Of Apparel and Apneas

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I am a really healthy person. Thankfully, I don’t get sick very often, but when I do, it’s always an experience. Last week I think I broke all records with medical-related issues, but for now I’ll just share one.

This particular “story” started out last year, when I started gaining weight again and was always tired and my blood pressure spiked a high in the morning. My most wonderful PCP (“Primary Care Physician”) whom I absolutely adore, wanted me to undertake a sleep study since she thought a lot of it might have to do with my quality of night time rest and I may be suffering from sleep apnea.

Well, in true Judy-knows-it-all fashion, I pooh-poohed the idea and decided that “sleep apnea” was to the human body as “radon” was to houses. I still think that radon was something made up in the late ’80′s and early ’90′s by a struggling industry that needed to bolster it’s business so all of a sudden everyone had to have a radon test done when buying or selling a home. “Sleep apnea,” at least to me, was the “radon” of the 21st century.

Well, long story short, it turned out that there really is something wrong with my sleep patterns and I decided that maybe there actually was something to this and I should go get this checked out.

I met with Dr. Sleepy after filling out about six pages of questions which encompassed just about everything I have ever done, ever will do and have even fleetingly let pass through my mind as a possibility. Actually, before I actually came face-to-face with Dr. Sleepy, I met with one of his Physician’s Assistants, who, when I got on the scale, couldn’t help herself and said “Oh, my. You don’t look that heavy” to which I responded, “Yes, I know. I outweigh many NFL players, but I don’t make nearly as much money.”

So, Dr. Sleepy set me up to come in with my pillow and my pj’s to sleep under an “eye in the sky” while hooked up to about 4,000 tiny wires and monitors and things that flash and blink etc. I was scheduled for a 9:15 p.m. arrival to begin the process.

I got there all showered and ready to begin this adventure. I don’t know what I expected, but they showed me into a room with a chair, which actually was the very same room I’d first met Dr. Sleepy.  I looked at the scarcely upholstered seat set in the center of the carpet  and said to my accompanying technician “Really? you don’t expect me to sleep in that, do you?” Turned out that this was just to wire me up. There was a Murphy bed with a Tempurpedic mattress, no less, that I would be climbing into.

Now, I make frequent, shall we say, “pit stops?” in the course of my night. As they continued to stick all sorts of transmitters all over my scalp (which meant it was all stuck to my extremely thick mane of hair), my face, my arms, my legs and places I didn’t even know you could put such things, I was starting to feel a bit uneasy about how I was going to be able to make it to the rest room while all wired up without blowing out all the lights in Irvine and electrocuting myself. They explained that I merely had to hit the little nightlight next to the bed, they would see it, come in, unplug me, consolidate everything, hang all the stuff around my neck and let me go.

I fell asleep after about a half hour. I was not as uncomfortable as I thought I would be, but let me just say, it’s been easier for me to go off like a light when I didn’t look like a light. After about an hour, I was awakened by the techs, who had already seen a scary number of “events” and decided to put me into the mask.

Mask #1 caused me to have a slight panic attack as it invoked a terrifying case of severe claustrophobia, so much so that I told them if they didn’t take this thing off me I was going to take something off them. (I am not at my best when awakened in the middle of the night. Ask my children.) They left, came back with a new one, which was just for my nostrils.

#2 made me think they were putting a pillow over  my face to smother me and I told them just that. They left again and came back with a smaller version for my nostrils. I don’t have many small “parts” on my body, but my nose is one.

Three times the charm. This last one fit fine. I could breathe and they had the straps adjusted and it was all fixed up and they left.

That was the very moment I realized I had to go to the bathroom.

I hit the nightlight by the bed and deargodinheaven, I thought I’d hit the landing lights at John Wayne Airport. This wasn’t a nightlight…this was the freaking sun attached to a button in a Murphy bed.

In they came, unhooking the mask, the primary “circuit” and hanging this bizarre looking board around my neck. When I went in to use the facilities I saw myself in the mirror. Another “deargodinheaven”…I looked like a cross between a jet pilot, R2D2 and the Bride of Frankenstein. If I hadn’t actually had to go to the bathroom, there is no doubt in my mind had I seen myself it would have scared not just the liquid stuff out of my body but probably solid waste as well.

I fell back to sleep, only to be awakened at 5:15 a.m. by the same techs. They greeted me with the good news that I had finally gotten to the REM pattern of sleep (which apparently is the most beneficial for your body) just about an hour before that. They unhooked me and I opted to go home to my own shower and shampoo to cleanse myself of the glop that had been all over my body for the last 10 hours or so rather than spend any more time in the “lab.” As I drove home in the light of the early dawn, I tried to avoid eye contact with anyone who pulled up next to me because I knew what I looked like and didn’t need to see the horror on their faces.

A few days later, when I met with yet another of Dr. Sleepy’s assistants for my post-sleep study evaluation, he explained to me that I very definitely needed to sleep with a CPAP (which is short for  ”Continuous Positive Airway Pressure”) because I had so many apneas I was the front-runner to become their poster child.

I am not terribly excited about this for a number of reasons:

First, it is yet another thing I need to pack when I travel when I am already the world’s worst packer.

Second, I can’t imagine that this will ever be an enhancement to my love life, unless I can get a model that has not only black lace trim but also some sparkly glittery stuff and smells like perfume, not rubber.

Third, it means I will spend too much time in front of the mirror, trying to adjust it so it doesn’t look like I’m actually wearing a set of pillow-ended plastic tubes stuffed up my nose.

The CPAP guy comes Monday to set it up for me and teach me how to use it.

I won’t be able to sleep on Sunday night, I’ll be so excited.

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