Friday, January 20, 2006

At Least I Had the Laugh

A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor's book.
~ Irish Proverb

Saga of the Sleep Deprived

Ok, so I guess I'm not technically "sleep" deprived, but saying "the rest associated with sleep deprivation" just sounds silly. With sleep apnea, you sleep, but you don't get restful sleep. When I sleep on my own, in a one hour period, I wake up 96 times. No, that's not a typo. Obviously, I can't get into deep sleep, which means I can't get restful sleep. After 8 hours sleep, it feels like I just slept 15 minutes.

If you've ever gone to bed, fallen asleep, and been woken up after 15 or 20 minutes, you know how much that sucks. Now, try this every time you go to sleep, all night long. Now, try doing this every night for over 2 years.

Before I was diagnosed with sleep apnea (a successful diagnosed made, not by a doctor, but by an ex-wrestler-turned-DJ) I thought I was dying of leukemia, or perhaps AIDS. I went to several different doctors (who seemed to have earned their medical degrees through clerical errors) who entirely failed to diagnose the apnea. I had blood tests, x-rays, examinations, etc., up the wazoo. They found nothing.

When I asked them what the next step was, the doctors had no ideas. I was told to go home and see if the problem persisted. Now, bear in mind here, I felt I was actually dying. And my doctors are telling me to go home and see if the problem gets worse.

So, on a trip with some friends to Chicago, my one friend Pat (the ex-wrestler guy) hears me sleep the first night, and says "Dude, you have sleep apnea". When we got home, I researched sleep apnea, and it looked like he was right. I had all the symptoms, and everything added up. Armed with this new information, I went back to the doctor.

"I think I have sleep apnea," I said.

"Why don't you leave the medical diagnosis to the experts," Doctor ClericalError said.

I was dumbfounded. I had a problem that he had failed to diagnose for months. I had provided him with a very - VERY - probable diagnosis, and the guy was shrugging me off.

"I want you to refer me to the Frid Street Sleep Clinic." I had done thorough homework.

"I don't think that's warranted at this time." Cunt.

"I want you to refer me to the sleep clinic. If you won't, I will find a doctor that will. Once they test me, and find out I have apnea, I will make certain they know that you refused to refer me." Yes, I was threatening my doctor. He gave me the referral. Successful medicine through intimidation.

I went in, I was spent the night with wires and diodes and stuff sticking out of me, and I was tested. A few weeks later, the results were in. I had sleep apnea. Very, very bad sleep apnea. So bad, I was having microseizures. The doctor (a good doctor who did strange things like think) was adamant that I needed to get on a CPAP (a machine to help you breathe) immediately.
I got the machine, and I started to sleep at night. Slowly, my strength came back, and I stopped doing silly things like falling asleep while sitting and talking to friends, falling asleep during meetings, and falling asleep while driving (yes, I did all of these things). The machine was working.

I had to go back for a second sleep test in September of last year, but I cancelled the test due to illness. Ok, due to the fact that I wanted to go out and have fun. I had my machine, I was sleeping, and I was done with having to sleep in a strange beds hooked up to more wires than my entertainment system.

Then I got a letter in the mail, a few weeks ago. From the government. Telling me that they were going to cancel my driver's license because I didn't get my second test. Bitch. So, I went back in and made an appointment, and last night I slept at the clinic again. Poorly. They woke me at 6:00 am to send me home, apparently unaware of the irony of a sleep clinic depriving me of sleep.

In late February I will find out what the second diagnosis was, and if my CPAP needs to be tweaked (sounds kinda dirty, doesn't it?). All in all, I'm losing weight, and hopefully I will be able to wean myself off the machine after a year or so. Worse comes to worse, I just have to go to bed looking like a fighter jet pilot every night.


Anonymous said...

This I Melody Breyer Grell

While doing the egostical googling of myself I was shocked to find that you are recieving inquiries about my blog----I think the first day I was on you made a comment, and I attempted to have a polite exchance with you, was that a faux pa? Anyway I can't figure out how to reach you by email..please email me at so we can get this thing resoved

Rach said...

I don't even know where to begin with this one but I can say this. After everything I went through with my foot I have learned that we can longer just blindly trust our Doctors and believe they are doing the best job possible. We have to be proactive with our health ask questions, get on the internet, ask friends for referrals and not accept a Doctor who appears to hardly give a shit.

I went through months of chronic excruciating pain because of MY lack of knowledge, I will never make that mistake again.

Asher Hunter said...

Hi Melody. Sorry if my flip attitude made you think there was an issue. I was just goofing around.

samuel said...

That's terrible about the sleep. I honestly think I'd rather be dead than sleep so poorly.

Good luck with the license, and good luck with sleeping.


Kim Ayres said...

Sleep deprivation is a well known torture method. You have my symapthies! Hope it all gets sorted out

Jim Donahue said...

Yeesh, this sounds awful. I've had periods of insomnia, but nothing like this.

Asher Hunter said...

Thanks guys, yes it was pretty terrible. I'm feeling MUCH better now though!

Don Q. said...

You might check out the book "The Promise of Sleep" by William Dement. He has been a pioneer in sleep research for 30 odd years. What you encountered was not so much incompetent doctors as the medical profession's overall ignorance about sleep. Glad you found the cause and glad you can breathe and sleep again.