Living the Good Life

We all need a wake up call now and then to remind us of what HME is all about.

Living. In the simplest terms possible, that is what the homecare and HME industry is all about. Providers, clinicians and manufacturers of HME all participate in helping patients go from merely existing, to living their lives to their richest possible extent. A simple piece of DME can transform lives.

Deep down, everyone in the HME business knows this, but sometimes we can all use a little reminder to snap us out of our everyday routines. Lucky for me, I got nice little wakeup call from Mark Junge (see “COPD Patient Wraps Ride of a Lifetime"). Mark suffers from COPD and is at 40 percent lung capacity.

Back in 2002, when Mark was first diagnosed with blood clots in his lungs, he said his spirits were very low. “At that time, I thought my life was over,” Mark told me.

However, Mark decided to turn things around. With the help of portable oxygen equipment, he started training at his local YMCA’s gym. Mark says getting back in shape not only lifted his spirits, but provided a revelation: His equipment had helped him recapture his life. Mark decided there and then he was going to find some way to raise awareness of COPD and why patients need equipment such as portable oxygen concentrators.

Mark says that while people within the healthcare industry might be well aware that COPD is the fourth largest killer of Americans and that there are 12.1 million COPD patients and at least 10 million undiagnosed COPD sufferers, those facts are very much below the radar of most Americans. He was convinced he had to get the message out.

Mark’s weapon of choice for spreading the word about COPD? A bicycle. In 2004, Mark strapped a POC to the rear rack of his touring bike and set out to ride a jaw-dropping 3,500 miles from San Francisco to New York with his wife, Ardath, driving the support van.

“It’s enough of an oddity that it captures attention,” Mark says, adding that his goal is to make sure that not only voters, but also lawmakers get his message. “Congress decides who gets oxygen and who doesn’t. It all starts with the nation’s leadership.”

Mark says his goal is to clearly demonstrate how POCs can help COPD sufferers contribute greatly to society. “These people are hidden resources,” he told me. “Are people going to let all that potential simply waste away?”

And so Mark rides. After his 2004 cross-country ride, the folks at SeQual took note of his efforts, and in 2006 equipped Mark with an Eclipse 2 POC to help support his 1,750-mile ride from New York’s Times Square to Cape Spear, Newfoundland. Then Mark rode with his POC 1,250 miles from San Francisco to Vancouver, British Columbia in 2007.

Being a cyclist, when I got the news from SeQual that Mark was riding from San Francisco to Tijuana, Mexico in August, I jumped at the chance to join him on a leg of his journey. I met up with SeQual’s incoming CEO, Ron Richard; its outgoing CEO, Jim Bixby; and Vice President of Operations, Joe Calabro, in Dana Point to pedal with Mark 35 miles South along the California coast to Carlsbad.

It was a terrific ride, and despite his 20-pound bike and 18 pounds of POC and backup batteries, Mark kept a solid pace. Better yet, Mark says that his saturation averages between a 90 and 92 percent on his rides, and so far, the only piece of equipment to fail him throughout all those miles has been a cracked bike rack. Suffice it to say that the man is unstoppable. Mark’s next goal? “I’d like to go around the world,” he says. I’m sure he’ll do it.

As I rode another 35 miles back home, I recalled a comment Mark made about his POC: “This frees people.” 

Those three words say it all.

This article originally appeared in the September 2008 issue of HME Business.

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