Category: Health

My Snuffle Brings All the Boys to the Yard

The night i did the test, i settled in as best as i could. It’s not easy to sleep with things taped to your face and fingers. Not to mention the strap around your chest. The first time i did it, i apparently pulled off the probe on my finger not long after i fell asleep, so i was stuck doing it again. I really needed this to work because i didn’t want to have to go do it in one of their mock hotel rooms. That would be too much like a B horror movie.

It took a full album of thunderstorm sounds before i finally fell asleep. And when i woke up in the morning, all the lights were still blinking. Yeah! Success! So i pack up all the accoutrements, toss the sticky tapes, and drop it off at the sleep lab before i go to work. As i handed it to the tech, i told her that i didn’t imagine it had much bad news, since i felt like i had a particularly (And surprisingly ) good night’s sleep in spite of being wired up like a science experiment. She gave me a bit of a smile that i mistook for “Good for you!”

In reality, i later found out, it was more representative of, “If it were good, you wouldn’t have had to do it in the first place.”

I had opted to have a followup appointment to discuss my results instead of a phone call because i was curious about the mechanics and documentation of the measurements. So a couple weeks later, i’m in an examination room at the sleep lab office, and the PA comes in, shakes my hand, and says, “Yeah, i heard you had a good night’s sleep.”

“Yup. Hopefully it didn’t skew the test too much.”

“Uuuuhhh, seems unlikely. But if this was a good night for you, i’d hate to see a bad night.”

In one night’s sleep – a good night no less – i had 413 events. 4-fricking-13. Granted, i’ve heard of people having worse, but they were older or heavier or drank more. I’m an average weight healthy woman. I don’t fit the profile. Or so i thought. And when i voiced my surprise to the PA, he laughed. When i asked if he was joking about me needing the CPAP, he shook his head. When i said, “Do you have any idea how hard it is for a single, 52 year old woman to get a date WITHOUT having to wear a vacuum cleaner on her face at night? ” He offered that i could probably find a partner who also wore one so we could look like fighter pilots together – make it part of role play.

Smartass.

He went over the report with me line by line, graph by graph. There was no denying it. My middle of the night whale song was proven indicative of severe sleep apnea. (Leave it to me to skip straight to the high level. Oy)

So while i’m waiting for the insurance company to make false promises to the medical appliance company, i try to mitigate what i can. No sleep aids, no pain pills, no alcohol at night. I wear my little nose-opening strips, even knowing they are going to block my pores with their glue, or pop off and end up stuck someplace that didn’t need expanding. I doubt i’m really helping anything, but it makes me feel better to at least do a little something.

While i’m waiting for my new trunk (How big and bulky will it be? I know size doesn’t matter, but i’ve only got so much room next to my bed…,) i also do some reading about the condition and my test results. On the bright side, what few little health problems i have might actually get better if i can fix the sleep apnea, since most of them are at least peripherally related. That’s a plus. I will probably have more energy – Another plus – Which means i’ll be more likely to be active after work…. Which could mean losing those extra 5 lbs. – yet another plus.

So if i can learn to sleep while strapped in like a Borg, the payoff could easily be more than just an end to my overnight career as a fog horn. It could mean a lot of positive things.

That’s my story and i’m going to stick to it and tell myself it’s worth it, when i get depressed over having to sleep like i’m part of the Matrix.

**********

Day 1. With the help of a melatonin (Ok, two melatonin), I managed to sleep all night with my sexy new snuffle. Honestly, i do feel more awake than usual this morning, but that may be a placebo effect.  I check my report in the online app – And there is none. So i check the machine. No cell signal. Hmmm. Read the manual. Move the machine around the room. Still no wireless. Try plugging it in in the kitchen. Nope. The front porch. Nope. Considering my insurance company’s payment of said snuffle is depending on proof that i’m wearing it, i’d say we have a problem.

Read the manual. It says there is space for an SD card. Ok,. So there’s my fallback. Note to self: Buy a spare SD card today. (I probably have 50 lying arounnd the house somewhere, but of course i’m not going to find one when i need one.) The last bit of indignity would be to have to pay the full, uninsured bill for my  snore nozzle. Gotta fix that.

**********

Day 2. Last night i tried to adjust my attitude about the whole thing. Popped in an SD card. Strapped myself into my flight gear, took a pic of myself, and sent it out on Snapchat with the tagline, “My snuffle brings all the boys to the yard.” Here’s to humor – Helping to make the best of depressing things since forever. I look like i should be standing next to Sharon, Lois, and Bram and singing, “Skinnamarinky dinky dink, skinnamarinky doo….” But hey, at least i no longer sound like an Orca when i sleep. Or, at least i don’t think i do. It’s not like there is anyone here to tell me except SiriDog, and she won’t answer.

To help me get better used to this, i also turned off my morning alarm. There isn’t much variability in when i wake in the morning, so i wasn’t terribly worried. And true to history, i woke right before my alarm would have gone off. First thing i noticed was that i was instantly wide awake. My usual 5 minute transition has been shortened to almost nothing. Not sure if it’s my turbo hose or just the lack of an alarm, but that is kinda cool. I mean, i’ve always been a morning person – I wake fairly easily and without any grump; but it usually takes me 5 minutes or so to awaken the brain and the joints and the hands and the feet. Now it’s just, “Ok, i’m awake! Let’s go hunting snarks!”

I took the SD card to the sleep center and they checked my results. Success! Woo hoo!  My overall score went from 47 to 6. Yeah for me and my new grey appendage! At least i know my embarrassment is not for naught.

**********

It is almost my get-ready-for-bed time now, and i’m starting to feel tired. But that is most likely due to the fact that i had the energy for a full workout earlier. Another bonus. Energy for a decent workout. I can start looking forward to a waistline again. Hell, that alone might be incentive enough to keep wearing my face vacuum. Except that no one will want to see my waist because i will turn into a Kraken every night.

The Universe has a cruel sense of humor sometimes.

**********

Well, i fell asleep with no medication help and stayed strapped in all night. I guess i can get used to this. I may never like it, but i think i would hate the complications from sleep apnea more than i hate looking like an HVAC when i sleep. And, i suppose, the older i get, the more likely any potential overnight dates will have one as well. Of course, that whole premise hinges on actually having dates. So basically, the whole thing is a fantasy. So be it. In the end it boils down to this:

I’ve got shit to do. Places to visit. People to meet. New foods to try. Languages and dances to learn. Music to hear and play. Books to read. Things to create. Friends to make. And maybe even some grandchildren along the way. I can’t do that if i fall into decrepitude. My desire to check off items on my bucket list and have a wonderful life is greater than my embarrassment. So i will do what i’m supposed to do and be compliant with my personal mechanical robot. (“Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!”) I will strap myself in and ride the wild rubber hose every night. I will turn in my reports and make changes as needed. I will use the extra energy i gain to get off my arse and exercise more. And i encourage you, if you know you need it, to do it as well. Because the only thing worse than growing old is denying yourself the opportunity.

Potty Mouth

Tonight i am preparing for a very important event. Cancelled all my other plans, bought a fancy bottle of drink that i’ve never tried before, donned a special outfit, lit some candles…. You’d think everything would be perfect for a first date. Or an anniversary celebration. Or a sensual interlude. And it probably would be, if that is what i were preparing for.

But i’m not.

All of that stuff that sounds so romantic takes on a whole new light when i tell you i’m preparing for my “Welcome to Middle Age” screening colonoscopy.

A strong flavored juice to cover the taste of the laxative seemed like a good idea. And the first 2 glasses were easily tolerable. Now that i’m about halfway through two liters of “The fastest way to lose five pounds”, i’m pretty sure that just the smell of tropical flavor fruit juice is going to cause me nausea for the next couple years. Hopefully it won’t affect my ability to enjoy tropical drinks on the beach. Note to self: Next time, pick something that i will never, ever want to drink otherwise. Like Cheerwine. Or hemp milk. That way i don’t risk ruining potential future vacations.

I’m decked out in sweatpants and sweatshirt – Something i rarely do. I know that there is nothing wrong with sweatpants, but i have this irrational fear that Liam Neeson will break down on my street, and when he comes to my house to ask for help,  i’ll unwittingly answer the door looking like a schlump. And wouldn’t that be a total tragedy? Because, you know, it would take celestial aligning for him to break down on my street… I wouldn’t want to spoil it by having him see me look dumpy. But i also know that if i try to undo belts and zippers every time this prep-kit works its magic, i risk ruining a pair of nice pants. Nice pants that really fit and look good are too hard to come by. Liam will have to deal.

The candles are dual purpose. First, the only thing worse than having Liam catch me in sweatpants would be if i opened the door, and the cottage smelled like a sewer. And second, sometimes in the face of a bout of misery, you have to take the bright spots where you can. I love candles. They make anything more special. Even this. In fact, this needed a lot of bright spots, so i lit a lot of candles and put on some of my favorite music to boot (An Amazon playlist of Requiems, if you care.) At least a couple parts of my body are happy and at peace. That’s definitely better than none. I’ll take it.

I know some (Most) of you are wondering why i am posting this. If you read my ramblings often, the answer won’t surprise you.

Like so many other things in life, there are things that we all go through, but no one talks openly about. Unsightly things. Embarrassing things. Hard-to-admit things. And by avoiding the topics, we make hard things even more difficult. Whether it is parenting, aging, sex, our faulty bodies… By refusing to discuss them, bitch about them, even laugh about them, we make it worse for ourselves. On top of all the discomfort we face, we compound it with the worry that we’re doing it wrong. Or that we’re abnormal. When in reality, everyone before us could have assured us that it’s a well-worn path. Making the subject taboo in conversation also perpetuates fear and anxiety about it. And most of us have plenty of fear and anxiety already without adding to it. Better to cleanse the air of mystery.

Just don’t cleanse it with laxative if you can avoid it.

I told a few people about what i was facing at the surgery center tomorrow. I mostly did this because i wanted to see how people would respond. Everyone who has ever had one either offered advice, joked about their own experience, or just gave that empathetic grin that let you know they feel your pain. No one responded with horror or disgust.

Granted, these were people who knew me, so it’s unlikely that hearing me bring up a not-ready-for-prime-time topic surprised them at all.

Nor would any of them find it unusual that i would be stressing the importance of preventative health by making jokes about it. That’s what i do. I talk and joke about stuff – Especially stuff that others don’t.

So i’ve been talking about tomorrow’s colonoscopy. It has made it a little less daunting. Well, some of that is the talking. Some of it is the promise of some solid Propofol-induced sleep. Some of it is the thought of a thinner waist in the morning. Some of it is knowing that i am taking care of myself. And some of it is because i know i will treat myself the day after with something really yummy. Between all of that, and my pretty candles and nice music, it isn’t unbearable. I’d still rather be eating calamari on the beach, but it isn’t terrible. In fact, i’ve been on first dates that were far worse. So i can definitely take this in stride. I got this. Yup yup.

And Liam, if your car breaks down and you have to come here, please forgive the sweatpants.

Serenity In Tinnitus

I opened my eyes early this morning after my phone chirped to inform me of our first frost warning of the season. When i looked out my window, i could see my American flag blowing in what appeared to be a good breeze. Seeing how i was all snuggled under my new duvet, i decided to hop up and crack the window so i could listen to the sound of the wind as i took my leisure in waking.

I snuggled back under the covers, but my tinnitus is too loud for me to hear the wind. I hate the way it gets so bad sometimes.

But then i get to thinking… Does the tinnitus really wax and wane, or is it just that other sounds sometimes take my focus? I rarely am overpowered by it at work, for example. It is possible that, for whatever reason, it isn’t as bad at that time. But it seems equally as likely that my mind is in “work mode”, and so is ignoring the whooshing and ringing in my ears to concentrate on the sounds of the office. I give it a shot and try to focus on the sound of the wind. Still no luck. So i try harder. But the discordant droning in my head plays on.

Grrrrrrr. Stupid ears!

I remember reading somewhere that TMJ issues can worsen tinnitus. Since i have had long-term TMJ damage with multiple corrective surgeries, i deduce that maybe my growing frustration isn’t helping matters any, and try the opposite route. I physically relax my body, breathe deep, and try to forget about the wind, concentrating instead on the feel of the duvet against my skin and the leftover scent of the infuser i set last night. It doesn’t seem to work at first…

But as i continue to breathe in the custom blend i made last night (Clary sage, geranium, and tangerine, in case you’re interested) and revel in how good my bed feels; little snippets of rustling leaves come to me. And as dawn begins to break, the owls start with Last Call.

My neighborhood owls are freakin’ LOUD.

That definitely claims my aural attention.

And once it is there, the rest of nature follows suite and starts wandering into my ears. For a few minutes, i think of nothing else but those sounds. Those beautiful, god-like sounds.

Then the thought comes to me – I wonder if that is what serenity is? Letting those god-like moments claim your focus, instead of all the crap we encounter day-to-day guiding our thoughts? When i am listening to the owls and the wind and the rain, my tinnitus isn’t really gone… Whether by biology or psychology, it is just relegated to the background. What if i could learn to take that same approach to the rest of life? What if, instead of attaching my attention to bills, and politics, and the ever-wobblier hi-helens under my arms, and the inconsiderate schmuck who came barrel-assing the wrong way up a one way parking lot lane this morning and nearly ran me over… Effing moron…. What if i could redirect myself to occupy my mind with the wonderful things my weedlings do, the taste of the perfect tea blend in my cup, the music coming out of my laptop (One of my favorites – The Ramin Djawadi Amazon Prime station), and the scent of autumn that is in the air? The crap that life tosses at us, sometimes like it’s playing a championship game of dodgeball, wouldn’t go away. But just like the tinnitus, perhaps it can be relegated to a less prominent part of my brain, and therefore, become less annoying.

I’m not talking about the serious issues that need to be dealt with here. Health problems, personal safety, parenting – true responsibilities…. These are things that need tending and should never be ignored. I’m talking about the guttersnipe who cut ahead of you in line at the deli. The demon who keeps stealing your reading glasses and hiding them in places you KNOW you didn’t leave them. The evil pranksters who choose the fit models for every women’s clothing company in America. The piece-of-dung reprobate who uses the last of the toilet paper and doesn’t replace it. And the unforgiving rush-hour traffic gods.

You know – The generic assholes and frustrating drudgery that are the gristle on the meat of life.

Lets face it, we can’t get rid of these things, so it doesn’t really make sense to let them rule our moods. I, for one, am incapable of doing this without help. Hell, even with help, i am often incapable. So i am hoping that regular practice of my morning tinnitus breakthrough might gain me a little ground and growth in that area. Maybe it will make me a more relaxed person. If i can just learn to turn my attention away from unhelpful things.

I think this is why the yoga crowd is usually far more peaceful… They’ve learned how to focus all their attention on not falling over when they are standing on one toe with their other appendages fanned out like an abstract peacock – Thereby stealing their focus from the bullshit of life. You rarely see a yoga instructor screaming obscenities at the driver in front of them, so it must work.

If i am wrong, don’t tell me. Let me stay deluded. I need something to hope for.

I am going to try this kind of deliberate redirection of concentration as a life theory. It won’t be easy. I mean, it took my obnoxiously loud neighborhood owls to snap my attention to the wind. Perhaps i need to occasionally smack myself upside the head with some lavender branches or smoosh my face into a slice of freshly baked bread (You know, to make sure i get both the taste AND the smell…) I do have some tools already in my arsenal, but they won’t work for all occasions. I have been known, for example,  to visit the cubicles of certain people at work during high stress times because their hugs have enough warm energy to pull my brain away from the frustration; but i can’t be doing that every time i need to chill… Human Resources would take issue with it, and i’d never meet my deadlines. So i need to find other figurative loud owls. If there were a cannoli shop close by, that would work, but my arse would probably grow to be the size of Wisconsin – So i’m probably lucky i don’t have one near me. I will have to come up with something that doesn’t get me in hot water or worsen my aging bat wings.

But a cannoli really does sound like a good idea.

Anyway, so here’s to continued efforts to learn to drown out those things we cannot change. To cut out the moldy bit in the corner and enjoy the rest of the perfectly aged cheddar. To take pleasure in the intense blue of the sky in spite of the weather report for rain later. To be proud that we earn a paycheck rather than being disheartened at the amount of it. To remember the man who held the door instead of the one that cut us off. To live by compliments rather than insults. If we can find that serenity, perhaps it will boost out courage to change the things we can, and increase our wisdom in knowing the difference.

 

First World Health Care

Looking at bills from my recent surgery, i have to wonder how so many do it. Manage to take care of themselves without going into bankruptcy.

I work for a hospital. Tho not in any danger of living a life of luxury, i am well compensated enough that i am able to pay my bills without juggling them. (Something i never had til recently.) I have commercial insurance that my employer subsidizes, and truly, my cost per month isn’t terrible. I had a short-term disability benefit to cover my salary while i was recovering. And yet, i am having to engage a payment plan to pay for surgery that was a necessity.

At just under $5,000, my out-of-pocket is manageable over time for me. And i am grateful. But what if it had been my daughter who needed it?

She is an hourly worker. A florist. Works her tail off managing a flower shop at a modest rate of pay that is likely a bit above average in her industry (A testament to her talent and diligence.) But her employer offers no benefits. She makes too much to qualify for a government plan, but not enough to afford a commercial one. She isn’t a slacker – She works hard, tries to live within her budget, pays her taxes – Everything we expect of an upstanding citizen. And yet, if she were injured, she would lose everything. The $25,000 of overall medical costs would break her for more than half a decade, especially considering the amount of work time she would lose during recovery.

I can’t imagine what it would be like if she had a child.

Everyone has an issue with those who are capable, but choose not to work and remain on the dole. But there are millions of people in this country who ARE working. Working their asses off. Doing what they are supposed to do. Not spending money on a bunch of frillies or drugs. Just getting by with the essentials.  And health care is off-limits to them financially. Yes, there are funds available. There are private benefactors who contribute to funding as well. And that is wonderful. But it isn’t enough to cover the gap. We have some government representatives who are fighting for people like my daughter. But not enough of them. We have health care providers who make exceptions and volunteer services on a regular basis. But they can’t cover it all.

We are trying hard, but still failing.

I have heard arguments for and against government healthcare, single-payor plans, pocket-pay and free market systems. None of them is a cure-all.

Yet another instance where we know what doesn’t work, but don’t really know what will. Or at least i don’t.

All i know is, having grown up without the money to have the kind of healthcare i enjoy now… Hell, the kind of life i enjoy now… to know how blessed i am, even as i realize that i am still far closer to the bottom of the food chain than the top… I want to be part of a society that provides help for those who are struggling in spite of their strong efforts. I want to be part of a country that says, “If you are working hard, i’ll help you any way that i can.” A country where children and the elderly receive what they need.

And a country where those of us who are able to manage without help remember that not everyone is as lucky. And we have to help look out for them.