“A Thanksgiving to Remember” by David Sills

"A Thanksgiving to Remember" by David Sills

On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving my CPAP machine gave up the ghost. It was like losing a trusted friend and companion of fifteen years, which had seemed as though it would never die. But the loss of this particular friend was not just unfortunate; it was frightening.

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is a common treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. A CPAP machine uses a hose connected to a mask or nosepiece to deliver constant and steady air pressure to help you breathe while you sleep. Without it, the airways can collapse, making it difficult or impossible to breathe, which in turn means that the person is jerked awake, often several times an hour, making restful sleep impossible.

Before the CPAP, I would wake up every morning in a daze, not having any idea why. When I told my doctor, he immediately scheduled a sleep study. A plethora of electrodes were attached to my head, some equipment was attached to monitor my breathing, and other equipment was attached to monitor my blood oxygen levels. I was in a strange bed and a nurse sat behind a glass partition watching me. I had to sleep on my back, which I never do. It was more than just very uncomfortable; I couldn’t sleep a wink all night.

A couple of hours before the end of the night, the nurse came in and explained that the test had essentially been useless, since I hadn’t slept enough to prove anything one way or the other. However, she said, there was one other thing we could try. I could try putting on a trial CPAP mask and she would run a CPAP as an experiment. We could try that for the remaining time and see what happened.

What happened was that I fell asleep almost instantly, even though I was on my back. When I woke, two hours later, I realized I hadn’t felt that good in years! I was clear-headed and brimming with energy!

The results of the sleep study were still inconclusive, but the write-up from the physician was sufficient to get me a CPAP machine for my use at home (the law mandates that CPAP machines must be dispensed by prescription). It was provisional: my insurance merely rented the machine; but I immediately noticed a huge difference in my experience of sleep and of life in general. I never slept without it again, until Tuesday night.

When I woke on Wednesday, my old symptoms were back. I could barely breathe for the elephant that seemed to be sitting on my chest; my head was fuzzy; I ached all over. Clearly, sleeping without the CPAP was not going to be an option.

I thought about what the process would be like. I would go in and see a pulmonologist; the pulmonologist would set up another sleep study; another terrible, frustrating night; the pulmonologist would examine the results; the pulmonologist and my insurance company would discuss how to proceed and what the latter would cover; and in the end another machine might be ordered.

I called all the pulmonologists in the area. None could see me for an initial appointment until after the new year. Sleep studies would take at least a month to arrange. Getting a new machine was going to be difficult, because a major CPAP manufacturer had just issued a product recall and everyone was scrambling to get hold of whatever machines were available as replacements. The initial estimates seemed universal that I might get a new machine by March or April. I was despondent for a moment.

Then I had a new thought. I thought, “I am a center of abundance and prosperity. Nothing I want or need can ever be denied me. I will order a CPAP machine to be shipped today and to arrive on Friday.” (OK, even a center of abundance and prosperity can’t make the Post Office work on Thanksgiving.) My initial despondency dropped away; my attitude now was all gratitude.

I began doing the research to decide what I wanted. I found the right machine, called the supplier, and they had it in stock. Yes, it was expensive: shortages will do that. But it was available, and I am a center of abundance and prosperity. Also, I had to weigh the expense against a night’s sleep. Well worth it.

I had a lengthy discussion with the staff of the supplier, who told me something I didn’t know, which was that the prescription didn’t have to come from a pulmonologist. Any doctor could supply it. All I had to do was get one faxed to them by 4:00 CT.

I called my GP and detailed everything I had found, and he agreed to issue the prescription. His office called later and said it had been faxed. I called the supplier and completed the last parts of the order. We were more than an hour under the deadline.

The machine was shipped (it is, appropriately, Thanksgiving as I am writing this), and I will get it tomorrow. I am grateful!

And so it is.

David Sills is a member here at Columbia Center for Spiritual Living.

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