Friday, July 22, 2011
Me and the Machine
It all started in February 2011 when I attended a Red Dress Affair sponsored by Duke Raleigh Hospital. The event featured a health fair, heart-healthy cooking demonstrations provided by Kroger, free advance lipid profile test provided by LipoScience, screenings by Duke Heart Center, healthy lunch, and presentations from Duke experts.
As the youngest of seven siblings who have various forms of cardio-vascular disease, I thought I knew it all. I manage my hypertension with medication, keep my weight down, eat healthy meals, and exercise regularly. I was just going for the fellowship with 20-some women from church, and free lunch.
Then, as I was finishing up my lunch of grilled salmon and green salad, a doctor started his presentation on sleep. He said, "I bet every time you go to the doctor you don't have any problem talking about your blood pressure, your blood sugar, your weight, and if anything hurts you talk about that too. But do you ever talk about how well you sleep?"
He asked five questions about sleep, from a slide that I didn't copy down. He said if you answered yes to any of these five questions, maybe you need to talk to your doctor about sleep apnea. I had answered yes to all five questions. I snore; I fall asleep when somebody else is driving; I have trouble staying awake when I'm driving; I fall asleep in the movies!! I fell asleep on Transformers, even with all that action and crashing and banging of machines.
My next 6-month checkup, I discussed it with my doctor. He didn't seem convinced that I have a problem, but he referred me to a neurologist for a sleep study. When I started talking to online friends about having a sleep study, over twenty people volunteered their own experiences, and it seemed that half the world has a CPAP machine. I don't have trouble falling asleep; my trouble is staying asleep. The study determined that I have mild sleep apnea...enough to benefit from having a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine.
I named him Argoyle. We've been together for two weeks now. I can't say that I get any more sleep than before, but I am getting better sleep. It's quiet enough, and the mask is unobtrusive enough that I forget I'm wearing it. I still wake up at four or five AM, but I feel refreshed.
I'll be taking Argoyle with me on a trip next week. Medicare won't pay for him unless I'm compliant, using it at least four hours per night for 30 days. Argoyle has a memory card to record my usage. So he and I will have fun going through airport security. I hope we don't make the news.