Saturday, August 16, 2008

Is it asking too much just to be able to breathe normally? I mean really?

I can't believe I'm posting this picture. This is the CPAP machine I have to be hooked up to at night to deal with my sleep apnea. I knew I snored, but I really didn't think I had sleep apnea. But I did the sleep study (two nights of hell) anyway just so I could prove them wrong. The first night was to determine the level of my apnea. I didn't think I slept enough to give them any information, but I was wrong (most people who do the study usually think the same thing, evidently). I thought I heard every word the lab technicians uttered all night long, and they were in the other room. I felt like I was awake more than I was asleep. Anyway, the report said that I stopped breathing 43 times.......PER HOUR. My oxygen level was somewhere around 80-something%, and optimal is above 95% (I think). So the doctor recommended a CPAP machine (continuous positive air pressure), and I spent yet another night in the hospital in the sleep lab so they could determine the proper setting for my machine.

I talked to several people who had used a CPAP machine, and they all sang its praises. "Oh, you won't believe how much better you'll feel." "You'll just have so much more energy, you won't believe it." "I lost 30 pounds after I started using it." Yeah, right. One guy sent word through hubby that I would have to give it 2-3 months before I would start seeing the benefits, but it was worth it.

It's been 7 months, and I still hate it. I don't feel any increased energy (although I would like to think my energy level was already pretty high before I started using it). I haven't lost any weight. I don't snore or stop breathing, and I guess that's a good thing at least. I don't stop breathing because it's hard to do with a gale-force wind being forced through my nose. And I don't snore because if I open my mouth, a tornado issues forth due to the forced air.

When we go to bed, I wait for hubby to fall asleep before I even put it on. I don't want him to see me with it on. Talk about a romance killer....... I mean, can you imagine rolling over and looking at THAT? I think it also hurts my psyche because I associate snoring with men, and women aren't supposed to have such unglamorous problems. The indignity of it all! I'm pretty sure that some of my breathing problems are weight-related, and you would think that would inspire me to lose some weight. Not all of them, though. I inherited my father's breathing problems, and you could hear him breathing in the next county.

I had surgery when I was about 20 to correct a deviated septum, and the doc did plastic surgery at the same time. (I had a slight hump in my nose that wasn't hideous, but as long as he was gonna be in there anyway...... It was called a septorhinoplasty just in case you ever get that question on Jeopardy.) I went to this same doctor multiple times through the years for sinus infections and once an abscess behind my nose (whatever is located there). On one of my many visits to his office, he slumped his shoulders, sighed, and said, "I've done all I can for you. I don't know HOW you breathe."

The doctor who sent me for the sleep studies and recommended the CPAP told me I have a hole in my septum. (That's the membrane that runs down the middle of your nose, separating it into the two sections that I'm sure have a medical name.) He didn't say whether the hole was a result of an error in the earlier surgery or just something that happened over time anyway. That explains why I sometimes whistle when I breathe. He said it wasn't feasible to try to fix it, because the chances of success were small and he might actually end up making it worse.

I also have allergies that aren't allergies. I was tested, and there was nothing that I was allergic to. The lab technician said it was classified as a "vasomotor rhinitis." That's one of those good-news-bad-news situations. The good news is that there's nothing I have to avoid that might trigger one of these flare-ups. (I call it my head blowing up.) The bad news is there's nothing I CAN avoid. It's sort of like being allergic to myself. Over-the-counter allergy medications help some, but I still have flare-ups and fits of sneezing, and I sometimes look like I've either been drunk for three days or crying for three hours. I think my record was one morning when I sneezed 18 times while I was getting ready for work.

All of this leads me back to my original question: Is it asking too much just to be able to breathe normally? I don't mind taking the allergy medicine every day (along with blood pressure medication, potassium, an aspirin, and a vitamin), but wearing that thing at night really hurts my pride. When we took a cruise out of LA this past spring, I wouldn't even take the CPAP machine with me. It has its own suitcase, too big to go inside another suitcase. And I didn't want to take it on the plane as a carry-on, because I didn't want to have to explain to anyone what it was. So I went without it for a week and just hoped that hubby would spend enough time at the pool bar every day that my snoring wouldn't bother him. He's always said it didn't bother him anyway (isn't that a sweet lie to tell?), but it bothers ME.

In my next life I want to come back as someone who can just breathe normally without drugs, surgery, or a machine. I'll probably come back as an elephant with sleep apnea, allergies, AND vasomotor rhinitis.


Dale said...

I cannot imagine not being able to breathe properly.
My heart goes out to you, regarding all your trials and tribulations just to sleep.

Your comment about Jeopardy made me laugh. It's one of my favourite shows.

susan said...

My Dad has one of those machines. I hope he still wears it.
I am allergic to everything including some unknown something in my house. Some mornings I get up and sneeze about a dozen times, take Benadryl, and it takes about two hours to completely work, and then I feel like my eyes are swollen for a few hours. It's lovely.:)

Anonymous said...

We're quite the sight with our medical pictures, aren't we?!

MJ said...

Do you ever have days where you go through a whole box of tissues and nothing you take seems to have any effect at all? I wonder if some of my "sinus" related troubles might be this whatever-you-called-it. I call it sinuses for lack of anything else to call it but I know it isn't it!
I think next time I'd like to come back as wind!