A new device to receive Oxygen

November 26, 2009 6:55:05 AM PST
More than one million Americans require supplemental oxygen to get through the day. The standard device called a nasal cannula, delivers oxygen through the nose.

It's bulky, uncomfortable and sometimes embarrassing, but now there's an easier solution that lets patients breathe and live freely.

Two years ago, Ruth McCoy was on top of the world.

Everything changed when this young grandmother took some aspirin for a headache, a total of 10 in two days. "Sometime during the night, I guess I passed out on the floor," she said.

Ruth had a severe reaction to the pain killer. She was in a coma for two weeks and lost 75 percent of her lung function.

She was confined to a wheelchair and had to be on oxygen 24/7. That meant wearing this nasal device everywhere she went.

"Everybody stared at you when you would go in public. I didn't have any self esteem. It took away from my self-esteem," adds McCoy.

The tubes left sores around her nose and ears and drained her energy.

Then Ruth met Dr. Christine Lau who told her about an innovative procedure.

Instead of going through the nose, doctors made a small incision in Ruth's neck. A catheter delivers oxygen through the trachea.

Patients get more oxygen with each breath. One study found those who receive oxygen this way live an average two years longer.

The incision is hidden. Patients wear the tubing under their clothes, and their oxygen tanks can be discreetly stored in a handbag.

"This is something that at least we can offer them that is lifestyle-changing for Them," said Dr. Lau.

Ruth cut her oxygen flow in half and now has energy to shop around town.