Posted by: bree1972 | February 13, 2011

We Can’t Develop a PILL for This? 2/14/2011

Do you know – as you grow older – how occasionally you just have to say to yourself, “Self, you just can’t do that anymore.  You can’t run, but you can still walk.  You can’t eat a whole box of chocolate chip cookies and not gain weight, but you can still eat a whole box of chocolate chip cookies and not worry about the weight.  You can’t sit on the floor and stretch and touch your toes, but you can still get up off the floor when you do sit down there.  Etc, etc. etc.

Another one of those moments came this weekend.  “Self, you can no longer go to sleep unencumbered by masks and nozzles and hoses.”  And honestly, I’m having a really hard time with that one.

FRIDAY:  I drove into Albany to pick up my “equipment” and listen to a respiratory therapist tell me, “I can’t believe you have to have a pressure of “23”!  A pressure that high is usually what might be needed by a 350 lb. man who smokes everyday and snores like a freight train!”  Other nice comments were, “You absolutely HAVE to have a full face mask – there’s no way you can tolerate those pressures without your mouth being covered”, and my personal favorite, “This might be easier for you with SHORT hair.”  To which I wanted to reply, “And it might be easier for me to look 20 years younger with a face lift, but I don’t plan to do that any time soon either.” 

FRIDAY NIGHT:  I didn’t take a nap Friday – even driving home – so I could possibly be sleepy earlier than my usual 1:30 a.m. bedtime.  Didn’t work.  At 1 a.m. I got into bed, hooked up all the nozzles and hoses, put on the mask, and turned on the machine.

Looks innocent, doesn't it?

It’s actually a really neat piece of equipment (if it wasn’t ME using it).  All these machines are continually evolving into smaller and smaller units, hoping – I’m sure – to make adjustment to them easier.  This one comes in two parts that plug together.  Part I is the BiPAP machine.  BiPAP’s are used when the pressure needed is high enough that exhaling becomes difficult with the same pressure set on both inhaling and exhaling.  With BiPAP, the pressures inhaling and exhaling can be set at different levels.  Part II is a humidifier.  I need that because, again with high pressures, my mouth and nasal passages would dry out in a nanosecond, and that would be extremely uncomfortable.  So, with this combination machine, the air being pumped into my nose is already humidified (kind of like inhaling on a hot, humid south Georgia summer day). 

When my charming respiratory therapist measured my face, he said I was borderline between small and medium.  I almost liked him at that moment – it’s been a long time since this body has bordered between anything but large and extra-large.  He sent me home with two masks – small and medium – saying I could experiment with both and see which worked best for me. 

I put on one of the masks, and he turned the pressure up to “23”.  I was almost blown out of my chair, and he just shook his head – I think in sympathy.  He shared with me that he uses a CPAP machine with a level of “6”.  He again said I didn’t fit the profile for needing that high a pressure, and said I obviously must have a very small airway (which I confirmed to him because my internist had told me that).  He excused himself to go talk to the doctor, a pulmonary specialist.  When he came back, he had been given permission to lower my pressure to “18”.  According to my sleep study, at “18” I no longer stop breathing, although I still have some “shallow” breathing.  The goal is to eliminate both, and for me that was at a pressure of “23”.  Both the doctor and he decided starting me at “18” would be a little easier.  As I adjust to that, the pressure could be inched up over time until I reach “23”.  Okey dokey – I was fine with that, especially after realizing that with my mouth covered, I no longer had the problem I did during the sleep study with just the nasal mask (opening my mouth and exhaling air pressurized to the point that I could have cleared all the leaves off our deck).

The machine is innocent - the mask is evil encased in plastic.

So . . back to Friday night.  I put on the small mask and worked for at least 30 minutes trying to get a “seal”.  There can’t be any leaks around the mask.  Not only does that negate the point of the air going up your nose, but you also end up with pressurized air blowing straight into your eye or cheek or chin (trust me, that sensation doesn’t put you in a sleepy mood).  Oh!  Let me just mention here that the noise “leaking air around the mask” makes sounds like a word this southern lady does not even say in public , much less do.  Anyway, I finally got a seal and tried to relax and go to sleep.  The machine is programmed to give me 20 minutes of “warm-up”, starting with low pressure, and building gradually upward.  The goal is for me to be sleeping soundly before the high pressure is reached, because in a relaxed, sleeping state I won’t be “fighting” the machine.

The pressure did not bother me.  What bothered me was maintaining the “seal”.  With Ted snoring like a  chainsaw beside me, I turned on the light every five minutes, turned off the machine, took off the mask, turned the machine back on, put on the mask with a good seal, and lay back down – only to have the seal “break” and “leak air” – sounding like of those Grade B teenage movies where all the guys try to “outdo” each other doing that thing I don’t say or do. 

At 1:45 I finally got a seal that stayed in place even when I turned on my side.  I fell asleep relatively easily (why not – at that point I felt like I’d just finished a marathon) and woke up three hours later back in that Grade B movie.  Without turning on the light, I took off the mask, turned off the machine, and feeling like my head weighed 20 lbs. less, fell into a blissful sleep that lasted until Bear pounced on the bed ready for some attention at 8 a.m.

SATURDAY NIGHT:  Wore medium mask to bed, got a good seal right away, and slept three hours and 15 minutes.  When I woke up, the seal was broken, and I knew I just didn’t have it in me to fight it for an hour.  So I took it off and went back to sleep.

So . . . right now (and I’m writing this Sunday afternoon) . . . I’m kind of in between semi-down and down about the whole thing.  I’ve spent today having lots of pep talks with myself (after crying on Ted’s shoulder for 30 minutes).  One thing I worry about is that I’m disturbing Ted’s sleep with all of this – to which he replied, “I honestly never even knew you were getting up and down, never heard the machine (or any of the noises), and slept like a baby.”  I probably shouldn’t think about that too long, or I’ll just get mad at him for being so clueless.

Thinking positively – I don’t think the pressures are going to bother me, even when I get to “23”.  The full face mask solved the “panic” I felt during the Sleep Study.  I know that this is going to be good for me – right after it stops being bad for me.  I know that, in the long run, I may be able to come off some (or all) of my blood pressure meds by doing this and that it will help my heart and brain and just about every other organ I still have.  And, according to everyone I know who has sleep apnea and uses a CPAP or BiPAP machine, I am going to feel SO MUCH BETTER AND LESS TIRED!

I’ll let you know when that happens.

As promised!

Personal Note:  Blake arrived in Ft. Collins, CO Friday evening and is settling into a condo with two other guys, until he finds his own place.  More on his trip later in the week, but just wanted to thank everyone for the safe travel prayers that were lifted up for him . . . .  and . . . .




  1. Brenda, you look COOL in that mask! Like the pilot of an F-16 fighter jet!

    • Yep – that’s what I was going for!

  2. I love how you added the flowers and such to the photos of your equipment! I so hope it gets easier for you soon. I have a friend who had similar issues at first but within a few days, she was a-ok and sleeping better than she had in years.

    Glad to hear that Blake arrived safely and I’m sending prayers for ‘good seals’.

    • Thanks, Annie. Last night was the best so far. It’s just going to take a few nights of adjustment.

  3. Yup, I agree with Barb…you really don’t look that bad or scary at all Brenda! I wish I could get a full 8 hours of sleep someday. I know you haven’t done that yet but it is in your future with this machine so hang in there. Things can only get better…right?
    Happy to hear Blake made it to his new home. And Happy Valentine’s Day to YOU too!

  4. You didn’t scare me at all in your new “sleeping friend”. Glad to know Blake made it to CO. Happy Valentine’s Day to both you and Ted.

  5. I shared your blog with my husband, Herb. He has used a machine for several years. He said “hang in there – it gets better”. Amd don’t worry about Ted’s sleep, he gets used to it too. Happy Valentines Day to you both. Lol

    • Thanks for that encouragement, Herb! Last night was better. Still didn’t make it ALL NIGHT, but got in a good 4 hours!

      • You look like a firefighter! Cool!
        I’m extra interested in your travails because my sister has had her sleep study and they’re trying masks now. She’s not a happy camper and they’ve only used the nose one!
        She complains that it hurts when she sleeps on her side, which is how she sleeps. So, my thoughts are with you and her right now, for good results and a short adjustment time!
        And I agree, it IS frustrating when your husband doesn’t even notice that you’re having trouble in the middle of the night! But aren’t we glad that they have such good shoulders and comforting words later on. Gotta love ’em!

      • I’m a side sleeper also, Barbara, and I have those same issues. I’ve been looking at this sleep apnea pillow on Amazon. Wondering whether to invest in it. Probably will wait until I’ve given myself more time to adjust without it. But it looks like a good concept.

  6. aawwww Hang in there Brenda.

    Ohhh and “LUKE,,,I’M UR FATHERRRR!” lol I couldnt resist! 😉

    • Hmmm, Darth Vadar look-alike huh? One reader said “fighter pilot” and another “fire fighter”! Anything’s better than “just plain ugly”.

  7. On a positive note, at least you don’t have to shave your face before you go to bed like men who wear the masks have to do.

    • Didn’t know that!

  8. I agree with Barb, definitely fighter pilot. Hang in there. You are great to share your experience. I know it will help you and others.

  9. Hi Brenda,
    Dave’s machine started acting strange a couple of days ago and he was afraid he wasn’t going to be able to sleep. We took the c-pap to the health center and they tried to fix it and broke it instead. So we called the doctor and he ordered a new one. This one looks like a Lincoln compared to an old beat up Ford. They say the life is 5 years -max for the machines.
    I am very happy because this one is so quiet I can barely hear it. And the suction is so strong there are no whoopee cushion noises–like you said, (nothing that isn’t normal that is,) and no demented bagpipers running from a howling wolf pack noises either. One night I swore he was doing in on purpose and I whacked him. 🙂
    But now it’s so peaceful. It took him at least 2 weeks to get it to work right with the first machine, but now, no problem. The man actually stays awake during the day. You’ll get it and by this summer you won’t know how you ever slept with out it.
    Big hug,

  10. You didn’t look scary at all! And whatever it takes to get a good night sleep! I wish you lots of sucess with your new cpap. Have a great evening and Happy Valentines Day!

  11. Brenda,
    I have never looked in the mirror with my mask on (have had it for almost three years now!!!)!!! It doesn’t look bad at all. I am always saying I must look like Darth Vader in this mask but now maybe I look like a fighter pilot!!!! Good luck, it sure does get easier and easier with time. I am so used to it now. xo

    • I’m counting on that “easier and easier” part, Loretta.

  12. How was Last night?

    • Not as good as the night before :{ . Still having “seal” problems. Once I get it “sealed”, it’s wonderful. EXCEPT – I routinely wake up 3 1/2 – 4 hours after I fall to sleep – that’s just my routine. When I wake up, the seal is usually broken and to reseal I have to take the mask off and start over. By then, I’m wide awake. So I just slip it off and leave it off. Have to stop doing that.

  13. Any reaction from the puppy dogs to your new look?

    • Thorough investigation on first wearing, then total boredom.

      • Ha! Hopefully you’ll get to that point too. 🙂

        I clench my teeth at night so I have to wear a bite splint. Took me a while to get used to it, but now I feel “naked” without it.

  14. Brenda, you are hilarious despite the health issues and discomfort you are experiencing. What an inspiration you are! I couldn’t even stand keeping a plastic mold on my teeth for 3 hours to get them whitened! It’s hard to be normal with foreign contraptions stuck on your body. You’re in my prayers and I wish you the best.

    • Thanks, Debra – ya gotta keep laughing!!!

  15. Hang in there. It takes 1-2 weeks to work out the aggrevations with the mask and tubbing. After trial and error you will work it out and then become an expert. I know that seems like a long time but it will be worth it in the end.

    • Thanks for the encouragement, Donna. A bad night last night. I can’t figure out what I’m doing wrong, but now the darn thing is making “thumping” noises. At first I thought it was the mask, but when I disconnected it, it was coming from the HOSE! Calling respiratory therapist today for a chat.

  16. Brenda,

    I know that “thing” will be good for you in the end. My brother in law is an illustration of that fact. A little over a year ago he had a heart attack and a minor stroke. Obviously, that slowed him down tremendously. We have all been so worried about him (he’s almost 73 years old and we figured he was on the downhill slide), but about 3 months ago the doctor decided to have him checked for sleep apnea. He’s been sleeping with the mask for about a month now and I can hardly believe the improvement. He has so much more “life” in his face, his actions and his thinking. It’s nothing short of amazing. I’m so thankful he was checked. So you hang in there. That mask can do nothing but good for you.

    By the way, when I first saw the picture of you with the mask on, my first thought was: I’m going to contact her and see if she’ll take me to Mars with her. So if you decide to go, please let me know.

    • Just the lift I needed this morning, Lowell, after a BAD night with the mask. And if Mars is in my future, you’ll be the first one I contact!

    • 🙂

  17. Good to hear Blake arrived safe and sound!

    Good luck with your new sleep partner. Sounds lid a “trying” ordeal, wish you the best. Years ago I had a terrible time putting my contacts in…..I would get so frustrated. Mom was living with us and kept giving me encouragement. I finally managed it! I wore them for years but when I was finally in my 50’s, just quit. Wearing glasses was so much easier….I didn’t have to worry about clean air or dry eyes. I’ve had implant surgery (2 years ago) and now only need non prescription reading glasses. Time marches on. Soon, you’ll be an old pro!

    • LOL – “old” being the operative word, Judy! I’m determined to stick with it!

  18. I like it, IceMan! I like it!

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