Tag Archives: Coping with COPD

Smokers Are Gamblers

Smokers are like compulsive gamblers, but with their lives, not their life savings. We all bet we’ll be like the mythical “Uncle Bill” or “Grandma Betty” who smoked two packs a day all their lives and lived to be 103. In reality, don’t bet on it.

I started smoking cigarettes when I was 12 years old and continued puffing away for the next six decades. In addition to a pack to a pack and a half a day addiction, (and that’s what it IS, NOT a HABIT) I also consumed vast acreages of the produce of Mexico, Jamaica, and Colombia.

It all had it’s toll. Yesterday, Dec. 27th, 2021, I visited the pulmonologist for the results of my recent chest x-rays and a pulmonary function test. There was good news and bad news. The good news was the x-rays didn’t show any lurking tumors though there was no underlying reason to believe there were any.

The bad news is I’m plodding along on 21% of my lung capacity. I get winded making the bed, so I don’t do that. I sit in the car for several minutes to regain my breath after moving the 50 feet or so from the boat to the SUV. It SUCKS!

But for all that I’m in fairly decent shape for someone approaching 80. Sure, I envy the 80 year olds who run in marathons and compete in triathlons, but I wouldn’t be doing any of that even if I didn’t have COPD. My blood pressure is excellent. High normal, but in the “normal” range never the less. My blood/oxygen level, at rest, which is the benchmark, is always 98%. A person needs to be below 80% to be considered for supplemental oxygen therapy. On my initial visit to the pulmonologist I had to do a five minute walk while wearing the Covid-mandated face mask. The blood/oxygen thingy was on my finger. Of course the exercise made the blood/O2 level drop, but only by 5% which I don’t think is that bad.

Honestly I’ll be surprised if I see my 81st age-advancement day. But I’ve already beaten the national life expectancy average of 77 years which is, by the way, DOWN from 78.8 years because of Covid deaths. At 79+ I even beat the previous expectancy.

I’m not crying about my condition.I did it to myself even knowing what could possibly happen. I am one of the fortunate ones. All the things I dreamed about doing as a kid floating around in an 8-foot pram on Flax Pond at Nickerson State Park in Brewster, Mass, on Cape Cod, I DID! I’ve been down most of the Mississippi River, I have done the “Great Loop” which is a circumnavigation of the eastern half of the United States by water. I’ve been through the Panama Canal. I’ve sailed across the Atlantic Ocean. I had my own small sailboat and single-handed on a 9-month round-trip from Florida to Mexico, Belize, and the Rio Dulce in Guatemala. I published a book. I LIVED, not visited, in two foreign countries. I’m not looking forward to dying, though they say it’s the best part of a life which is the reason it’s kept till last, I’m ready. No one, taking their final breaths, ever says, “I wish I’d spent more time at the office…”

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COPD Can’t Beat Me!

https://www.gofundme.com/copd-can039t-beat-me

I have started a Go Fund Me campaign. All contributions gratefully accepted…

Hi! I’m Richard, a 75 year old sailor with COPD and I need your help to write my SECOND book.

THE BACK STORY

In my early working life I was a newspaper reporter, a magazine editor and published many freelance magazine articles. But I’d always dreamed of being on a boat. I never wanted to sail around the world, though. I wanted more attainable goals…like doing The Great Loop, a circumnavigation of the eastern half of the United States. Sailing across the Atlantic Ocean had been a childhood dream.

A quote that changed my life came from Richard MacCullough’s book Viking’s Wake. He wrote: “And the bright horizon calls! Many a thing will keep till the world’s work is done, and youth is only a memory. When the old enchanter came to my door laden with dreams, I reached out with both hands. For I knew that he would not be lured with the gold that I might later offer, when age had come upon me.” So, at age thirty, I left a good-paying job as assistant PR Director at a large hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and became a minimum-wage deckhand on a dinner cruise boat I knew I could take up writing again at any age. I became a U.S. Coast Guard licensed captain of yachts and small commercial craft and spent the rest of my working life on boats. I did The Loop. I sailed across the Atlantic. I transited the Panama Canal. I lived out the dreams of my childhood.

In 2009 I retired and moved to the mountains of western Panama where I wrote my first book: “Adversity’s Wake: The Calamitous Fourth Voyage of Christopher Columbus.” The book was translated into Spanish by two girls at the Universidad Latina in David (dahVEED). I combined both versions into a dual-language book  available at Amazon.com.

In April, 2017, with my lung capacity down to only 34% of normal, I repatriated to the U.S. In spite of struggling for breath after even simple chores like making my bed, I knew I couldn’t let the COPD dominate my life. (Yes! I gave up smoking about six years ago.)

THE PAST YEAR

Back in the states I bought a small, 22-foot sailboat
on the “One Easy Payment Plan,” and cruised from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, across the state and up the shallow waters of the state’s Gulf Coast. I made it to Carrabelle in the eastern panhandle when total renal shut down caused by severe dehydration put me in Tallahassee hospitals for nearly three weeks. When I recovered enough to return to my boat I made my way back down the coast to the anchorage at Bradenton Beach, FL, a little ways south of Tampa Bay. In all the trip was around 800 miles.

I blogged about the trip and posted updates on Facebook as I cruised, but, wintering here at anchor in Bradenton Beach, an idea for a non-fiction, book has been germinating. It has a working title of: Four Feet or Less: A cruising guide for gunkholers.” Gunkholing is a boater’s term for wandering from place to place in shallow water and spending nights at anchor rather than in a marina. The name comes from the gunk, or mud, in creeks, coves, marshes, and rivers. “Boondocking” is the term used by RVers for a similar “off the grid” experience on land.

MOVING AHEAD

In order to finish researching the book I need to revisit many of the places I anchored before to gather more detailed information. To do this successfully I need some extra equipment. Subsisting entirely on Social Security alone it’s nearly impossible to put much aside after paying for dumb stuff like, oh, FOOD, meds, phone. What I need, in order of necessity, are: 1) a reliable, second outboard motor 2) a Go Pro-style action camera 3) a small drone so I can take aerial photos of many of the anchorages.

I need the outboard because I can’t sail anymore. My hands are too painfully gnarled from arthritis to haul on halyards and wrestling with flapping sails leaves me on my hands and knees gasping for air. In the roughly 800 miles I traveled in the past year I only actually sailed the boat about 4 times. Either there was NO wind, there was TOO MUCH wind for a 22 foot boat, or the wind was on the nose and it would have taken too long to tack my way to the next anchorage.

Since many of the places I need to return to are often out of cell phone range and far from the rescue services of Boat US or Sea Tow, a reliable second engine is a safety factor, not a luxury. I’m NOT looking to buy a NEW outboard. A second hand 6 to 9.9 hp two-stroke engine will do just fine. Good USED outboards run about $800 to $1,000. I already have a second outboard bracket on the transom.

I need an action camera because they’re waterproof. I took a lot of photos on my last trip but used it sparingly so it wouldn’t get it wet and be ruined. Again, I’m NOT looking for a top of the line model, just one that will take reasonably sharp photos under all conditions. These cost around $250.

A drone that can carry that action camera aloft for photos of the anchorages would be fantastic! I have photo editing programs I can use to mark routes to the anchorages. A decent drone would cost about $250.

ADDING IT UP

Altogether I should be able to purchase the equipment I need for around $2,000.

Donations of $25 or more will receive a free electronic edition of Adversity’s Wake: The Calamitous Fourth Voyage of Christopher Columbus.

Donations received above and beyond what is needed for buying the equipment will be donated to the American Lung Association.

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