I have always been able to sleep well, blocking out almost any noise that might interfere with a lighter sleeper’s rest. However, when the man in my life developed signs of sleep apnea, experiencing period during which he wouldn’t breathe, I started to wake up and count the amount of time that he would go without taking his next breath. When it got to 14 seconds, I would shake him to wake him up so that he would take a breath. It didn’t take long to figure out that something was seriously wrong.
Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that reduces oxygen levels and can result in damage to the heart, high blood pressure and problems with mood and memory. It also leads to a higher number of automobile accidents because fatigued drivers fall asleep behind the wheel.
When “James” went to his doctor, he was referred to a sleep clinic for further study. The first night he spent there was to determine how much sleep he was getting, the quality of sleep and whether he needed sleep therapy. He did. The second time he had to spend the night was to determine the right settings for his CPAP machine. This machine uses forced air to keep the airway open so that the person doesn’t stop breathing during the night. Getting used to wearing the mask and sleeping during the oxygen therapy can be difficult and some people never master it. James was determined to adapt and he worked with the professionals to accomplish his goal.
James has been successfully using his CPAP machine for about 6 years, sleeping soundly and achieving a deep enough sleep to have dreams for the first time in a long time. Not only is he able to sleep comfortably with the machine, but he finds it difficult to sleep without it. That is why it has become such a problem for us since his CPAP machine has stopped working.
The first problem we encountered was with his insurance company. With a significant deductible and the start of a new year, the first $1,500 of the charges are not covered. When you purchase a CPAP machine through your insurance, they are just over $1,500, according to the medical supply company that we got his last one from. You can also order them online without going through the insurance for about half the price. Other options include rentals through some medical supply companies. This is the option we chose to go with when we learned about the second problem. The CPAP Cleaning is acquired with a prescription. All we needed was his original prescription that specified the settings on his machine so that the new one could be set. Much easier said than done.
From the sleep clinic where the sleep study was performed to his primary care physician, no one has been willing to provide the prescription with the settings. Instead, they want to “see him” to make sure his settings are working for him. Of course, the only appointments that they have available are two to three months away.
James has been without his CPAP machine for over two weeks now and is showing some of the same symptoms that drove us to the sleep clinic in the first place. I have tried to explain to these health care professionals that he was doing fine with the original settings but not so much without any machine at all. Every time he leaves the house to work, I am scared that he will end up in an accident.
While we seem to have run out of options in spite of every attempt at getting a replacement machine, I want others to know two things: The importance of recognizing the symptoms of sleep apnea and getting the diagnosis you need for treatment, and preparing ahead for the inevitable death of the CPAP machine. Know your insurance coverage and find out what the sleep clinic expects in the way of regular checkups. Don’t wait until you get in a bind to find out that the concern of the professionals only lasts through the initial visit and sleep study and that you aren’t going to get the same concern the next time around without giving everyone their cut.