Ethics, Ego, And Altitude

By Andy Janning

This is the SeQual Integra 10, a 10-liter portable oxygen concentrator. When coupled with a nasal cannula, it helps the user get the oxygen they need so they can actually enjoy the process of breathing.

It’s kept me functional for the last 36 hours. It also taught me a valuable lesson during that stretch.

I’m in Snowmass Village, Colorado as I write this, the lead-off speaker for the five-day CUES Execu/Summit Conference. Have been since Sunday afternoon. It’s beautiful here. Heaven on earth for skiers.

It’s also over 8,200 feet above sea level. For this Indiana-raised country boy, where our idea of a mountain range is the speed bumps in a WalMart parking lot, being over a mile and a half closer to outer space than normal has meant a nasty bout of altitude sickness.

The headache and nausea stalked me slowly during the four-hour layover in Denver on Sunday morning, then proceeded to go into full SEAL-Team-6-visits-bin-Laden mode on the my skull and stomach when I landed in Aspen. By the time I arrived at the hotel, I had the cognitive ability of a turnip (seriously, it took me three tries to say my email address coherently during check-in) and the only thing I wanted to do when I arrived in my room was play that classic game of “Let’s Not Puke on the Carpet”.

I’ve had problems at altitude in the past, so in a rare blaze of foresight I had placed an order with a rental outfit in Aspen for the above-pictured SeQual Integra at 5:30pm the Friday before I left for the Land of Hypoxia.

Two hours after I’d placed the order, though, I felt like a fool. A wuss. Less than a man. I was embarrassed for having to order OXYGEN for myself and berated myself mercilessly: “C’mon, people go out there all the time. They ski! They snowboard! They’re grinning! They’re performing shiny happy leisure activities at an altitude where most eagles start to reconsider this whole ‘bird of prey’ thing! All you’re doing is moving around in a room, talking to people for a few hours. Suck it up, you pansy!”

I didn’t suck it up, and I didn’t cancel the order, though. And when the O2 Happy Factory arrived about two hours after I’d curled up on my hotel room floor begging God to make Snowmass Village fall into the sea, I began a five-hour journey to feeling human again. A happy ending, right?

No. Now comes the lesson.

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