Smooth sailing

Friday, October 31, 2008

Participants in the “Smooth Sailing Annual Cruise for Respiratory Patients” flew across the country Sept. 13 with help from Respironics.

Respironics donated 16 of its EverGo portable oxygen concentrators (POCs) to the American Respiratory Alliance of Western Pennsylvania, organizers of the cruise, so patients could use them on flights across the country to Seattle, where they set sail on a nine-day Alaskan cruise.
For the past 13 years, patients relied on ground transportation, which limited their cruises to nearby destinations.

“They realize now that the world is at their fingertips,” said Carol Ann Kuczma, director of the alliance’s programs and services. “We had one lady who had never used the EverGo before, and she loved it. She said, ‘I know I wouldn’t be here without it.’”

Twenty-two patients and their significant others participated in the cruise. Medical staff was also present.

To have respiratory patients fly across the country to set sail on an Alaskan cruise speaks volumes about what’s now possible with portable oxygen concentrators, said Kim Snyder, U.S. marketing manager, home respiratory care, Philips Respironics.

“We hear from patients all the time that they’re not traveling because of the cost and fear associated with arranging for oxygen before, during and after flights,” she said. “But with POCs, it’s a reality for an increasing number of patients.”

The EverGos, which have eight-hour batteries, allowed patients to not only fly long distances but also move freely on and off the cruise ship, Kuczma said.

“They didn’t have to keep stopping by the medical room to fill up,” she said. “All they had to do was make sure their batteries were charged. They had a lot more independence.”

Using the EverGos will likely open up doors to future travel for some patients, Kuczma said.

“I heard some patients saying, ‘You know, if I could rent or buy one of these…’-you could see the wheels turning,” she said. “I think patients who were travelers before becoming ill realized that, ‘Wow, if we had something like this at our disposal, we could do this more often.’”