Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Sleep(less) Study

For those of you that haven't been through the process of bariatric surgery, let me share with you something you might not know. You don't just decide that you want to have the surgery done, contact a surgeon and go for it. No, no, no. This whole process is a labyrinth of online courses and quizzes, paperwork, appointments and testing and studies and more appointments. No fewer than 4 people must decide you are stable enough for the surgery. Not just physically stable, but mentally as well. Shockingly, I have gotten the go-ahead from all four. That is not to say it wasn't without it's challenges.

One major hurdle for me was the sleep test. At my initial appointments I was given a home test to read my sleep pattern. I have known for quite some time that my sleep quality was abysmal. I'm up frequently throughout the night. But quite honestly the thought of wearing one of those masks made me feel like I was going to freak out like Maverick on his first flight after he lost Goose. (that's right - it was serious enough to compare it to Top Gun) But one of the many requirements, oddly enough, for them to perform surgery on you is to insure you can actually continue to breathe while you're sedated/sleeping. They sited some silly desire to actually have you wake up after the surgery.. weird. Anyway - so I took the home test. I woke up a few times and the cord to the reader on my finger had come unhooked. A couple of other times it had shut off all together. One time the sensors in my nose had come completely off my face. I suspected it wasn't going to be enough for me to pass. I was correctly.

I got a call from the sleep study people advising it was probable that I was rocking some pretty severe sleep apnea, and I would need to do an overnight study at the hospital. Great. The first appointment wasn't until the end of October, so in the meantime I would wait, and continue to sleep like crap. But alas, there was a cancellation - I could come in that day! And so I showed up for my 9pm check in like any 40 year old would - with my pillows in tow.

They put me in my room to do some paperwork, and advised my tech would be with me shortly. Having not been sufficiently warned about what I was getting myself into - I showed up with damp, freshly washed hair. Mistake. (Don't waste your time washing your hair - they're going to use paste - yes, paste - on your head) I was taken to a room to have the electrodes attached. You might think they would only need a few around my nose and throat to get accurate readings on my sleep issues/snoring/blocked airways. You would be so very wrong.

Sexy as hell!!
Two on each leg, with wires running down through my clothes. Two bands around my middle and chest. Electrodes on each temple. 3 on my chin, 2 on my chest and no fewer than 6 on my scalp. Each spot "cleaned" with citrus compound that was grainy, and then "paste" to keep the electrodes attached. Most were also then covered by tape. I was starting to feel like he was trying to "Weird Science" me. So I was advised I could head back to my room. He'd attach the rest of them there. "the rest"????!!?!?! Oh, yes. one more electrode on my throat, where my adam's apple would be if I were a dude, or if I was re-telling the Crying Game - attached with the largest piece of tape that still has my delicate flesh irritated. Then he put not one, but 2 sets of sensors up my nostrils, both with cords/tubes that went behind each ear and attached below my chin. Finally it was time to lay down, get comfy and rest. Oh! Did I forget to mention I couldn't lay on my left side or my stomach. Guess where I spend most of my time while sleeping. You guessed it. So we were off to a great start! At least I got to watch an episode of One Day at a Time while I waited for him to finish hooking me up.

He turned of the lights, turned on the camera and did the test call into the room to make sure everything was hooked up correctly - - flex each foot, breathe deep, hold your breath and push your stomach in and out, using only your eyes - look right, left, up down, clench your jaw. OK. Everything is working. Enjoy your sleep. Annnnnnddddd silence. I always listen to a show on my iPad while I fall asleep at home, and have my fan running. But I had to turn my phone off so it didn't "interfere" and it was freezing with my damp hair so the fan wasn't needed. And so I laid there. And laid there. And eventually must have dozed off. I woke up and had to call for the guy to let me use the restroom. Super-easy to do when hooked up to 23423423 wires. I had been told they needed 2 hours of sleep in the books before I could start trying the masks. I wasn't there, yet.

Shortly after I laid back down he came in to put the mask on me. And he was just in time. Between my damp hair, and those tubes running under my chin, my neck was all hot and damp and feeling like something was trying to choke me. Thankfully, he removed those tubes to my nose and replaced them with mask that just covered my nostrils and pumped oxygen down my throat. I quickly found out that if you opened your mouth - - like to try and talk - - the air would force it's way out your mouth, and make you feel like you were being choked. For someone already leaning toward panic, I sure didn't need that shit. And he kept asking me questions!! Eventually he must have decided I wasn't going to die and asked me to lay down. Enter the panic! I kind of started to freak a little bit. He told me to reeeeeellllllaaaaaaaax. Eventually I chilled out enough to just breathe in and out through my nose. OK. That's not so bad. I think I can work with this.

I was advised that if I opened my mouth when I slept that he'd be back to put a chin strap on me. And if that didn't do the trick, a full face mask. Eventually I allowed myself to stop thinking about a bigger mask, and I fell asleep. I woke up some time later - could have been 3 minutes, or 6 hours - - There are no clocks. and the windows are darkened - - and realized I barely even realized I had the mask on. And my mouth was closed. and I didn't have a chin strap, or a huge mask on. So far, so good with the minimum mask.

And then it was over. He came in and asked if I wanted to get up or continue sleeping. Since I had to head to work for 12 hours that day, I decided to head home and get a much-needed shower in. After disconnecting the trillion wires from me - much less gently than when they were applied, mind you - I was free. I couldn't get out of there soon enough.

So today I picked up my machine. The terror has been replaced with excitement about actually getting a good night of sleep. Wish me luck, kids....

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