Sleep Apnea (Part Two of Three Parts)

When I told Dr. Washburn that I was sleeping well at night, he explained to me that my apneas (breathing stops) would cause my brain to shout, “Wake up, wake up and breathe” I would start breathing and be right back to sleep without even realizing that I woke up. There were times that I probably woke up without realizing why and thought I had to use the potty explaining why I would go up to 10 times a night.

Having the apnea documented in order for insurance to pay for the therapy is a hoop jumping process. I went through a regimen of tests which included x-rays and blood tests to rule out everything else, a home sleep study, a lab sleep study and four pulse Oximetry’s.

The first test was pulse oximetry I had that showed a significant drop in heart rate when I slept. I don’t recall the numbers but the pulmonologist explained that I woke up 94 times. I was in denial because I certainly didn’t remember waking that many times. He explained that when my heart rate dropped or I stopped breathing, my brain would alert me to wake up and start breathing. He said I wouldn’t be conscious of being awake for the periods of time it took to start breathing again because they were very short. A technician also explained to me that we can be awake without being conscious of it which explains my being awake for two hours without it seeming like it. As if that wasn’t scary enough, I did a home sleep study that showed that I stopped breathing 699 times in about 6 hours.

I was put on a trial 30 day CPAP (Constant Positive Airway Pressure) therapy. The CPAP provider monitors my sleep and breathing activity by transmissions from my machine directly to them and the provider keeps the Pulmonologist apprised.

I had to have an in-lab sleep study done after the 30 day trial period to show that the therapy was working. My apneas were greatly reduced though my heart rate still drops enough that the pulmonologist wanted to add oxygen titration to my machine. The study showed that it wasn’t much under the satisfactory minimum so Medicare said no. Heck, I was just happy to have them pay for the machine and supplies. I had been fortunate in that I had turned 65 right before the therapy was prescribed so I had to go on Medicare in addition to Blue Cross Blue Shield. Medicare has less stringent requirements than Blue Cross. I am sure I would have qualified even for Blue Cross since my tests showed the Sleep Apnea to be severe.

 

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