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Using Supplemental 02 When You Are a C02 Retainer

Question asked by BHnCA on May 5, 2018
Latest reply on May 5, 2018 by elvan

Have you ever heard about C02 retention?  I was told to use 2L of 02 at night time which meant bleeding it into the hose of my CPAP hose. In the middle of the first night trying it, I awoke gasping for air. It was terrifying. When I called the pulmonologist the next day to ask about it, he was adamant that 2L of 02 “couldn’t hurt anyone.”  But I knew something had gone wrong. In a casual conversation with my niece sometime later, who is a trauma nurse, I mentioned it. She wasn’t sure, but thought it might have something to do with my normal 02 base line, because it was her experience that when giving supplemental 02 to preemies in the neonatal unit, they have to watch their baseline continually to avoid over saturating them with 02 or it will shut off their drive to breath.  Needless to say, I basically fired the first pulmonologist because I felt he’d almost killed me, but the 2nd pulmonologist told me to use the same level of 02 at night too. The same problem arose, but that time it left me so breathless for the following two days that I couldn’t even walk to my kitchen without gasping for air. Since the doctor discounted what I believed about my own body, god forbid, I simply quit using the 02 at night and was a lot better off. My newest pulmonologist must have been doing is homework, because he immediately looked at my PFT and CPAP readings and said I was a “c02 retainer”, meaning that I don’t totally exhale air and it turns into carbon dioxide, which builds up in my system to a point that my brain tells me to stop inhaling.  Mystery solved!  I’ve learned that I CAN use supplemental 02, but only while I’m doing housework, gardening or doing exercises which utilizes the extra 02. Not all pulmonologists recognize this reality, apparentally, because when I had to go to an different pulmonologist recently for surgical clearance he, too, told me to use the 02 at night.  I told him about my previous experiences in doing that, but he was adamant I use the 02 at night. I did as he ordered and guess what, the same problem occurred.  Just wondered what you might know about this condition.


This is why I’m a firm believer of a patient making it their business to be their own best advocate.