Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Apneac

I was diagnosed w/ sleep apnea in about 1985. Was kinda a shock at the time cos I don't snore much & I'm not overweight -- usually 2 sure signs of a potential apneac.
I was diagnosed while living in San Antonio, Texas, & working at the Army & Air Force Hometown News Center -- where I colored service-members' information forms w/ yellow & purple markers, & later proofread the newspaper stories that were created after other folks colored the forms w/ the yellow & purple markers....
The job was repetitious, the place was like a production line, a hometown-news factory, & I was pretty good at some of it. But 2 attend the Armed Forces' killer-stressful 10-wk Journalism School, where they pumped U up w/ Nthusiasm 2 go out & win the Pulitzer Prize -- & then Nd up at a place like this rather than on some base newspaper somewhere was a real shock.
After a coupla yrs of steady production, I got the chance 2 do something diffrent, got 2 train new civilian Mployees in how 2 color da forms wif da yellow & purple markers, B4 they advanced 2 jobs where they'd actually B composing the news stories based on the info on the marked 4ms. Most of these people would go on 2 earn more $$$ than me.
At 1 point I was training halfadozen new people. My bosses threw a coupla newly-arrived military folks in2 the mix, since I was already training all the civilians. I was constantly training, going over mistakes, showing people how 2 do it better, quicker, faster.
The folks I was trying 2 train didn't always understand, they thot I was Bing 2 picky, & sometimes I couldn't get across how 1 mistake along the way could screw things up.
Sometimes all this training stuff got pretty stressful.
I was constantly Xhausted, it Cmd like the job never Nded or I could never get away from it, even on my wknds off.
Then I started having trouble sleeping.
I'd wake up way early & just stay up, making even longer an already-long workday. Or I'd wake up in the middle of the nite & B WIDE AWAKE. 4 hrs.
Then 1 Sunday aft when I was fairly relaxed & calm, my X-wife Cyndi, who I'd bn married-2 4 3 yrs by then, turned 2 me & said outta nowhere: "Do you remember what you did last night?"
& I waggled my eyebrows at her as if she had just said something sexy, & responded: "Whatta ya mean?"
Cyndi said that the nite B4 I had suddenly sat up in bed, clutching at my throat, gasping 4 breath, lurched 4 the side of the bed, fell off on2 the floor, & started crawling across the floor hacking & gasping, pounding my fists on the floor until I got my breath back.
& as soon as I was breathing again I climbed back in2 bed & went back 2 sleep.
Leaving her wide awake & horrified.
I was suprised enuf already, but what REALLY got me was when she said this wasn't the 1st time it had happened.
I thot she was joking at 1st. I couldn't remember NE of it. Bcos I'd still bn asleep.
I made a dr's appt the next day & they sent me 2 a Sleep Lab in downtown San Antonio, where I went 2 sleep 4 the next coupla nites after work.
The 1st nite they hooked me up 2 an EEG machine & stuck electrodes all over my head & body, & then took a picture of me. It's still my favrite picture of me ever, w/ me looking all lost & Bfuddled, with electrodes all over & wires hanging down offa my head instead of hair.
I remember sleeping pretty well there, both nites. I remember Bing comfterble, not waking up unable 2 sleep, not Bing interrupted. Actually, if the bed had bn a little softer, I woulda had no complaints.
A few days later the Sleep Lab docs called me back in 2 give me the results. They asked me how I thot I did. I told them I felt pretty comfterble during the nites there & didn't think I had much of a problem.
They told me I stopped breathing 72 times the 1st nite & 48 times the 2nd nite, never 4 longer than 90 secs, & that I woke up every single time, long enuf 2 readjust & get myself breathing again.
That's the whole thing w/ apnea -- it's like the body 4gets how 2 breathe until the nervous system wakes the sleeper up long enuf 2 start breathing again, & everything's OK, until the next time the sleeper's breathing stops. But deep sleeping, REM or dreaming sleep -- the kinda sleep that makes U feel rested the next day -- goes right out the window.
They considered me a minor case. 1 doc said he had patients who had basically stopped sleeping Bcos their apneas were so bad. How they functioned during an avg day I couldn't imagine.
The docs gave me just 1 piece of advice -- that I not take up serious drinking. 1 doc said if I ever did start drinking heavily, I'd B "liable to wake up dead."
That was good enuf 4 me. I'd never bn much of a drinker NEway, Byond a shotta Scotch now & then. I'd only ever bn drunk 1nce in my life, & even then I thot I wasn't -- tho there is photographic evidence that shows otherwise: Me w/ 1/2-open eyes, a Santa cap on & Xmas balls hanging from my ears....
Ever since -- Xcept 4 a coupla sips of beer on a really hot day if there was nothing else in the house, 2 shots of Scotch on the day of my Mother's funeral, & a coupla glasses of wine atta dinner w/ an old friend -- I haven't hadda serious drink in 25 yrs.
But the apnea wasn't done w/ me yet. It came back 2 get me again around 1988. Again Cyndi asked me if I remembered what I'd done the nite B4, & there were no jokes about it this time around.
I'd bn under a lotta pressure at work, running the base newspaper as a 1-man-band, & I kept getting these burning headaches in my temples every single workday.
My doc -- in his off-hrs a world-class stair-climb-racer who just missed getting listed in GUINNESS, a feat I wrote-up & helped make him famous 4 all over the country -- thot the headaches were just from stress, & gave me some strong painkillers that knocked em right out after a few days. & I've never had NE headaches like em since.
But he was concerned about the return of the apnea, & sent me 2 a sleep lab at Fitzsimmons Army Medical Center in Denver. No plush sleep cubicles there, just a cot, & a BIG Army medic who wanted 2 stick a balloon up my nose & down in2 my chest 2 C how much oxygen I got in my sleep.
I balked at this, at 1st. The oxygen-checker thing looked like a balloon stretched over the hook of a coat-hanger, & I didn't C how the hell I was sposta get the thing up my nose, down my throat, & down by my lungs w/o choking, or how I'd B able 2 breathe 1nce it got there.
"I'll give you a choice," the big Army medic said. "You can put it down there, or I'll put it down there."
It took me 1/2anhour, but I got the needle threaded & the low-tech oxygen-sensor thingy down in2 my chest. I was actually able 2 sleep w/ it, 2.
& the next morning the medic pulled it outta my nose in less than 5 seconds....
I was still considered a minor apnea case. These days they have meds & surgery & 4ced-air Dvices 2 help folks who have really serious sleep-breathing problems. But nobody thot I was bad enuf off 4 NE of those. They just told me 2 watch the stress.
I've hadda few stressful times since then -- man, I didn't know what stress WAS until I got OUT of the military -- & the apnea kicks up now & then, sometimes not even when I'm under stress. Most days when I wake up I don't feel "rested" -- more like I could sleep a couple more hrs. My roommate sez he sometimes hears me wheezing at nite, but there's never bn NE recurrence of the jump-outta-bed-&-pound-yr-fists variety. Thank Ghod.
When I sometimes write here that I Don't Get Serious Drinking, it might B cos I was never that bigga fan & I didn't get that much time 2 Xplore it. But overall I'd rather B stressed-out & still kickin. I'm sure it beats waking up dead....

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