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Sometimes it just takes a couple of tries before something finally clicks. That’s been my experience with the Adventures in CPAP series. Twice I’d brought the CPAP home but just couldn’t get used to it. Would a third time finally be my charm? Indeed it is! I’ve been doing so well with it that I finally bought the unit!
So what was different this time? Was it the newer CPAP? Maybe. Was it the difference between the full face mask I had tried previously, and the smaller nasal cushioned pads that I am using now? No doubt that’s part of it. They’re certainly more comfortable than the face mask – at least for me. But it was something much more important that made this time stand out from the previous attempts… the exceptional people at Sussex Sleep Clinic.
My previous attempts were with another company, and although the staff was friendly, I felt very much that I was being sold to. It felt no different than walking into a store to buy a pair of sneakers. A very expensive pair of sneakers. But at Sussex Sleep Clinic Angie (and her assistant Donna) take a very different approach. They’re there to help.
Sleep apnea isn’t something to be taken lightly. The strain on your body, particularly your heart, is well documented. It’s a medical issue, and my entire experience with Sussex Sleep Clinic has revolved around what’s best for me to help me get better. At no point have I felt like I was being sold to. I feel that I’m working with a health professional to help improve my sleep. She continues to monitor my progress and provide feedback based on the data that I am able to upload from the CPAP. It’s very much a two-way relationship. And because of that, I happily purchase Angie’s recommendations.
It’s been a long road, but I feel so much better now that I have committed to using the CPAP. People ask me if I notice a difference. Initially I couldn’t answer that properly. But then my puppies ate part of the hose attachment and I went a week without using it. THAT I noticed! I slept through my alarm, I struggled to stay alert at work, I constantly felt rundown. So is it working? Absolutely. Would I consider going anywhere else for my CPAP needs? Never. Sussex Sleep Clinic truly is improving my life one night at a time.
Once, Twice, Three Times a Lady… or Third Time’s a Charm. Something like that; I can’t remember. Either way, I’m back with the dreaded CPAP machine again. I say “dreaded” because I’ve tried this thing twice now, and pretty much hated it both times. Just search CPAP on the blog and you’ll see what I mean.
So what’s different this time? That’s going to be a post of its own.
But here’s something… I’m going to skip over all the BS that I had with one provider. Let’s just say that different people’s work ethics vary greatly. Take the time to find someone you can truly work with.
I wish that I still had the old pictures of me wearing the full mask CPAP. They seem to have gone *poof* when I switched servers. That’s another great reminder to backup often and check the quality of your backups from time to time.
I’ve only been wearing the CPAP for two nights, but I tell ya… when Jess tells me that SHE’S had the best sleep she’s ever had (presumably she meant “with me”) I know that it must be working. No more knocking the roof off with loud snoring, and interspersed gaspings for air. Nope!
I’ve written about sleep apnea a few times. If you’ve never read my posts about trialing the CPAP machine, or flirting with the respiratory tech… nah… just skip those! 🙂
What tends to be missing from these posts is an acknowledgement of how serious sleep apnea can be. It increases your blood pressure (mine is very high, even on meds), it leaves you feeling unrested, and it’s pure hell on your sleeping partner. I’ve been told forever that I snore. (Snoring is not necessarily an indication of sleep apnea, but is usually present if you have obstructive sleep apnea (essentially a blockage of your air passage)). But snoring is one thing… stopping breathing is quite another. As much as I’ve read what happens with sleep apnea, and I’ve seen the results of my sleep tests printed on a graph, nothing prepared me for what I recently experienced.
There’s a little app in the Apple App Store (and for Android) called Sleep Talk Recorder. It sells for $0.99 and has sold over 1.5 million copies. Yup. You do the math. This little app does one thing, and it does it very well. From the time that you “arm it”, it counts down 30 mins, giving you time to fall asleep. Then it listens. The developers may have intended for it to be used by people who talk in their sleep and want to know what they’re saying… but when I read through the reviews I noticed that many people were using it to record their sleep apnea episodes. Seemed like a good idea. $0.99 is hard to overlook.
The first morning that I picked up my phone and played the recording, I was stunned. Horrified, actually. When someone tells you that you sound like a lawn mower trying to start, that’s fine. But when you actually hear yourself gasping for breath in your sleep… and it’s not just periodically.. it’s continual. The app visually depicts the noises that it records… which is scary… but even that is nothing compared to the audio.
So now what? I guess that’s the million dollar question. I don’t want to go the CPAP route again. It’s expensive, and I kept removing the mask during my trial. I’d go to sleep with it on nice and tight, but wake up in the morning with it laying on the floor. That’s not good. There are surgeries but I’m not too interested in them either. I am going to take these recordings in for Dr Lisa to listen to… and I’m pretty sure that I know what she’ll tell me.
“Lose the weight, Stephen. Seriously… lose the weight. Now.”
I think it was about 2 years ago that I first wrote about being tested for sleep apnea. The test results confirmed what we already suspected – my sleep was being interrupted by periods of no breathing. I’m told that this is a bad thing. It causes problems in a few areas:
So the test clearly showed that I have sleep apnea. Then what? Well… there are basically 3 options:
Of the three solutions, losing weight seemed the most sensible. I told my doctor that I was not interested in wearing the Darth Vader mask, and surgery really is a last case scenario. That left losing weight, something that would have a positive effect on a few of my ever-growing health concerns.
That was 2 years ago. I think I’m probably exactly the same weight now as I was then. Which probably explains why my sleep apnea is just as bad today as it was then. So when the Dr suggested that I call the company who had done the testing 2 years ago and see about getting the CPAP device, I really didn’t have much to say except “OK…”
It was time to make the call…
“Do you snore?”
I laughed. Well… yeah… you could say that. I was in the doctor’s office for my regular check-up courtesy of my friend, Hypertension. This was back when I had the enlarged uvula. Love saying that word. Sounds dirty.
So I was referred off to the people who do the sleep test stuff. It took a week or so before they started to call. Because my phone rings off the hook with people looking for money, I rarely answer, unless it’s someone I know on the call display. Even that’s not always a guarantee. (Yes, you know who you are.) I like to change my answering machine message frequently to keep things from becoming stale. This particular time, I had a very long-winded message targeting the phone beggars, which basically said that if you were someone I knew, or someone I’d like to know, please feel free to leave a message and I’ll see what I can do. If you’re one of the very many people looking for a handout, please don’t bother leaving a message and I won’t bother to call you back. Well, the poor lady from the sleep study must not have been expecting that, because her message started off with her trying to stop laughing, and then going on to explain who she was and that I could call her back.
So I did. But not before her partner also called my number to listen to the message.
I ended up speaking to her a couple of times before I was able to figure out exactly when I would be able to stop by and get the little machine that would attach to my finger while I slept, and supposedly record a whole bunch of stuff. (Not my dreams, please not my dreams.) She seemed quite friendly over the phone, so I was looking forward to meeting her in person.
The day that I stopped into her office, I looked like crap. I had been up all night, and had to work that night. It was actually a very warm day. As I was walking toward her office, I looked at the company sign.
I stopped suddenly and did a double-take. CRAP? Oh… CPAP. I had no idea what this was, but it sounded better than CRAP.
When I walked into the office, she was talking on the phone. I waited for a few minutes and looked around. When she hung up, and I told her that I was there for an appointment and told her that I wondered what kind of place I was coming into that did CRAP testing. She laughed. Oh, did I mention that she was quite an attractive lady? Older than myself. Wearing a really nice business suit. (I’m a sucker for that) Obviously took very good care of herself. It wasn’t hard to talk to her at all.
She explained how the monitor worked, and then came over to show me how it worked. She took my hand and placed the little clip on my finger and told me to relax. When she turned it on, she looked at the numbers and said “Hmm… your heart rate’s a little high…”
“No doubt” was all I could think of. Then she smiled and took the clip off and told me to try it when I got off work, and to fill out the survey papers before and after sleeping. There was a section there for a “sleep partner” to fill out. I said “Does the cat count?” She laughed and crossed out that page.
I contemplated telling the guys at work that I had to sleep during my night shift. Doctor’s orders. But I knew that they’d just tease me. “Oh, and this is different HOW?” or something like that.
The next day I went back to my old stomping ground, and slept on the couch. That should screw up the test right off the bat. I had a miserable sleep. 4.5 hours, is what I recorded, although sleeping during the day doesn’t give me nearly the same amount of rest as sleeping comparable hours at night. At one point, I woke up and realized that the clip had fallen off my finger. Great. I put it back on and went back to sleep.
I took the machine back into her office and told her that I didn’t know if the results would be good enough to send to the lab. They send the machine back to a sleep lab somewhere to be interpreted, but she can hook it up to her computer to make sure that the data is at least usable before sending it off. She showed me the graph.
It was actually kinda interesting. It showed at what point I actually fell asleep. It showed that clip came off, and that only 6 minutes had passed before I put it back on, so that was a little surprising. That was good, though. It didn’t muck up the results.
And most important of all, it showed a huge loss of oxygen at the point when I fell asleep. Apparently for a healthy male (I shook my head) my oxygen level should be in the high 90s while sleeping. Mine dropped off into the 70s. (Sounds kinda like my marks after high school) So there’s definitely a blockage of some sort. Yippee.
The company will analyze the data and send their results to my doctor. I have an appointment next month, so I can be sure that she will have all sorts of options for me. Everything from cutting me opened and re-shaping my air passages, to wearing a freaky little mask at night to improve oxygen flow. (Apparently that’s what the CPAP is). None of those sound like very much fun, so unless I’m going to die from this, I think I’ll pass.
But it was an interesting exercise.[I never did bother getting the CPAP…]