….In a follow up to this post: Flying High with Oxygen…..
I need to highlight exactly what those of us with lung diseases (that cause de-saturation), have to go through, in order to be able to be insured to fly and indeed, passed fit enough to fly.
There are no side effects to having any of these tests done-well, nothing more than a little nick to your ear lobe to test your blood gases, or your wrist if you choose, a bit of mild claustrophobia if you suffer from it, and a bit of breathlessness if they have you walking the corridors and climbing stairs for the 6 minute walk test.
So I am one of these people who 5 years ago found out that on my regular and routine flights to California I was feeling increasingly more unwell. I used to vomit, feel very spaced out, feel very heavy in my chest and breathing, and really quite light headed and faint by the end of 11 hours in the air.
This is because the air pressure in an aircraft is reduced, and therefore the oxygen level is lower during the flight than on the ground. The Fitness to Fly test assesses how much additional oxygen will be required during flight.
The test takes 60 – 90 minutes. I was required to sit with an oximeter on my finger, plus I had a few drops of blood taken from my earlobe to provide more detailed information about my blood oxygen levels.
I was given a low level of oxygen via a mask for 20 minutes to simulate the aircraft cabin environment, and then a higher concentration of oxygen to bring my results back to normal.
When I repeated these tests a couple of weeks ago, I desatted to 72% and now know I require a constant flow rate of 4L to bring me within the normal range. Last trip, in April, I did not feel completely well on 3L so suspected I was going to have it increased.
I found out my results immediately and then we went on to the discussion about my (now historical) overnight oxygen trial.
In my case, the tests were performed inside a body plethysmography box-luckily I am not claustrophobic!
This is just mildly off putting, as I found it hard to breathe against the stoppage of the air shutter. This is however necessary to:
- Measure the volume of air in the lungs.
- Diagnose lung disease or assess its severity.
- Determine whether the airways are obstructed and to what extent.
I also now know that my lungs are currently slightly better than I thought, at around 50% LF, although I am requiring more oxygen during the day, and permanent overnight oxygen as well as increased oxygen to fly.
So I now have more accurate data, a better oxygen prescription and more knowledge into my lung disease. These tests are not a cure, just a more accurate diagnosis of what is going on.
….I still need those darn forms filled in and signed by my Doctor though-and now the POC one too!….
(No travel insurer will insure me to travel unless I have the correct documentation that states my physicians think I am well enough to travel. This is always the case with any severe or chronic condition. My Fit to Fly forms fulfil both the Airline’s request and that of our insurance broker)