The Impact of a Stranger’s Kindness

Charlene Marshall avatar

by Charlene Marshall |

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Those of you with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) likely have had to use supplemental oxygen. If so, you likely are aware of how labor-intensive it is to obtain and maintain oxygen equipment, and of the importance of using it safely in a variety of situations. These are things of which I was unaware until my diagnosis and until I needed to start using supplemental oxygen to maintain my oxygen saturations as my disease progressed.

Despite using supplemental oxygen on and off for more than a year now, I am still learning about the importance of using it safely and effectively. Unfortunately, I also am learning that dealing with oxygen providers sometimes can be difficult and frustrating for a patient.

Until recently, my use of supplemental oxygen did not require a portable oxygen concentrator because I have a stationary one plugged in at home. For portable use, I have a variety of tanks that I drag around with me. But the other day, I had an emotional meltdown at the doctor’s office from having to carry around my oxygen tanks. I was tired of constantly being aware of how long they would last and, thus, proactively filling them before any outing.

Coordinating with oxygen providers was becoming overwhelming, and I was sore from carrying around the cumbersome tanks. It didn’t matter the size of the tank I had with me, or whether it was on a trolley. I was sore from lugging them around, and in that moment, frustration overtook my ability to cope.

A discussion with my doctor about a portable oxygen concentrator suddenly filled me with hope, because I would no longer need to regularly fill tanks if I were to use a concentrator. But that hope quickly dissipated when I realized the machine I needed would not be fully covered by our health insurance. Feeling frustrated, I didn’t have the energy to challenge this and ask why.

I know that other patients have received portable oxygen concentrators at no cost, but perhaps this was due to employment benefits covering out-of-pocket expenses. I’m not sure. Regardless, when I heard this would be an added expense for me, I felt upset and angry that I couldn’t afford it and that I would be stuck with the labor-intensive breathing devices known as my oxygen tanks.

That was until a kind stranger stepped in and literally improved my quality of life!

A few weeks have passed since I discussed my desire to have a portable oxygen concentrator instead of my tanks. In that time, I have had a few conversations about obtaining one with my medical teams. One particular clinician was very sympathetic and is the only person whom I felt truly understood my need. I don’t just want a portable concentrator machine, I need it, based on my physical limitations and my ability to keep up with having my tanks in working order.

This medical professional called me just a couple of days ago, knowing how desperate I was for one of these machines. She said she had one for me that I could have at no cost. It came with extras as well, including a trolley, an extra lithium battery, a car charger, and several other accessories that I will use daily.

Through tears and overwhelming happiness, I kept asking her how she obtained this machine, to which she replied that I was not to concern myself with how I received this gift. I have since only been able to conclude that someone donated it — either a targeted donation, meaning it came from someone I know, or an anonymous donation for someone who would greatly benefit from it.

This machine was brand new. I was able to take it out of the box and packaging and start using it yesterday. What an incredible difference it has made! I wish there was someone to thank and to share the impact that their kindness has had on my life.

As a result, I thought I would share this story with readers of my column in hopes that it brings you some happiness and inspiration. With all the negative events going on in the world, it is important to hang on to stories of hope and inspiration, and I am going to pay it forward on behalf of this individual as frequently as possible.


Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.


Sandy avatar


So very, very happy for you. And you deserve it too!

Joyce Douglas avatar

Joyce Douglas

I am so thankful to hear you have a portable concentrator to use. My husband knew I would benefit greatly by having one so he went ahead and ordered one from the US, which is more costly as we need to pay exchange on the $$s. It has made my life much nicer. Certainly I still have to keep it charged up, clean filters, know how much time is left on the batteries, BUT I can leave home, go shop for a wee while, have coffee or lunch out, take in a movie. All possible with this small miracle of a machine. Grateful you have one now also. Those tanks and trolley are cumbersome, awkward, heavy, and just too much to have to look after when we are already tired & worn out from our illness.

Elayne Lemanow avatar

Elayne Lemanow

What a wonderful story. Best wishes to you with your POC.

Larry avatar


I don't know what type of concentrator you have, but it is a blessing to have, I would not be able to go any where if I had to carry more than 2 of the O2 cylinders for emergency use if the mechanical/electrical concentrator stopped working.
I have been having a concentrator since 2 wks after I was attached to O2 24/7. I did a lease purchase and the machine is mine now. It has functioned well for 3yrs. with only one power supply going bad not in warranty, without supplemental 120V power available the batteries last 2hrs about the same as O2 cylinders, I purchased over a period of time 6 batteries thinking this would give me more time to travel, this worked to some extent, but you still need to charge the batteries and that takes time also. my batteries cost $250 ea and the charger/power supply cost the same. My initial set up in 2014 was about $3400, I was able to claim medical expenses that year and that was a help. I presently have the concentrator, 3 2hr portable cylinders and 4 batteries + 1 spare power supply. and feel good about traveling any where. Also I have a power inverter installed in my car that saves the batteries for 2hrs, walking, shopping, movies, football games, etc.

Kathy Cox avatar

Kathy Cox

Portable oxygen tanks are great until you have to have over 5 ltrs not pulse bur straight oxygen. I had one for a while and when I hit 6 Ltrs sitting and 10 Ltrs walking I had to give it up.I have a double carrier that holds 2 E tanks that I use to shop or visit also have 32 tanks in reserve.I recently had a welder put a handle mid ways up so I didn't have to load it by picking it up from the bottom.I pray one day someone will come up with a POC that goes higher.

Judy krasovec avatar

Judy krasovec

Yes they are wonderful. It's a shame you have to go through such difficult times just to BREATHE
I HAD THE TANKS AND USED THEM TO WORK IN YARD AS I NEEDED FREE FLOW THEN. THEN I QUALIFIED FOR AN INOGEN 3 WONDERFUL.!! But they took my tanks away , I could have one kind or the other so ... returned the inogen 3 about 2 months later I decided to purchase the inogen 3 anyway and it make outings much easier. But I still have the tanks . That all the insurance would cover y

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Carolyn Ridpath avatar

Carolyn Ridpath

Yes, I have a portable concentrator. It is an Inogen and I have a six hour battery, plus a three hour battery. When I go out, I have both batteries fully charged, plus charging cords for car or wall. As a result, I can be gone for most of the day. I put the concentrator in a backpack for wandering around museums, or just town. At work, I put it in a cart. I am able to do everything I want. I purchased the concentrator using my own money. I didn't want to get involved in all the rules regarding supplies and suppliers. Congratulations on getting your life back.

Ken Room avatar

Ken Room

I am 82 and was diagnosed with IPF some three years ago. I follow your articles with great interest and, living in England, they open my eyes to just how fortunate I am in so many respects. With our National Health Service, I receive free medical attention which includes a continuous supply of 150mg nintedanib (Ofev) capsules ( two per day) Also, I have in-house and portable compactors, maintained regularly. In addition, I was most surprised to learn that I will be reimbursed for the electricity each compactor uses. When I queried this I was told that I should not have to pay for the oxygen I breath.
I realize just how fortunate I am and am deeply saddened when I read of many of your difficult situations.
I just hope that someday soon you will all be able to enjoy such benefits


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