Mike McBride, 57, lives in Arvada, Colo. Diagnosed with COPD in 2005, he now needs oxygen daily and even higher amounts when he’s exercising. He wasn’t happy with wearing a tube in his nose every day, so he opted for a transtracheal device. It delivers oxygen via an opening in his throat, and he’s glad he switched delivery methods.

By As told to: Tammy Worth
Updated February 29, 2016

I was diagnosed with COPD in 2005, and I've been on oxygen full-time since 2006, when I had a bout of pneumonia. I am what is called a high-flow oxygen user. At rest, I need about 4 to 6 liters per minute. When I'm exercising, I need more than 15 liters.

At first, I resisted using oxygen but eventually got used to it. Still, I really didn't like a lot of the problems that were associated with it.

I didn't like the oxygen tubing
It is really dry here in Colorado where I live and having wind constantly blowing up your nose really dried out my sinuses. I would get nosebleeds, which were really more of an inconvenience than anything.

There was also a bit of a vanity issue for me. Having plastic hanging from your face like that takes COPD from an invisible disease to something that is very visible.

Then, two years ago I got a transtracheal device. They inserted it by using an instrument kind of like a paper punch and put a hole in your neck and slide a plastic tube through it.

It is a much more efficient way to get oxygen; it has cut my intake by about one-third when I exercise. I don't have to deal with dry sinuses anymore or any of the discomfort that comes with using the old tubes. I also have minor sleep apnea, and I don't have to wear sleep apnea equipment because the oxygen goes directly into my lungs.

I love it. And a number of people I know have tried it, and I can't think of anyone who doesn't like it. Of all the things I've tried to help manage the disease better, this is one of the best ones.

I created my own pulmonary rehab
One of the other treatments that has really helped me is pulmonary rehabilitation, though I started it differently than most people. My insurance wouldn't pay for rehab, so I created my own.

When I decided to begin rehab, I belonged to the YMCA. I did some Internet research and talked to the trainers at the YMCA. They helped me set up a program that is a combination of weights and cardiovascular exercises.

They have a staff member who works with seniors, and the wellness director put it together after doing some research. I go there four days a week and take swim aerobics, a spin class, and a circuit-training fitness class.

It was about me taking the initiative and working with them. They are there to help me, but they aren't going to chase me down to do it. Since we created the program, I have been encouraging the organization to reach out to people in its Silver Sneakers program. I've seen more people coming to the YMCA with their oxygen equipment, which is great.