Learning To Live As A Carbon Dioxide Retainer

It’s a minefield

In May, I was diagnosed a carbon dioxide retainer. I never knew the body could play such tricks and mess with your head. Literally.

We all, I hope, know that we breathe in air containing oxygen, and we exhale carbon dioxide — the oxygen which has nourished every part of our body, limbs, organs, brain. It is the waste product of that process.

The exchange goes on in our lungs. Oxygen in, carbon dioxide out.

I was diagnosed with respiratory problems five years ago. At first, it was mild. It grew worse over time. It has been pretty bad for around eighteen months. Some of you will have read my article about how I lie on my stomach to work. That is the least of my problems. The effects of retaining carbon dioxide are numerous. Including coma.

First, I became aware that I had minuscule “absences” as if I had my brain shut down for a second. It was minute but enough to type the same word twice, or add syllables to words. Occasionally, I would forget the next sentence I wanted to write. This is more and more commonplace now.

It now takes me up to twice as long to write an article. I can be distracted by things that never used to distract me. I am grateful for the editing suite I have on my laptop. English is not my mother tongue, but I have always had a good command of it.

I also wake up with no memory of what lies ahead in my day. A friend arrived earlier, as planned, but I had completely forgotten. This happens almost everyday, so I use my phone to set my reminders. They are not always correct either, as last week I was ready for an NHS conference an hour before it began.

Retaining carbon dioxide also means I have fluid on my kidneys and heart. This means I need the ladies room a lot more some days. I can pretty much cope with that, although it can be annoying. I choose not to let it get to me.

My heart rate has slowed considerably. I’m happy about that as a second condition I have had caused it to be way too fast. It is still fairly fast, but clinicians are less freaked out by it. I don’t know what that means in terms of my overall health. I wonder what the heart rate of a retainer without a secondary condition is. I haven’t researched this part yet.

Earlier this week, a paramedic told me she had attended an old lady in a care home whose blood oxygen was 78%. Most people would be semi- unconscious, but this lady told the paramedic she was just fine, thank you.

When people retain carbon dioxide incrementally, they don’t notice the change. If it is seeming sudden, the changes are like beacons. Obviously, I did not become a retainer overnight, but it was within two months of not being a retainer. That is fairly sudden, in my book, and my life has changed radically.

Being a retainer is nothing to do with age. It is is a symptom of respiratory failure, which can happen at any age if the person has particular disease or other malfunctions.

The reason for my respiratory failure is far too complicated and traumatic to explain here. It is in my poetry. And on my blog.

You will not believe how many errors I corrected before submitting this. I am so grateful to Katie Michaelson for her positivity and affectionate words, to Esteban Giancaterino for our reciprocal admiration and humor, to Princess Carrie Graham for her honesty, and Henya Drescher for her depth of compassion. William J Spirdione cheers my day with his poetry.

I choose to be happy. This year it’s a tougher choice than last year. I have so much to be grateful for.

Published in Know Thyself Heal Thyself


Paramedics last Tuesday…

Last Tuesday evening I set my laptop to update before going to bed. As I turned away, I was suddenly gasping for breath and wheezing. Panic is automatic, so as I used my inhaler, I talked myself calm in my mind.

After dialing 999, it seemed an age before paramedics arrived. In fact, it was only a few minutes. The paramedic was one I have met before, she is kind and pragmatic.

I was nebulised for six minutes, and then again after a pause, as I was still wheezing a bit. After that, I felt fine. Absolutely fine.

I fiddled around for a while in order to relax after the steroid. Then I slept and awakened slightly later than usual.

I find that I am less productive than usual since yesterday morning, or was it the day before? I have lost track of days. Two people have asked if I am a retainer. I am not. As far as I know.

If I am, or become one, my life will be in far greater jeopardy than it is now.