7 min 19 sec read
Have you ever had trouble falling asleep?
You know then of what I speak.
THIS IS A LONG WINDED INTRODUCTION
In 1997, I was working in the porch on our house.
I was stripping paint from the narrow beadboard woodwork.
After using a gel stripper to remove the paint, I still had to sand where each strip of board met up with the one next to it.
This was taxing when I was working overhead. It has extremely punishing work on the neck and shoulders.
Well, I finally finished the overhead part and began work on the door frame and was not doing the walls or window frames.
Hopefully, when completed it would appear that the stripped and varnished parts would be an accent to the white walls and window frames.
This was a porch built in 1927 so there were a lot of windows.
Dividers above the front door and the exterior door.
Lots of stripping to do. And after that, I had to strip the floor.
I thought the floor would be the easiest part of the job since it was flat and I didn’t need to stand on a ladder.
There were eight coats of paint on the floor to strip before I got down to the wood grained floor.
But that is getting ahead of myself.
I had the front door frame to strip.
There were eight frames for the windows. The windows were six inches by eight inches. The framing between the windows was narrow but detailed.
I patted myself on the back and decided to just touch up the framing and just put on a new of varnish.
I started to paint the gel stripper on the vertical portions of the door frame.
What just happened?
The whole floor was ablaze!
Flames licking from the edges of the floor where stripper had fallen. Encircling the whole outside edge of the porch!
I was stomping as fast as I could.
I panicked and hollered for my wife to help me.
It was scary. Flames licking every there was stripper.
Finally, we put the flames out.
Sitting outside on the front steps I couldn’t catch my breath!
I huffed and huffed and gasped and gasped. But I still could not catch my breath.
It was late summer, and the evening was cool which made breathing easier.
What in the world had happened? How did the fire start?
It took several days to figure that mystery.
Later I examined the door frame.
A doorbell buzzer!
I hadn’t disconnected the power supply from the button.
As the gel slide down the wood frame, it eventually came in contact with the live wire of the doorbell.
A fireball flew out of the connection and dropped to the floor where more stripper awaited the flame.
The flame spread lightning fast around the inside edge of the porch.
I don’t know how long we took to stomp out the flames, but it felt like an eternity.
The next day was a Monday, a workday.
I drove to work still feeling punk from the prior evening’s excitement.
I got to work and sat in the breakroom.
I still couldn’t catch my breath!
I called my doctor, and he said to get to the hospital at once.
The hospital was a short drive, around 10 miles.
I stood outside the emergency room door and sucked down another cigarette!
I entered the door and walked the few steps to the desk.
When asked I said I couldn’t catch my breath.
An orderly pounced on a wheelchair and flew me into an awaiting room.
It was a long time from getting underdressed to the time a doctor came.
I was on my way to undergo heart catheterization.
What? I couldn’t catch my breath! It was my lungs not my heart!
The nurse assured me it was my heart. A wire would be inserted in an artery in my groin and the cardiologist would snake it up the artery and see what was going on in my heart.
Four blockages. Four!
I later learned that I qualified for the ‘real’ heart repair club. The requirement was to undergo more than three blockages to qualify.
THE REST OF THE STORY
Now you know the back story. We can move forward.
While in the hospital I complained of my legs were driving me to DISTRACTION!
I didn’t remember my wife telling me my legs would jump at night and kick her. We had a kingsize mattress, so we weren’t sleeping squished into the bed.
Now the story begins.
They told me I woke up frequently during the night. What?
They scheduled me for a sleep study for a time after my convalescence.
They diagnosed my kicking legs as Restless Leg Syndrome.
In 1997 there wasn’t much known regarding this condition and much less medication to help in resolving it.
The Sleep Study was not painful. A bit aggravating yes. But it was nothing I had to study for.
I check into the section of the hospital where the studies were done. I was glad there was nothing I had to prepare for a study to take the test.
After checking into the hospital, they hooked me up with as many wires as they attached during heart surgery or so it seemed.
They assigned me a room and told to sleep. Yeah right!
A strange bed, a strange room, and a strange pillow. Not to mention as a jumble of wires sticking to every section of my skull and chest.
I dozed off because they woke me up and hooked me up with a mask.
There was a machine that pumped air into the mask was attached to my face.
Later I was woken up again. This time it was morning!
The nurse asked me if I was refreshed.
I had not felt so good after a spending a night laying in bed in… forever. And it was only four hours!
During the sleep study, they discovered I stopped breathing 90 times A MINUTE!
Sleep Apnea specifically obstructive sleep apnea was my curse.
I learned it was a CPAP (Continuous Positive Air Pressure) machine.
I ran to the Medical Equipment store and requested one ASAP!
They had one in stock and I snatched it up and received instruction on how to use it.
The first night was a struggle to figure out the contraption and how to fit in on my face whether to start the machine with ‘ramping’ the air flow or just start full blast.
The next morning I woke.
I felt like I had just drunk nectar from the gods (I was hung up on Greek Mythology at the time).
Boy, I felt like a new person, I had not slept like that in many many years, if ever.
I was now on a CPAP machine and could be given medication to help resolve the Restless Legs.
There were only a few choices at that time.
My doctor and I finally settled on clonazepam. It came with its own set of issues.
When I kept an appointment at the VA Hospital in Mpls, the doctor put me on ‘Ropinerole’ (generic ‘Requip’).
It too had its own issues as I was to find out later.
If you are having trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep, help is available.
Check with your doctor. Your local hospital may have a Sleep Study Lab.
If possible, please use it. You deserve a much more comfortable life.
Don’t worry about the cost of the CPAP machine. Insurance will cover the cost of it (around $1,500+).
The supplies are not exorbitant.
Even when I didn’t have insurance, I found a supplier on the internet that supplied me for a very reasonable cost per month (less than $10).
You will then have a diagnosis on why you can’t sleep.
I guarantee you will be pleasantly surprised at the results.
I have heard people, usually, men, don’t use a CPAP machine. They don’t like it.
I have rarely heard such cockamamie nonsense.
Some people say it takes time to get used to the machine blowing air down your throat. I can understand that. There are times my mouth feels dry and irritated.
The dry mouth also has a nasty effect on your teeth.
If I had a do-over I would you a mouth ‘moistener’. Bacteria grows fast in a dry environment.
I didn’t have an issue once the Restless Legs were under control.
The issues range from the noise that might irritate people. The machines are comparatively quiet now but my wife still wears earplugs.
Some issues are due to the mask itself. It might not be the correct size or it may have a leak along the edges. They will be overcome with practice and patience.
Then there are the psychological issues.
Perhaps you may feel claustrophobic.
You might notice difficulty tolerating the forced air.
As the article “CPAP Machines: Tips for avoiding 10 common problems” encourages: “Time and Patience are the keys. CPAP can positively affect the quality of your life and health.”