This post is a wee bit longer than my usual posts. Awareness is Important!
It’s been four years since I started treatment for Severe Sleep Apnea. It’s changed my life! Or maybe I should say that I never realized before just how my living with undiagnosed/untreated sleep apnea over the years had affected my life.
OSA (Obstructive Sleep Apnea) is one of the most under-diagnosed conditions that can ultimately lead to serious, life-threatening consequences if left untreated. It affects men, women and children; overweight and thin … and it has many causes.
Upon reaching my 70th birthday, what I considered to be a fairly healthy life began to spiral downward with a series of symptoms that were puzzling for both me and my doctors. Over the years I had had what seemed to be age-related medical issues that I was quick to address for the best outcome. Looking back, in hindsight, I can now connect the dots to what I’ve come to understand were symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea.
There were times over the past 30 plus years where I struggled with low energy, feelings of depression, racing heart, nausea, fainting spells and anxiety. Coping with everyday stresses were also complicated by the early onset of menopause in my late thirties. Most of the time I approached these symptoms in a proactive way without medication by learning about exercise, diet and mind/body balance techniques. Never in all my proactive approaches over the years did I ever learn, nor was it ever brought up by the doctors I’d seen, that I might have Sleep Apnea. There were thyroid checks, blood tests and heart tests ~ along with reassurances that nothing abnormal was found other than an insignificant tricuspid-valve leakage. In the early Eighties it was confirmed through FSH blood tests that I was indeed in the middle of early menopause.
Then, as I approached my seventies, symptoms became more troubling. The expected onset of spinal stenosis, along with a family history of joint replacements, were complicated by vascular symptoms in my legs where I would lose control of coordination and feeling. There was a series of surgeries over the next years for EVLT (Edo-Venous Laser Treatment), Lumbar Laminectomy and, last but not least, THR (Total Hip Replacement). It was while I was in the hospital right after the THR surgery that my son, a cardiologist, saw that I had stopped breathing which immediately confirmed his suspicions that I might have Sleep Apnea. My cardiologist was contacted and a sleep study was ordered.
Up until that time, it was progressively looking like I was developing A-Fib and Tachycardia. I was prescribed blood pressure medication and set up with a heart monitor for tracking the events where my heart rate would become so fast that I couldn’t read a pulse. I’d be waking up many times in the night with my heart pounding so hard I could feel it in my neck. When walking up an incline I was finding myself short of breath and was attributing it to signs of aging. A trip to the Emergency Room after I passed out at work forced my decision to stop part-time work. The ER doctor did all sorts of tests while I was there. His final diagnosis was Vasovagal Syncope (fainting) and he sent me on my way. No mention of Sleep Apnea.
So, when I received the call from the Pulmonologist who prescribed the Sleep Study for me four years ago I was stunned by what she told me. I had Severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea! No way! AHI 43 events per hour (stopped breathing); Sleep efficiency @ 51%; Oxygen level @ 80% (dangerous).