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Nothing makes you stop and think about how easy you have it like traveling with someone who has a health issue. My mom smoked for well over 30 years and, in 2003, was diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). From the day of that diagnosis on, she was on oxygen 24 hours a day. In 2007, we invited my parents to travel with us to Walt Disney World and in 2008, they came with us on a Disney Cruise. Here are some of the things we learned while traveling with someone on oxygen:
1. Driving to your destination is almost a must. While it is possible to fly with oxygen, it becomes very complicated and very expensive very quickly. By driving, my parents were able to bring along Mom’s oxygen concentrator from home and not worry about getting one at Walt Disney World. They did have to rent one for the cruise though (more on that below).
2. Make sure the person on oxygen has a full tank when you leave in the morning for the parks. Also, make sure that a replacement tank is nearby. Several days, we had missed we had brought an extra and stashed it in a locker. Not having a spare meant going back to the room to swap tanks.
3. If the person on oxygen usually carries their tank on their shoulder, consider a rolling backpack or rolling rack for the parks. Oxygen tanks get heavy fast! We all took turns carrying Mom’s tank as the day went on. We said we were her “oxygen sherpas.” But, we had to be very careful to stay close to Mom when we were doing this or we would yank the tube out of her nose!
4. When arranging for oxygen to be delivered to your Walt Disney World resort, get explicit instructions on drop off and delivery. When arranging for oxygen delivery for your Disney cruise, insist that it must be delivered no later than 2:00 pm. Mom’s concentrator and oxygen tanks were late and didn’t arrive until almost 4:30 pm. That meant Mom had to miss the safety drill because she had to wait in the cabin for the delivery. Disney Cruise Line was great helping with this by the way. It was totally the medical equipment company’s fault, but DCL Guest Services jumped in and helped save the day.
5. Realize that someone on oxygen is probably going to need a slower pace and more breaks. This is not the time to do a commando trip. Slow down and relax. Everyone will be better off if you do.
6. Consider avoiding rides and attractions that use heavy scents. We specifically avoided Spaceship Earth and Soarin’ because of this. Someone nearby wearing too much perfume could set off Mom coughing so we didn’t want to take any chances.
7. Finally, take really good notes and keep documentation for everything. Have the telephone numbers for every contact easily available and, if more than one person has this information, that’s good too.
Being on oxygen 24 hours a day may slow you down. But, it doesn’t have to spoil your Disney fun!