative measures have failed. Other than medicines like Breztri and Breo Ellipta, no other alternative measures have been suggested. 

I have to foot the bill myself though I’ll go through the Medicare process to see if I can get approved. Your contribution is a breath of fresh air.

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I Need Your Help…

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THIS YEAR’S “Good Adventure”

Followers of the blog know I had great plans for a good adventure on the road last summer. Only part of it worked out. The part that did was great. Visiting with family in North Carolina that included meeting grand nieces and nephews I’d never seen, and spending a week in New Jersey with friends. The soaring price of gasoline and the fact that I ended up putting THREE alternators into the old Mitsubishi were factors in scrubbing the complete voyage.

If you scroll down a few posts, here, you’ll find “Reconnections.” Since I wrote that the lady in the story and I have literally spent HOURS texting and talking on the phone. Last night I bought a ticket to Chicago and I’m going to spend my 80th Age Advancement Day with her. (You only have one BIRTHDAY, after all. The rest are just excuses for cake and candles.)

Eighty is one of what I call “Milestone Birthdays.” First comes 13. Now you’re a teenager. Sixteen is next. Now you can get a driver’s license. Then comes 18. You’re able to vote. On your 21st you rush out to buy your first legal alcoholic beverage. There’s really not another notable celebration until you turn 50. You’ve made it a HALF CENTURY! Another 25 years slip by, if you’re lucky, then you’ve packed 3/4 of a century under your belt. Eighty hits the mystic “Four Score.” Now you begin to wonder if you’ll be able to outlast the icon of old age, Keith Richards, even though he is younger than you.

I spent all, or part, of five years living in Chicago. The last time I was there was in 1977. So this is definitely going to be an adventure.

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Family Histories

If someone says they’re Sicilian it would be hard to tell where they come from…New York or New Jersey would be first guess. But if someone said they’re Sicilian and POLISH, they’d HAVE TO be from Chicago.

Me? I’m pretty much pure white bread. Mostly English stock with a dash of Scot and Irish and a bit of French Huguenot thrown in from my mother’s side.

Once when I was in high school I was searching for something in my parent’s antique desk in our living room. I came across a genealogy from my mother’s English lineage that traced back to Banquo. Banquo was the Thane of Lochaber, a character in William Shakespeare‘s 1606 play Macbeth. In the play, he is at first an ally of Macbeth (both are generals in the King’s army) and they meet the Three Witches together. After prophesying that Macbeth will become king, the witches tell Banquo that he will not be king himself, but that his descendants will be. Later, Macbeth in his lust for power sees Banquo as a threat and has him murdered by three hired assassins. I put it back in its place and that’s all I remember of it.

One day, bored at work, I “Googled” myself to see what I could come up with. I’d written a lot of freelance magazine articles and thought I might find those. In my search I found the “Philbrick/Philbrook Family Association.” I thought that was interesting so I sent them an email saying I was Richard Philbrick and my father was James and HIS father was James, etc. A couple of days later I got a 32 page genealogy tracing the family back to the 1100s in England! Far effin’ out!! 

I also discovered that the first Philbrick to hit these shores was Thomas Philbrick, a ship’s captain who arrived in Plymouth Colony in 1630 and settled in Watertown, just outside of Boston. He lived there for several years and then left and became one of the first settlers of coastal New Hampshire. Lots of Philbricks are to be found there today.

What’s really interesting, to me, is that the Eatons, my mom’s family, arrived in New England and settled in Watertown in 1635. Now, how large a population could Watertown have had in 1635 that the Philbricks and the Eatons wouldn’t have known each other? I bet they did, and 300 years later a descendant from each family would meet, fall in love and voilà, here I am.

A lot of people did a lot of work digging into the family history and for several years they published a quarterly newsletter. In that I learned that one of my ancestors was a captain in the Revolutionary Army and was with Ethan Allen at the capture of Fort Ticonderoga. Philbricks fought in the Civil War, and like in the Revolution, on the winning side. There were Philbricks who became Mormons and made the trek to the Great Salt Lake with Brigham Young. 

Then I found the web site Phamous Philbricks…Discovering who some of my distant cousins are blew my mind. You’ll have to go there and find out for yourself…

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Need To Know Info

Living on a small boat in The Swamp off the Saint Johns River in Central Florida, I am in close contact with gators on a daily basis…This six footer was about a foot away from the side of my boat. No matter how hot it is in the middle of the summer you DON’T go swimming here.

I saw this, this morning, when I went on line…

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Never Forget…

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May 7, 2022 · 8:41 am

Text Messaging Ambiguity

When I decided to take my epic road adventure last summer I changed my pharmacy from CVS to Wally World. I used CVS when I was anchored off of Anna Maria Island. It was on the free trolley route directly across the street from my dcoctor and next to the Publix supermarket. One stop does it all. There are lots of CVS pharmacies around, but Wally is EVERYWHERE.

The Wally World pharmacy near where I’m moored in The Swamp off the Saint Johns River in Central Florida has been an excellent place to get my prescriptions taken care of. I have gotten nothing but excellent service from the people there and checking pricing on line they beat CVS and Walgreens on almost everything. Sometimes it’s only pennies. Other times there are significant savings.

One thing they’re excellent about is text messaging me when it’s time to get a refill. BUT the one I received today was a bit vague. It said that my prescription for “BRE” was about to be filled. Problem is I have TWO COPD prescriptions that have the letters “BRE”…Breo Ellipta and Breztri. While I used the Breo for several years the Breztri seems to do slightly better in treating my symptoms. But talk about EXPENSIVE. The list price is $783!!! With my insurance, though, I only have to shell out $43. It’s all a rip!

I called the pharmacy and they’re going to fill the Breztri.

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