SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – As some of the most severe COVID patients recover and come home, oxygen tanks and tubes are a new part of their daily routine. Every pump of oxygen through the circulator is keeping Angela Byres’ lungs functioning, just weeks after COVID put her in the hospital.
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“It was actually at the point where I couldn’t breathe,” said Byres, who originally tried to ride it out at home. “I couldn’t breathe, my brain wasn’t rolling – functioning.”
She spent more than a week at CHRISTUS St. Vincent before she was released on Christmas Eve. The Albuquerque woman went home with her sister in Santa Fe, adjusting to a new way of life for now.
“Now I’m on oxygen, I’m on two liters. It takes everything out of you,” said Byres. “Just to walk and do things around here, I’m very limited on my leash.”
Sent home with a circulator plugged into the wall that limits how far she can go, Byres’ only chance at mobility and leaving her sister’s Santa Fe home to go to her own in Albuquerque, comes with an oxygen tank. However, she was sent home with only one with maybe three hours-worth left in it. On Monday, she called the local HME Supply store to get more.
“They’re like, ‘oh yes, we’ll get you oxygen. We’ve got four tanks ready for you. It’ll be delivered tomorrow,'” said Byres.
But Tuesday came and went with no call and no delivery. On Wednesday, she was told they were only doing emergency hospital deliveries and they were down a driver. At that point, Byres’ sister went straight to the store.
“She drove up and the girl inside the store said, ‘no, we don’t have any oxygen tanks and we’re not planning on getting any,'” recalled Byres. “She called me and told me, ‘there’s no oxygen for you. We can’t get another tank, not even one.'”
Luckily, her sister was able to get another through the hospital where she works. Byres says she’s still worried about the countless others who also rely on oxygen, but may not be able to get it.
“I know I’m not the only person experiencing this,” said Byres. “There has to be other people out there that are trying to get tank deliveries.”
In the meantime, she hopes supply companies will find a solution to getting these vital resources to those in need. She also plans on reaching out to the local Albuquerque stores for help.
“Be honest with people,” said Byres. “Just say we do have a shortage, we can give you one or two tanks right now.”
KRQE reached out to a supervisor for the local HME Supply in Santa Fe, as well as others to ask about the deliveries of tanks and if there’s a shortage. So far, we have not heard back.