It Happened to Me: I Got Off Supplemental Oxygen!

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Written by Bernie Carr

Over the last few months, I have shared my challenges of recovering from lung damage due to COVID-19 pneumonia.

I shared what it’s like to be dependent on supplemental oxygen.

Today, I’d like to share the good news – I no longer need supplemental oxygen!

How the doctor determined I could get off oxygen

I had several visits with the Pulmunologist while I was on oxygen,. I kept asking him, “When will I get off the oxygen?” He told me to be patient, because getting off the oxygen prematurely will stress your lungs and heart which can be dangerous.

He said I could try lowering the oxygen level gradually. If I was on level 3 on the machine, I could try lowering it to 2.5 and see if my oxygen level would stay above 90. If not, it meant I was not ready for the less oxygen amount. I did this very gradually over a couple of months, and was on 1.5 by the time of my next doctor visit.

Please be aware this is not medical advice for anyone, this is what was told to me by doctor, and it may vary for everyone else.

First, he ordered a CT scan of the chest, done at an outpatient radiology facility.

He also ask me to do a 6-minute walking test and a pulmonary function test (PFT) that were administered by his clinical staff. Of course I would prepare for these tests, knowing that they were scheduled at least a month in advance.

How I got prepared for the walking test

Since I knew the walking test meant walking normally for six minutes WITHOUT oxygen, I gradually tried walking inside the house without it. I started by taking off the oxygen and walked for a one minute. To make sure I stayed within my allotted time, I set an alarm on my phone. I tried walking for just one minute without being hooked up to oxygen, then stopped and checked my oxygen level. Then I rested. I did that one minute walk for two consecutive days. Then I tried walking for two minutes without the oxygen tank. I always had my pulse oximeter with me and I kept checking my oxygen level to make sure it never fell below 90. If I felt okay, I increased the time by another minute until I was up to 10 minutes of walking without the oxygen tank.

I also did Qi Gong breathing exercises on a daily basis. This YouTube video (and channel) helped me a lot. (Before I tried them, I asked the doctor at my last appointment if it was safe to do Qi Gong breathing exercises, he said that was fine.)

Taking the tests

Although I thought the test would involve a treadmill, the 6-minute walking test was just as the name implies, walking for six minutes without being connected to oxygen. The nurse took my oxygen level using a pulse oximeter, just like the one I have at home. Then she had me walk along the hall as she timed me for six minutes then she checked my oxygen level again. The nurse said I did well walking for six minutes, as my oxygen level did not drop below 92. According to the doctor, any result below 90 means not enough oxygen which is not a good sign.

The next test was the PFT which involved breathing into a tube that was attached to a machine. The nurse had me breath in, then out, then in, hold my breath for several seconds, then breath out again. I had to repeat this multiple times. Of the two tests, this one was the most tiring. I was not sure how I did with this test and was told the doctor will read the results at my next appointment the following day.

The next day, I went to see my doctor and he read the results.

My CT scan showed my lungs still had the “ground glass” look which signified lung damage but it had improved from what it was before. He said I did great with the pulmonary function test as well as the 6-minute walking test. I could not believe it at first, as I had a hard time with the PFT and thought I might have failed it. But he assured me my results were good, which means I no longer need to be on oxygen.


I was a bit nervous about it at first, but the doc said if my oxygen drops I just need to take deep breaths: in through the nose, and out through the mouth, like blowing out a candle.

Just in case I needed them, I did not return the oxygen machine and tanks right away, as the equipment was authorized and paid for until the end of the month. Thank God I have not had any need for supplemental oxygen after the doctor said I could get off it.

Where I am today

I still check my oxygen level and it stays normal most of the time. I find it drops when I over-exert myself such as walking too fast, standing up too long or bending down too quickly; I still have shortness of breath and chest tightness on occasion. I take deep breaths to get it back up. I’m not back to my fitness level before I got sick. I still use an inhaler a few times a week.

I’ve started walking more and doing low impact cardio exercise: started at 10 minutes and working my way to longer sessions. I still do Qi Gong on a daily basis as I am positive it helps the lungs and lowers stress level.

It’s not over yet, I still have some follow up appointments and another CT scan in a few months. But I am grateful for the progress I’ve made. I still have work to do and will keep trying to improve. Thank you for all the well-wishes and support!

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Bernie Carr is the founder of Apartment Prepper. She has written several books including the best-selling Prepper’s Pocket Guide, Jake and Miller’s Big Adventure, The Penny-Pinching Prepper and How to Prepare for Most Emergencies on a $50 a Month Budget. Bernie’s latest e-book, FRUGAL DIY has just been released on Amazon. Her work appears in sites such as the Allstate Blog and, as well as print magazines such as Backwoods Survival Guide and Prepper Survival Guide. She has been featured in national publications such as Fox Business and Popular Mechanics. Learn more about Bernie here.

Image by Daniel Reche from Pixabay

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