I Am Cyborg

Okay, not really, but I sure looked like one last night. Alternately my look was referenced as reminiscent of Dune, The Empire Strikes, and the Matrix.

Back on July 21, I mentioned that I was getting a sleep study. Last night was my night.

I showed up at 9:00 pm, pajamas and pillow in my possession, filled out a questionnaire about my day, then was shown to my room and given time to change and relax. After about 40 minutes, a technician came in and began to hook me up. By the time he’d finished, I had several leads attached to my head, a couple to my upper chest, and even two on the outside of each calf. These all led to a central unit that was portable. They taped a microphone to my throat so they could listen for my snoring and also monitor when I needed to go to the bathroom (while that central unit was portable, it still required being plugged into their telemetry network, and so I needed assistance with unplugging from the wall when I needed to relieve myself). They put two cannulas in my nose, one of which had a small attachment that curved down to rest in front of my mouth. The technician helped me get into bed with all the wires attached all over my body and then put a pulse oximeter on my right index finger to measure the amount of oxygen in my blood throughout the night. The lights were turned out, and I rolled onto one side to try and get some sleep.

Sleeping with all those wires around me made me feel like a kitten that was wrapped in an unraveled ball of yarn. It was exceedingly difficult to get off to sleep, and when I finally felt sleep coming on, I would need to shift to get comfortable and the process would start all over again. This happened several times before I actually got some rest. I awoke several times throughout the night, and I estimated that I got maybe two hours and 45 minutes of sleep all night.

At 5:00 am, I was awoken by a knock on the door. It was my technician, who was there to remove all the leads and send me on my way. After that process finished up, I went into the restroom and cleaned up the best I could – to help ensure the leads were securely fastened to my body throughout the night, they used wax underneath the lead and surgical tape over it (the leads on my chest and calves used the standard round adhesive pads, but because it was important for them to check to see if I had restless leg syndrome, they waxed and taped the leads on my calves as well). It took a little doing, but I finally got most of the wax off, changed clothes, filled out an exit questionnaire, and went out to wait for my wife to pick me up. (Remember, we’re a one-car family.)

Once I got home, I bypassed the shower I desperately felt I needed in favor of getting a few more hours of sleep.

Later on this afternoon, they called me with the results. I have sleep apnea, a disorder in which the sufferer has one or more pauses in their breathing while they sleep. During the time I was asleep, I stopped breathing once every ten minutes on average, which was relatively low – but that was enough to drop my blood oxygen level down to as low as 78% – a very disconcerting thing to learn was happening in my sleep. So this Friday night, I go back for a follow-up. This time I’ll be testing some face masks to see which is most comfortable, and then head back to sleep once more so they can measure the pressure that I’ll need in the CPAP that they’ll be prescribing me. (CPAP stands for “continuous positive airway pressure,” which essentially means that throughout the evening, I will have air gently forced into my lungs through the use of either a nasal or face mask that’s strapped to my head.) Once they have that data, they’ll be contacting my insurance and determining which machine will be best for me.

So that was my evening last night. Hope yours was more restful and less wiry.


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