Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Up in the Air

The girls play a game of 'make like a statue', while taking their SATS (blood oxygen level). **Note, neither read is accurate, the spot-odometer will not record properly with movement.

This coming Saturday we are taking a family trip to Jamaica. We booked our direct flights from Boston to Montego Bay a full year ago. Traveling with a family, especially with Luna, who will need the assistance of a Portable Oxygen Concentrator (POC) to breath at 33,000 feet; we just didn't want to mess around with lay overs. Just get us there in one foul swoop please.

As you can imagine, trying to obtain a POC in this post-9/11 world and post Christmas Day scare is no easy task. I personally have put about 10 hours or so into this effort. I thought I would document and post for the world the ABC's of air travel with Portable Oxygen Concentrators.

There are two different kinds of POCs; Continuous Flow and Pulse Dose. Luna's cardiologist prescribed the continuous dose, and with further research I learned this is why: Luna is only 22 months old and she has never been fitted with oxygen. Her sats sit at about 85% now at sea level, which simply put means; she can function just fine. However, put her up in the air, at the altitude equivalent of standing on a really high mountain, and her sats could be as low as the high 60's. She can hang there for about an hour (as prescribed by her cardiologist), so for the 4 hour trip, we've arranged for her to have an oxygen tank. Luna will travel with a continuous flow POC which was a little tougher to obtain for the flight-because of it's larger size. A pulse dose does just what the title suggests: bursts of oxygen are released from the contraption every minute or so. An adult can regulate to this pattern and take deep breathes on call. A 22 month old, not so much.

But the airlines are not all that crazy about having people wheel a tank of air (a combustible, no less) the size of a small piece of luggage on to the airplane.

You'll want to check with your airline, but don't be fooled into thinking you need to use their oxygen vendor. I called and was directed to this page at www.usairways.com There you will be able to download and print a physicians statement. And you will also find a link for Oxygen To Go-the advertised vendor on the site. If you have a little one flying, don't even bother calling; they will tell you you can only fly with pulse dose-but after a lot more digging I found that this is the unit you need, and it does supply continuous oxygen flow, and most importantly, it's FAA Approved.

Since we live in New Hampshire I used Keene Medical supply who are very nice to deal with. I went in yesterday to order and I will be back on Friday with Luna to pick up the unit and do a test run while I have her with me.

Insurance: another area where I wasted an hour of my life, so here is the quick lowdown: If your kid needs oxygen on a regular basis, you will have no problem getting it covered. Well, thankfully Luna doesn't fall into that category, so this is how the conversation went with me:

Me: "I really want the rental cost of this to go against our deductible."

Anthem: "Well, our policy is if the patient needs oxygen all the time, then we cover, if not, then typically not."

Me: "that shouldn't matter, she *needs* it to fly, and that is the issue here".

The subtext of course reads: "You don't *need* to fly."

I guess we all have different needs.

The claim is still pending, but since I need to reach our deductible anyway, I can anticipate paying $235 for the unit and another $50 for the batteries. The rental is good for a month. This is actually a good price.

So, wish us luck as we embark on our family adventure. Here's to hoping everything will be, as they say in Jamaica, "Irie Mon!"


SteveC said...

*sigh* Don't ya just love all the red tape?

Thankfully I only use O2 at night, and can skip a few days if needed. But my Cardiologist though it best if I had a unit while in Colorado (6500 feet; I live in SC at an altitude of 40 feet) but since I don't need O2 to fly, the supplier just had a concentator delivered to the hotel from their local office. The day before I left, I called the local office and told them I was leaving, and their unit would be stored at the front desk.

kelly manz said...

Great post! I wish I knew this last March when we had to take Chloe to Denver for surgery. She had been on oxygen for 4 months and no airline would let us bring it on board. I guess I didnt do my research. I will keep this post saved!

Kris said...

Enjoy your oh-so-well-deserved-and-needed trip to Jamaica. Kisses and hugs to the fam!!! Let's get together asap when you get back.