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Area residents require emergency oxygen tanks after losing power

By Kim Walter -- kwalter@nvdaily.com

Valley Home Care has delivered back-up oxygen tanks to 66 of their patients since Saturday, and is continuing to serve others in need.

Angie Fishel, Valley Health Director of Home Equipment, said on-call staff as well as other employees of Valley Home Care have been working since Friday night's storm to reach out to patients with respiratory problems.

"We were just getting call after call," she said Monday.

Valley Home Care has an emergency disaster plan, which includes alerting patients to check their back-up oxygen tanks. However, Fishel said Friday's storm was so abrupt that there was no opportunity to do that.

Patients who lost power and use a machine called an oxygen concentrator needed the back-up tanks, said Kathy Corbit, director of Purchasing and Sales Support.

"A concentrator runs on electricity, so we recommend that patients keep a back-up tank, even a small one, at their home," she said. "Some equipment has battery back-up, but there are still people without power so they need that back-up oxygen."

Corbit said some patients don't like how big and "unattractive" the back-up tanks can be, but Friday's storm and the many power outages that followed is a perfect example of why the extra oxygen is important.

"It's more about their needs in case of an emergency like the one we just had," she said.

The amount of oxygen needed varies from patient to patient, Fishel said, but two liters a minute is a standard prescription. A normal sized back-up tank, at that oxygen flow, will last a patient anywhere from 28 to 30 hours.

Fishel said she's proud of her team of workers who remained calm under the pressure to deliver the oxygen. Staff had to do calculations for each patient in need, depending on their specific flow rate and breathing problem. Workers also had to put extra effort into planning the most efficient route when delivering the oxygen.

"They also helped the patients to stay calm, which is really important to those with respiratory problems," she said. Valley Home Care staff asked patients to try and find friends or family with power and air conditioning as soon as possible, since air circulation is vital during times of extreme heat.

"We always recommend that patients let their power suppliers know that they rely on electricity to receive oxygen," Fishel said. "We also like to know if they do have to use a back-up tank so we can plan accordingly."

Valley Home Care has offices in Front Royal, Winchester and Woodstock. More information can be found at www.valley-homecare.com.

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