My Sleep Apnea

My 15 year old BiPAP Machine left vs my new CPAP machine right.

I have severe sleep apnea. In the early 2000’s I was visiting my aunt in Simi Valley and another aunt in Lancaster, both in California and both aunts told me that not only is my snoring loud, but they could hear me gasp for air in my sleep. In 2003 I was waking up in the middle of the night literally gasping for air. I couldn’t inhale any air at all, yet I was able to exhale what air I had left in my lungs with no problem. I thought I was going to die, and this happened every night. I went to my doctor and they gave me an inhaler and they ordered a sleep study and a year later I got my first machine which is the BiPAP machine in the image above on the left.

My original sleep study was great because I was taking Ambien at the time, so I was able to go to sleep immediately. They only had me there for a few hours, and during that time they gave me both tests. They had me sleep without the mask, for I’m guessing an hour, then they woke me up to put the mask on me connected to a BiPAP machine and conducted the test for another hour, then I was released. It did take a year for me to finally receive my BiPAP machine, but it wasn’t an issue getting it to me. The only time the company that sold the BiPAP to me contacted me was when they were trying to set up an appointment to bring it to my house and to show me how it works.

Last year in February I had a new sleep study so that I could get a new machine since mine was 14 years old at the time, and I had the hardest time getting to sleep. First of all, the insurance company won’t let me take sleeping pills anymore because they think I’m addicted to them. I have sleeping disorders and insomnia. If I can’t sleep, I need something to help me to sleep, otherwise I’m up until 4am staring at the ceiling.

So last year I was at the new sleep study and the room was a nice room that resembled a bedroom in an office with a nice bed that looked and felt brand new, but it was a strange bed and the room was hot and I just couldn’t sleep. I was awake for about 80% of the study. It’s difficult to sleep when you don’t have anything to help you sleep and you have all these wires on your head and body and you are told to sleep on your back in a strange environment in a strange bed in a hot room.

They had me come back a few months later for the second part of the sleep study which was the same exact thing, but the only difference was I had to sleep with the mask on from the same exact BiPAP machine that I was currently using. The same thing happened, I was awake for 80% of the night, but this time I had a mask on blowing air into my nose and I was awake for it. It’s so frustrating.

So I figured I had failed the sleep study both times and there was no way I was ever going to get a new machine. I was surprised when this year I received a phone call to tell me that I had been approved for a new machine. This was the most difficult machine to get because they kept calling me to tell me they were missing documents from my doctor’s office and that I would have to wait for it to be approved. Then one day they called me to tell me that I’m not going to get my machine at all because they have cancelled me because they didn’t get the documents. I called the doctor’s office every time they called me, and every single time the doctor’s office told me that they did in fact send every document that was requested, multiple times. It took 3 months of getting these phone calls telling me they were missing documents. Don’t call ME to tell me you don’t have documents, call the doctor’s office. I think that is so unprofessional of a company to do that to a patient. Don’t involve me in this, just work to get me my machine.

So finally I did get the machine and it is a much smaller machine, but this one is a CPAP machine instead of a BiPAP machine. What’s the difference? Well, a CPAP machine is Continuous Positive Airway Pressure and a BiPAP is Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure. I was told back in 2005 that the BiPAP stood for Bidirectional Positive Airway Pressure.

My first night with this new CPAP machine wasn’t good. I was awake half the night. I think I was just not used to this new mask and it was constantly leaking air. Well, that was my fault, I didn’t have it on tight enough. The second night I had it on much tighter, but I kept turning the machine off because I thought the mask was too small because I couldn’t breathe through my left nostril. It came with a guide that you place on your face to see which mask you need. It told me I need the small, but it was too small, I feel more comfortable with the large one.

This new machine is connected to an online company that tracks my sleep, and the purpose is so the insurance company can make sure I am using it. If I don’t use it, then they don’t want to pay for it. That’s literally what the company that sold the machine told me. They are also watching to make sure I’m using it. They said I need to use it at least 4 hours a night for 3 months or so, and if I follow this, then the insurance company will pay for the machine until it’s paid for, and then the machine is mine to keep. But if I don’t use it, they will know. Why wouldn’t I use it? I have sleep apnea lol.

I am so thankful to have this new machine, because I was so worried my old one was going to stop working and that I would eventually die from my sleep apnea. I would rather die in my sleep not knowing I’m dying rather than be in pain, but I’m not even 50 yet, I’m not ready to die. My mother died at age 42 of a heart attack in her sleep, and I know for a fact she snored really loud. I think she had sleep apnea, and just didn’t know. What a way to go though. Let me get wrinkles before I die though.

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Sleep Apnea

bipap machine

My aunt in Simi Valley and my other aunt who lived in Palmdale at the time (2002 – 2004) both told me when I visited them that I gasped for air in my sleep and that I snored REALLY loud. I never took the snoring issue seriously because I’ve always snored loud, at least that’s what people always tell me. I remember when I was 19 and lived with my sister and her husband in Tujunga and I fell asleep on the floor while watching TV and my snoring actually woke me up lol.

When we lived in the little house next door in 2004, I would wake up in the middle of the night gasping for air. Not like a little gasp and being able to breathe like normal, I mean I was choking and I could not get any air at all. It was frightening, to put it mildly. Just imagine not being able to breathe for several minutes and feeling like you’re going to die soon. What happened was, when I was sleeping, my airway would close, causing me to not be able to breathe. Try as I might, I could not get any air. I would even vomit during this. Vomit was able to leave my mouth, but then my airway would close up again. Eventually the airway would open and I could breathe, and then I would have really bad acid reflux. My doctor gave me a inhaler, and that would help until I could get a sleep study referral, which took a long time to get.

I was diagnosed with sleep apnea in 2005. They told me at the sleep study that I would stop breathing for 25 seconds, then breathe for 35 seconds (or maybe it was the other way around) and this went on every minute. I don’t recall if they told me that I gasped for air or not during the sleep study, but I’m sure I did. Thankfully I didn’t vomit lol.

I received my BiPap machine in September 2005 and I used it faithfully every night until 2013 when I lost 70lbs. I was told that if I lost enough weight, I wouldn’t have sleep apnea anymore, and for the last 18 months I didn’t. The last week I’ve had to start using my machine again because I would wake up in the middle of the night with really bad acid reflux, which is always an indication that I need to use my BiPap machine.

One of the concerns I have is that if I don’t use my machine, I could die of a heart attack or stroke in my sleep. My mother was overweight and she died of a heart attack in her sleep. I don’t know if she had sleep apnea, but I do remember that she snored really loud, so I am only assuming that she did, and that was how she died. I was told that sleep apnea is genetic, and that the reason I got it was because a family member had it. My aunt in Palmdale moved to Texas and was also diagnosed with sleep apnea. She and my mother have the same father, but different mothers, so perhaps this was bestowed upon us by my grandfather, who also gave me the gift of male pattern baldness lol. I’m not complaining, I wouldn’t have it any other way, and every time I look at it in the mirror, I see him and it makes me smile because I loved him.

So I called Monitor Medical today and told them that I was using my machine again, and they made a note in my chart. I would really hate to leave this world and leave my partner because I was dumb enough to stop using my BiPap machine. It’s very irresponsible of me! I hate that I have to use it, but it keeps me alive. I would love to go back to losing weight, but it will happen if it is meant to be. In the meantime, I was continue to use my machine until I don’t have to use it again, but honestly, this is probably going to be with me until the day I die.

If you or someone you know has really bad snoring issues and they might gasp for air, tell them to get to their doctor for a referral for a sleep study. Sleep apnea is a matter of life and death, so when you see someone snoring, don’t laugh at them or ignore the problem, tell them to get to a doctor stat! You will thank me later.

Oh and by the way, the machine at the top, that is a stock photo, but it is the machine that I have. And in case you are wondering about CPAP vs BIPAP, the CPAP uses one pressure and the BiPAP uses two. These two pressures are called inhalation pressure (IPAP) and the exhalation pressure (EPAP). Everyone I have spoken to who has sleep apnea uses a CPAP and they tell me they’ve never even heard of BiPap before. So now you know.