The purpose of my second visit to the Sleep Center was to be fitted with some sort of sleeping apparatus and then, wearing said apparatus, to have my air pressure levels fine-tuned so I no longer did that thing I didn’t want to do – stop breathing. No problemo. I packed my little overnight bag, went into Albany late Tuesday afternoon, walked through a few stores at the mall, ate at Chick-Fil-A for dinner (I’m so boring and predictable), then rode on over to the Sleep Center.
Right off, I knew it was going to be a long night. When I went in for the first part of the sleep test, I was given the “deluxe suite” – huge room, private bath, comfy sofa – all the comforts of home. On arrival for the second part, I found the deluxe suite already taken, and I was going to the room behind curtain number two – still nice with a big bed, but to go to the “facilities”, I had to leave my room, walk through an area filled with exercise equipment and mirrors, and enter a bathroom where the shower stall was filled to the top with bed linens – not that I planned to shower, but still.
I arrived about 8:15, and the sweet little technician asked if she could go ahead and “hook me up”. I declined, mentioning I don’t usually go to bed until at least midnight and didn’t really care to spend the next four hours attached to 25 wires and electrodes if I didn’t have to. She looked at me like “Ok, she’s going to be one of those people.” I promise I wasn’t being ugly, but really! 8:15! Obviously the lady in the deluxe room was a lot more cooperative, so the technician hooked her up while I got into my pj’s and watched people on HGTV buy houses in Nashville, Norway and New York City.
She came back in at 10 p.m., asked how I was doing, and looked longingly at the wall where all the wires hung. So I said, “Would you like to go ahead and get me wired up?” Big grin – “Yes,” she said. While she stuck little adhesive thingys all over my head, in my hair, on my legs, and on my chest, she explained that when I got ready to go to sleep she would turn on the CPAP machine, and throughout the night the levels of air pressure would be increased until I no longer had any “apneas” – in other words, until I no longer stopped breathing. After all the adhesive thingys were applied, she went back and attached the electrodes and wires and wrapped two bands around my chest (wires attached to those also). All those wires ran into a machine about the size of a TV remote control, which was placed under my pillow because the wires weren’t long enough for it to be placed further away. I guess “room #2” comes with shorter wires than the deluxe suite.
To this point, everything was just the same as the first part of the test. I got into bed, and the technician brought out this mask that reminded me somewhat of Darth Vader in Star Wars, only instead of black, this one was clear plastic, with a bright blue “seal” around the edge. Attached to the mask were straps that wrapped around my head to hold it on (that’s the head to which 15 wires are already attached). The mask covered my nose and mouth. I said, “Wait! Aren’t there other models that aren’t so . . . . ugly?” I’m no dummy, I had done research!
“Yes, there are others,” said the technician, giving me that look again.
After a moment when she didn’t say anything else, I asked, “Do you think I might see those?”
“Yes, I’ll just get those for you.” And she left the room.
When she came back, I was offered the mask that covered nose and mouth, a mask that covered only my nose, and a device that wasn’t a mask at all, but had two flexible hoses with soft “nozzles” at the end that went into my nostrils. I said, “I want the one with no mask!”
Thirty minutes later, the computer was still not “computing” any air flow into my nose, so we gave up on that one. As option #2, I chose the mask that covered just my nose. We got that one on with no problem, but then I realized I couldn’t wear my glasses AND the mask – so I couldn’t read or watch TV without taking it off again. I decided to just turn everything off and try to go to sleep.
I was actually feeling pretty good about the whole thing. I wasn’t claustrophobic at all, something others had warned me about. And I figured wearing the contraption would only get better when I wasn’t hooked up to all the wires. So I drifted off to sleep fairly easily thinking, “Piece of cake!”
At some point during the night I woke up. I remember thinking, “Wow, she must have turned the pressure up a lot!” The technician had set the machine at “5” before leaving me to go to sleep, and I had barely noticed the flow of air going into my nose. But now, with each inhalation, the mask suction could easily be felt against my cheeks. “Ok,” I thought, “that’s no big deal. Just roll over and go back to sleep.” Except . . . my mouth and throat felt like I had been crossing a desert without water. I tried to work up some spit, and finally managed to get a little moisture going. By now I was fully awake, and I did the thing I must learn NOT to do . . . . I opened my mouth. All that pressurized air traveling into my nose – aimed for my throat and lungs – quickly did a u-turn and blasted out through my mouth! You think I’m exaggerating when I say “blasted”? Uh-uh. Blasted is putting it pretty mildly. You know how you can try to talk while rapidly covering and uncovering your mouth with your hand? Well, imagine trying to do that with a leaf blower for lungs! It scared me half to death! It was like trying to talk through a hurricane in your throat. And swallow? Forget about it!
It never occurred to me to rip the mask off. I just started bamming on the wall over the bed and hoping the technician wasn’t in the next room taking a shower with the bed linens. She came right away, and I lay there and tried to explain to her that she had to take the mask off me . . . but she couldn’t understand what I was saying ’cause I was talking from inside the wind tunnel!
Finally I got through to her, and she lifted the mask and all the straps for it off my head. I explained to her that I couldn’t swallow, I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t spit, and I was about to have a panic attack. She said, “So, are you ready to put it back on?”
I had to have a 2-minute serious talk with myself, in which I said, “Self, you are not the first person to do this. You are strong. You are invincible. You are woman (sorry, I sometimes get carried away)! You can adapt to most anything. Now pull it together, and try again.” And so I did.
The next morning, the technician told me that the CPAP machine pressures were not strong enough for me, and she had to change me over to the BiPAP machine. After it was all over, it took a pressure of “23” for me to sleep without any apneas. No wonder I felt like I was inside a tornado!
I came home and called everyone I know who uses CPAP machines, and they all said the same thing. “It will take time to get used to it. Don’t give up. You will feel so good after sleeping all night!” I felt much better after hearing that everyone had gone through the same kinds of feelings when they first got their masks.
Within the next week, the Sleep Center will order my BiPAP machine and mask from a home health care store, a respiratory therapist will come out to the house to set it up, and I’ll be ready to start getting used to my new nighttime friend. I’ve tried to prepare Ted for the new adventure ahead, and all he says is, “Baby, if you need it, and it will make you live longer and feel better, I can get used to anything!” I wrote that down – just in case he changes his mind after his first night sleeping with Hurricane Bree.
Until a few weeks ago I had never even heard the term CPAP, and to be honest, I wish I still hadn’t. On the other hand, having become an overnight expert on sleep apnea, I now know that this condition can be seriously detrimental to my health. I thank the good Lord for the wake up call (no pun intended) He gave me last spring when I fell asleep at the wheel and ran off the road – causing serious injury to the car I was driving and a neighbor’s flowerbed, but, again thankfully, not to myself. The severe obstructive sleep apnea diagnosis was a shock, but it’s wonderful to know something can be done about it!
P.S. As soon as all the equipment is in, I’ll post a photo of me as Mrs. Darth Vader. Never let it be said that I don’t share everything with my readers – warts and all!
Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you back here on Monday! God bless.