Now, when you've never been treated for it, it really sucks. Because your throat closes in your sleep and you stop breathing, your body is forced to jolt you awake (or nearly so) every 1-3 minutes, you never get any quality sleep. You're tired all the time, you don't really care about much, you just glide from one appointment with your bed to the next. You wake up feeling like you just laid down. You don't really dream. You wake up with a feeling in your mouth like someone smeared peanut butter all over and then let it bake in the sun for a week. Your eyes flutter open and closed all night, so it feels like you have sand packed under your eyelids. To repeat myself, it really, really sucks.
Now let me tell you a story. There was a guy named Chris. He had sleep apnea. He had a really shitty service that provided him with the equipment he needed to control it. There's the CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine. The next part is the humidifier, which keeps the inside of your nose and throat from feeling like it's been smoked and cured like beef jerky. Then, there's the mask, which is attached by a 6-foot hose to the CPAP, which is connected to the humidifier. The equipment that Chris got worked fantastically well. He felt like a whole new person. But the problem is, the equipment was massive. It took up most of his suitcase when he traveled. What made the shitty service shitty is that he very clearly stated that he wanted a particular device that was much, much smaller and easier to travel with, and they brought the massive one because they had it in stock and didn't want to order something else. They thought Chris didn't know what he was looking at, and would be OK with whatever they sent. What they didn't know was that Chris is the third generation of his family to have this problem, and he had seen all manner of CPAP setups and knew what device suited his needs best.
But Chris was dealing with all this during the holiday season and so he put up with the massive device, despite traveling more than any other time of the year. Good thing Chris had a suitcase with an expanding section! So, when Chris went back to the doctor a few weeks later, they reacted with *shock* and *surprise* at the size of the machinery that the shitty service had given him. They *vowed* to get it taken care of.
Three weeks later, Chris finally got a call from the shitty service asking when he would be available to have a new device delivered. They wanted Chris to leave work early to come and have a new device delivered. Chris, being reasonably and understandably angry that they gave him the wrong equipment in the first place, essentially said to them, "Fuck you, you're coming to my house after work, because you messed this up in the first place." The shitty service groused and groaned about how difficult it was to get out to where Chris lived and that it probably wouldn't be until eight or nine o'clock at night. Chris said that it would be OK, he would occupy himself by playing Grand Theft Auto until they arrived. After that snappy (and rather snide) retort, the shitty service agreed to meet Chris at his home the next night.
The woman who arrived was in her mid-thirties and had probably, two or three kids before, been a fairly attractive woman. She was observed to be peering around Chris' apartment and asking impertinent questions like what he did for a living, how old he was, and what kind of car he drove. Chris remembered feeling slightly disturbed by this unwarranted attention, from a woman who, though perhaps at one time attractive, had left that behind long before Chris had reached the age of consent. This uncomfortable encounter went on longer than necessary, as Chris was forced to make small talk with this older sleep technician. He was afraid to grab her by the arm and walk her to the door because it might lead any one of a number of unfortunate misunderstandings. But when she left, she had given Chris a new CPAP machine that was much smaller than the previous one.
But there was a problem with this machine. As you can see from the picture, and to Chris' great distress, it did not have an attached humidifier. Chris, intrepid and experimental in nature, decided to try sleeping without a humidifier for a night to see how well he handled it. This is how Chris came by the knowledge that not using a humidifier will cause your nasal passages to assume the texture of beef jerky. But then, Chris' doctor had said they had a humidifier they would give him, so he figured he would wait for that. After a second night, though, Chris couldn't take it anymore. Being the brilliant shoestring engineer that he was, Chris devised a makeshift humidifier out of a 2-liter Coke bottle, cutting a hole in the side for the input tube and attaching the output tube to the spout on the top of the bottle. This turned out to be a rather unstable creation, so Chris, in a flash of insight worthy of MacGyver, cut a hole through the top of a shoebox and placed the unwieldy contraption into it. Words can only barely describe the sight of this ridiculous device perched precariously at Chris' bedside, and no photographs were ever taken.
After a week with no word, Chris called the doctor's office, only to be told in no uncertain terms that they did not, in fact, have a spare passive humidifier that would be available for patient use. Even more strangely, they would not let Chris speak to the physician's assistant who had promised him the equipment. So, despondent and still annoyed that the shitty service had yet to rectify the problem themselves, Chris called them up. They told him that it would take several weeks to order the necessary equipment, which is code for "I don't really want to come all the way out there again." In another brilliant flash, Chris asked where their building was located. It turned out that they were less than a mile away from his office, so Chris arranged for them to come to his office. They brought him a small, stupid cell that was more unstable than the one that Chris fashioned out of a soft drink container, and to make it worse, it was very difficult to clean. This stupid device, which is listed on several websites for $16 each, showed up as a $120 charge on Chris' insurance. Chris once again told the shitty service in no uncertain terms that he would not pay $120 for a $16 part. To his credit, Chris never actually uttered the word "fuck" a single time while explaining this to them.
This lovely device had an exhilarating tendency to flip right off the nightstand and onto the bed if the hose got snagged on anything, dousing Chris and any potential overnight guests in room-temperature water. At least, that's what Chris tells overnight guests when the bed is wet the next morning. It did, however, have the distinct advantage of being small and easily portable, making all kinds of traveling much less stressful, both on Chris and his suitcase.
So, on Chris' next visit to the doctor, Chris explained that he could no longer deal with the myriad of difficulties associated with the crappy $16 humidifier the lazy, shitty service had saddled him with. And independently, the doctor discovered that the device was not exerting air pressure at a level consistent with what was displayed, which explained why Chris had been feeling very tired in the previous weeks. So, because of those two facts, the doctor assured him that the shitty service would call him "in the next day or two."
Seven days and one call to the doctor's office later, Chris received a call from the shitty service, asking when he would be available to receive a new set of equipment and return the old equipment. Chris explained that they could deliver it on his next work day.
That day was yesterday. Chris exchanged his defective machine and shitty humidifier for a promising new device. Unfortunately, this new device was actually a different device from the one he had previously had. It appeared to work in every way similarly to Chris' old one, and he assumed that it would be fine when he got home. Fast forwarding a few hours, Chris sat in his bedroom, configuring the new equipment, when his faith in the shitty service took another blow. The pressure setting was incorrect. Also, for some reason, the machine kept displaying an error message. So, Chris called the shitty service and left a message. And another. And another. And he had to break a dinner date with his lovely girlfriend while waiting for a call back from the shitty service, who didn't call back. Chris tried to put the mask on and sleep, but it kept showing an error. He scoured the Internet for hours, searching for an answer. And finally, at three in the morning, he found it. The device that he had received, while appearing nearly identical to the one he had returned, actually needed pieces they hadn't given him in order to work! Infuriated and exhausted, Chris tried to go to sleep.
But here is the whole point of this saga. I have explained to you how sleep apnea makes you feel, when untreated. When it's treated, but you have to go a night without the treatment, there are some nifty extras. To review, sleep apnea means your body jolts you awake every time your throat closes, and you never get any restful sleep. Well, when you've become accustomed to the mask and sleeping silently, every time you snore, your body jolts you fully awake because of the combination of forcing yourself to breathe, and the noise of the snore, which, in Chris' case, is a rather loud occurrence. This is the actual "apnea," which comes from Greek and literally means, "without breathing."
To illustrate, I give you an evil yard gnome. This evil yard gnome (who is only coincidentally wearing FSU colors) perches on the nightstand next to your head. You lie down to sleep and the gnome reaches into his little gnome pouch and pulls out a giant, hand-held air horn labeled, "Apnea." (see right)
Every time you start to fall asleep, this gnome triggers a little blast from the air horn, startling you awake.
That's what it was like to be Chris last night, as he struggled to get to sleep, dogged by tiny little blats from an air horn, and the cackling of little FSU-colored gnomes in the night.
He woke up this morning with a dry mouth, dry eyes, feeling unrested, and in the shower he was visited by the bizarre image of a gnome with an air horn in his hand.
hey little fella, how are you doing today?: bitchy
soundtrack: Foo Fighters - Good Grief