Proddings and Pokings
(‘tis a long and sordid tale best told in shortish bites)
Funny thing about breathing. If it stops so do you.
I have had many challenges over the years struggling for breath.
It’s a scary thing not to be able to get enough air to walk more than a few steps at a time. Puts a very different perspective on life.
The breath of life came into my life in a very big way back in June last year.
But let’s step back a bit further than that. Two years ago I changed doctors. I had a chest infection. And asthma. So not something to be scoffed at. Needed to see someone just before Christmas and mine was closed for a month over the holidays! So I found a new clinic just around the corner that’s open seven days a week year round. Great. Got treated. Liked the service so changed over to that clinic. Made all kinds of sense.
My new doctor has proved to be very diligent. She tested, prodded and poked. She sent a flurry of referrals and orders for more tests, prodding and poking.
And referred me to a couple of specialists for more tests, prodding and poking. All in the name of being thorough. To rule out anything untoward. Or treat if said untoward warranted it.
And of course with all that prodding and poking they did find things untoward. Hidden from view. Hidden from my awareness. Other than the breathing thing. That, I was very aware of.
Just what did they find? Two biggies. Atrial Fibrillation (AF) and Sleep apnoea. These two untoward things apparently often go hand in hand. Which is the horse and which is the cart is not clear. Or to coin another unrelated animal metaphor – which comes first, the chicken or the egg. All that is irrelevant. I have them both. And they need to be treated.
You can imagine my surprise. I have never experienced any symptoms of AF. No chest pain, no sensation of weirdness with heart beat. Probably had it for years. I have since found out my brother has it too. It’s there in plain sight when the right proddings and pokings are done. And it can cause nasty things like strokes and heart attacks. Ouch. I was hardly going to refuse treatment once I knew all that. It seems one of the chambers in the heart is not pumping the blood around very well. The AF is treated with pills. And regular check ups with the cardiologist. He’s happy. The pills are doing their job.
I now take a blood thinner and a tablet that keeps the heart rate in check. Just got to be careful I don’t bleed to death. A while back a careless cut on my thumb took two and half days to stop bleeding . Every time I knocked it on something off it would go again.
The sleep apnoea is a whole other story. For the diagnosis to be confirmed I needed to have a sleep study. I had one at home. Didn’t know that was a thing. I fully expected to spend a night in a sleep clinic hooked up to all sorts of machines. Instead, I went to a walk in clinic. They hooked me up with wires all over my face, chest and legs. And suggested it might be best to go straight home as I would probably create a bit of a stir in public view. That night I followed instructions and switched the device on.
I had the worst sleep ever. Four hours. Convinced I would need to do it again, I de-wired myself and took the stuff back to the clinic. Turns out they had enough data. Getting the report back took For. Ever. And when I did get it, I was angry. Because it was not good news and they had not bothered to prioritise it.
Long story short – I had severe sleep apnoea. The study showed I had 44 events of stopping to breathe in one hour. Anything over 30 is considered severe. It becomes an event if you stop breathing for ten seconds or more. Seriously? When did I actually get time to breathe at all ?! Not just that, but my oxygen saturation was down to 77. Anything under 90 is concerning. OMG. My poor cells are starving of oxygen. Have been for years. No wonder I was tired all the time. And fell asleep a lot during the day. I’m not even going to go into what oxygen deprivation does to the brain and the heart and every other organ and bit in the body…..
The respiratory specialist put me through probably the most thorough assessment I have ever had in my life. I got asked about pets, and tingles in the legs and all sorts of weirdnesses. And then he wrote me a script for a CPAP. That’s one of those breathing machines that works like a bellows pumping air into lungs. And told me to start a trial. Gave me a list of places where I could rent one. And told me not to get scammed as they would probably try and make me buy one before I was ready to make those decisions.
Ok….learning curve. Huge. Learning. Curve.
My fingers did a lot of walking over the next few days as I searched for a place to rent a breathing machine. I found a small, local family business. They were very good and got me in for an appointment very quickly. I had no idea what to expect. They told me it would take an hour. I wondered what could take so long. All I needed was to rent a machine.
This is not a short story.
Still to come – Pt 2 The Bellows
Pt 3 FoamGate and beyond