Friday, September 21, 2007

Udate on CPAP Therapy

In my previous post, I described my experience while undergoing a sleep study.

I now use my CPAP machine religiously. It has really been a benefit to me -- a blessing even.

Here is the CPAP machine that I use. And here is the mask that I use.

The sleep study took place on April 10th of this year. I started on the CPAP machine on May 1st. After a few weeks of CPAP therapy, I noticed that I was sleeping through the night. Not waking up several times each night.

The quality of sleep I get now is much better. I have more energy, I am less sleepy during the daytime. I don't feel so tired and run-down all the time.

I also can concentrate better. I work as a computer programmer, and I would often find it difficult to concentrate, and wrap my mind around difficult tasks. Now I can grasp complicated concepts much better. I actually feel like doing things more proactively, instead of waiting things to come to me alone.

I was really worried about the noise of a CPAP machine -- and if my wife would kick me out of our bedroom to the basement. However the machine I use is quite quiet. I would highly recommend it. This is the machine that I use. And this is the Mask that I use.

I had hoped that the CPAP therapy would help with my edema (swelling in the feet, ankles and shins), but it hasn't made much difference in that area. I continue to take those evil water pills (lasix). However there are times (such as during travel) that I can't just hang out near a restroom for a few hours at a time. So on those days, I don't take the lasix. (Don't get any ideas, Larry Craig, if you're reading this! And no tappy-toes Senator jokes here, please!)

Anyhow, I feel that the CPAP therapy has been a great help in my life. I feel better now than I have for several years.

If you think you might have sleep apnea. See your doctor. It will help you feel better, and the Therapy might even save your life one-day!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A $2000 A Night Hotel -- And Not Even Cable TV!

For the past 2-3 years I have been experiencing a lot of fatigue and tiredness. There have been days when I could hardly hold my eyes open at work.

I have noticed that It has been hard for me to concentrate and stay engaged in difficult, mentally challenging tasks.

Also I have developed over the past few years edema (swelling of the feet and calves). My Dr. has prescribed water pills until my kidneys have begged for mercy, but with only marginal results. In the quest to find the cause of the edema, tests were performed to make sure that I didn’t have leaky heart valves – which can result in edema. The test results showed that my heart was doing just fine, so that was not the cause.

My Dr. finally referred me to a pulmonologist to be evaluated for sleep apnea. Sleep apnea can also result in edema, as well as be a reason for the fatigue and tiredness that I have been experiencing over the last few years.

The pulmonologist did an initial oximetery test, where you wear an “alligator” clip on your finger, which is attached to a recording device that measures your heart rate, and blood oxygen percentage overnight as you sleep.

From this test, I learned that my breathing was stopping at a rate of about 40 times per hour. I also learned that my blood oxygen percentage went down to 72 (90 and above is considered normal).

The pulmonologist diagnosed me with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). The therapy for this condition is to begin using a CPAP machine (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure). However, I learned that in order for insurance to help cover the cost of the machine, that you had to first undergo an overnight sleep study. I crunched the numbers, and I figured that I would be dollars ahead to follow the insurance protocols, rather than skipping the sleep study, and just buying a CPAP machine outright on my own.

So I checked myself into a “Sleep Disorders Center” at a nearby hospital. I actually felt like I was checking myself into a jail or a halfway house. – Like I was doing time on evenings and weekends. Perhaps it was the confinement and the lack of freedom, for the night that made it feel jail-like. (Actually, I’ve never spent any time locked up in a jail cell, so I wouldn’t know what that might really feel like.) All I know is that I felt like a jail bird. I even wore my stripped convict pajamas.

Like jail, first thing I had to do was strip down and put on my convict pajamas. Next they had me try out a couple of CPAP masks, to see if I found one preferable to another. I picked out my “favorite” mask, and then was told that I could watch TV or read for awhile.

I turned on the TV, and much to my dismay, it was regular broadcast TV only. Here I am staying at this place for the night – with a list price in excess of $2,000. You would think that they would at least have Cable TV for that price!

I don’t watch anything on network TV. I am a denizen of the Discovery Channel, TLC, HGTV, The Travel Channel, Food Network, with a little Animal Planet mixed in. I might watch something on the History Channel, or A&E. But I haven’t watched anything of interest from the broadcast networks since Frazier went off the air.

Next they came in to wire me up. There were 21 wires in all, attached to my body. I had probes attached near each eye, and probes attached under each side of my jawbone. There was another probe attached on my forehead, right above the bridge of my nose. I had a wire attached to each earlobe. There were probes attached on my chest on either side of my heart. There was a probe attached to each of my legs just below the knees. Then there were several probes attached to my skull. Fortunately, they didn’t have to shave little holes out of my hair to make these attachments. (Although they could have used my bald spot on the crown of my head if they wanted to!) Instead they put this goop into my hair, and then braided wires into the goo. After the goo set-up, it was just about the consistency of silly putty.

Next they put two belts around me. One of them was around my chest, and the other was around my diaphragm. These two belts were also wired, and were there to sense the depth and frequency of my respirations.

At this point I felt like I was about to be strapped into an Electric chair.

To top it all off, I had an oxygen sensor attached to one of my fingers – similar to that of the oximetery test I had received before.

After being hooked up to all the wires, and then being tethered to the bed, I was also told that I MUST sleep for a minimum of 2 hours, and that my breathing MUST stop at least 30 times per hour, or insurance wouldn’t cover a CPAP machine.

If I “achieved” those goals, then they would put me on the CPAP machine for the 2nd half of the night. If I didn’t make the cut, they would just let me sleep on until morning.

No pressure at all! Can anyone else see the irony here? I am at this place because I have a probable sleep disorder in the first place! Then I am told that I must sleep, on-demand, in this strange place, with all these wires attached to me, while trying to find a comfortable position without pulling all the wires out. Got that!

I did a little reading, called home, and prepared to go to sleep. I discovered why they don’t have Cable TV there. The real reason is that they really don’t want to have anything interesting on TV -- which might keep you up at night. After all, they want you to sleep, not watch TV. The TV fare made that an easy choice for me!

I paged the attendant, and had them help me get the covers straight on the bed without pulling out all the wires, and then the turned off the lights.

I said my evening prayers, and eventually drifted off to sleep. I woke up after a while with a sore shoulder. I had been sleeping in an awkward position because of all the wires and probes, and now my shoulder hurt. They gave me some Tylenol and I slowly drifted off to sleep again.

Next thing I new, at about 1:30 am, a technician came into the room and told me that she was going to put on the CPAP mask. Whew! I passed the test! I must have slept the requisite amount (I figure I had been asleep for about 2-2½ hours) and that my breathing must have stopped in excess of 30 times per hour. I don’t think I ever really got into a deep sleep though.

They put the mask on, and made sure it was fitted properly, then I laid back down on the bed – on my back! I just laid there for about 20-30 minutes, and I actually drifted off to sleep!

I NEVER sleep on my back. My airway usually does close off when my muscles relax just before falling asleep. With the CPAP, the airway was kept open. The mattress was also comfortable enough for me to sleep on my back as well – it was a nice pillow-top mattress.

The CPAP machine did make some noise. It sounded like a small hand-held hairdryer on a low setting, with a bit of a whooshing sound because of the air movement. It was an easy kind of a “white” noise that I got used to it fairly quickly. Of course that’s easy for me to say. My ears were partially plugged from the earlobe probes, and I am already half-deaf in one ear to begin with. I guess my dear sweet wife will be the ultimate judge of whether or not the CPAP machine is noisy or not. Who knows, if the machine is too noisy, I might be sleeping in the basement from now on!

After a while, I rolled over onto my side, which is my normal sleeping position. I was able to get to sleep on my side for awhile too. However, with the wires and probes, I was not able to get into a really good sleeping position. Twice during the night, the staff had to come into the room and re-attach probes that had come off during my limited movements. I hope I will be able to find a comfortable sleeping position with the CPAP machine at home. I will often switch from sleeping on my left side, to my right side. I don’t know how well its going to work to have the air hose crossing over the top of my body when I am attempting to sleep. I guess we’ll see how that works out.

I woke up just before 5:00 am, and was done for the night. At about 5:30, the staff came in and started disconnecting me from all my wires and probes.

I changed into my “street” clothes, got the manufacturer and model of the CPAP mask that I used, and got out of there. Not only did this $2000-a-night hotel not have cable TV, but I didn’t get to sleep either! No continental breakfast, no newspaper, no nothing! However, I was glad to get out of there – even if I did have a serious case of “crazy hair” with all the silly putty still stuck in it. The staff reassured me that “hot water and shampoo” would get the putty out. I made my move and broke out of that place, and headed for home!

Going home, I noticed that my gas gage showed empty, and the nearly out of gas warning light was coming on. So I stopped on the way home, crazy hair and all, and filled up the gas tank.

By the time I got home, it was just before 7:00 am. That’s about the time the family starts to stir. I did my morning back stretches. Then we had family scripture study, and got Amy off to school.

Then after everything had settled down, I set out to get the silly putty out of my hair. After two very vigorous shampoos, I was able to get the gunk out of my hair. I don’t know how much hair it took with it (I noticed that my hair was even a little thinner than usual on top) but at least the goop was gone!

I had previously arranged with work to come in late that day, so that I could get some actual sleep after the “Sleepless Study”. I rested for awhile, and finally made it in to work by around noon.

The sleep study staff told me that the full report of the sleep study would be sent to my Dr. in about 2 weeks. In the meantime, sleep specialists will review all the data from the sleep study, and make recommendations. My Dr. will then make his recommendation based on the study, and will undoubtedly prescribe a CPAP machine.

In the meantime, I await the results, and anticipate the adjustments and hopefully the changes for the better that will be coming in the next few weeks and months as a result of CPAP therapy.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

His Promises Are Sure

We went to the temple last night. It was for our ward’s regular monthly sealing assignment at the Jordan River Temple.

It was our first visit to the temple since Dawn Ann’s diagnosis of Breast Cancer. Perhaps our feelings and emotions were a little closer to the surface as a result.

During our sealing session, we were called to the altar first. Dawn Ann and I looked at each other across the altar, as we did for the first time nearly 16 years ago. As the ceremony, which binds a couple together for time, and for all eternity, was pronounced, tears came to Dawn Ann’s eyes. Just a few tears at first, then many more. The sealer handed us a box of Kleenexes so she could wipe her eyes.

As for me, I looked into those eyes, which I have loved for the last 16 years. She always looks so beautiful in white. I am so grateful for her. For the love she has brought to me. The children she has brought into this world. And all she does for us to provide a home for our family.

As I looked at the tears coming from her eyes, I thought I perceived what she might be feeling, and why the tears. Later, I confirmed with her that what I had perceived was correct. As Dawn Ann heard the blessings and promises of eternal marriage pronounced once again, she felt a peace and assurance from the Spirit of the Lord that no matter what happens in this life, the Lord's promises to us are sure. That she and I will be together eternally.

This was what brought tears to her eyes. The witness of the Spirit that despite the challenges we are currently facing, the diagnosis of breast cancer, that she can be assured that all will be well – no matter what happens.

My turn would come a few minutes later, as I was sitting next to the sealer, as one of the witnesses, Brother Leetham gave a few words of counsel between ordinances.

He counseled that the Lord wants each of us to return and enjoy eternal life with him. Brother Leetham counseled that the Lord will leave no stone unturned to make this happen. He paraphrased this scripture:
“ . . . For I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.” (D&C 84:88)
He then counseled that the blessings of eternal life will come through our faithfulness. Then he explained what that means.

Brother Leetham explained that our faithfulness doesn’t mean that we have to be perfect right here, and right now. What it does mean, however, is that we should continually try to become better people little by little. Not in huge spurts, not mile by mile, but inch by inch.

The goal should be to examine ourselves a few months from now, and to be able to see how we have become a little bit better than we were before. The comparison is always with ourselves over time, never comparing ourselves against others.

We should not be comparing ourselves with the bishop, stake president, or the Apostles. Besides, he said, we only see them when they are at their best. They are human too. We just don’t generally see them in their weak moments.

As brother Leetham spoke his words of counsel, I found tears coming to my own eyes this time. As he paraphrased the scripture, I felt that we do not have to face this breast cancer alone. That He will go before us, that He will be on our right side, and on our left, and that His angels will be round about us. He will be there for us. He will not desert us.

The words from the fourth verse of “I am a child of God” best describe my feelings:

I am a child of God.
His promises are sure;
Celestial glory shall be mine
If I can but endure.

All will be well. We have placed our trust in him, and I know we can pass through this trial – no matter what.

-- His Promises are sure.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

September 11th Remembered

In Memory of Those Who Died

There are certain dates in our collective consciousness that are indelible in our minds. It seems like each generation has a transcendent event that marks their generation:
  • For my grandparents, it was October 29, 1929 -- The stock market crash -- followed by the great depression.
  • For my parents it was December 7th, 1941 -- The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
  • For my generation it was November 22, 1963 – The assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
  • More recently, September 11, 2001 is now seared into our collective minds – The day of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Flight 93 in Pennsylvania. More than 3,000 people died that day.
Most people who were old enough to remember these events, can remember where they were, and what they were doing when they first heard the news. Isn’t it interesting that each of these events was a calamitous event of one sort or another. Events that seem to have the greatest collective impact upon us.

I remember that I was getting ready for work on that morning – September 11, 2001. As usual I was listening to the radio – Station KSL in Salt Lake City on that day – when I heard an initial report that a small plane had hit one of the World Trade Center towers, and that a couple of floors of the building were involved in fire. At first it was not understood that the airplane was really jet airliner.

I didn’t think much of it at first. Probably just an unfortunate case of pilot error. There would, sadly, be some casualties -- but surely nothing that they would not be able to get under control. I saw no reason to panic, or any immediate inkling that this would even become a terribly significant event.

Then the second tower was hit. This time it was plainly seen by all that it was an airliner, and not a small plane. It also became apparent that this was no accident – it was a deliberate attack.

At that point in time, I left the bathroom radio. I turned on the TV in our bedroom and tuned in to CNN. Everyone else was still asleep in the house. I usually don’t turn on the TV because I don’t want to disturb everyone else. However, on this day, I made an exception, as I explained the situation as I best understood it to my wife, who was just waking up.

As the TV came on, I saw an image both twin towers on fire. Then the unthinkable happened, the first tower collapsed. There was panic in the streets as people were fleeing from the scene of dust, debris, and death.

By this time, the rest of the family had gathered around the TV. A few minutes later, the other tower also collapsed.

My son, Bryan was 8 years old at the time. In his innocence, when he saw the building go down, he said: “COOL!” He had thought it was just another garden-variety building implosion that we have all seen on TV countless times before.

Of course, the difference this time, was that thousands of people were dying as those towers collapsed. I gently had to explain to him that this was not a planned demolition, and that people had been hurt when those buildings came down.

Numbly, I went into work that day. I have to admit that I didn’t get much done that day. Mostly I sat in stunned silence, as I listened to the radio coverage on KSL.

I remember listening to Doug Wright on KSL throughout the day. KSL had just begun carrying the newly syndicated Sean Hannity show the day before, on September 10th. I remember hearing Sean’s coverage from a New York City perspective. In addition to Doug Wright and Sean Hannity, KSL also carried audio from CNN and from local New York and Washington, DC TV and radio stations.

I remember the eerie quietness of the skies for the next three days, as all air traffic was ground to a halt.

My mother-in-law was undergoing hip replacement surgery at the University of Utah Medical Center, as the terrorist attacks took place. She went into surgery with our nation at peace, and came out of anesthesia to a nation at war.

Now, six years later, we can see how much our world has changed since the day of those attacks. We have been involved in war ever since. We likely will be for some time to come – regardless of what happens with our involvement in Iraq. If it is not Afghanistan, or Iraq, it will be somewhere else. Regrettably, I’m afraid that it will inevitably return to our own soil one day.

On this sixth anniversary, I wish to remember those who died that day. I also wish to remember the soldiers, sailors, and marines who have died, and been injured defending our freedoms ever since.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

The Aurigid Meteor Shower

Photo of Aurigid Meteor shower by wisforworlddominatio on Flickr

This morning we got up at 3:00 AM. The occasion was the Aurigid Meteor shower. This photo was taken by member of Flickr. I didn't take any photos myself of this event. Meteor showers are best viewed with the naked eye, with as wide a field of vision as possible. If you are concentrating on looking through a camera viewfinder, or binoculars, you are not likely to see much of the festivities.

About a year ago, I read an article about this meteor shower. It does not often yield good viewing results. However, the placement of the earth's orbit, and the location of dust trail from the comet that left the space debris, matched up just right for what promised to be a spectacular meteor shower.

Last year, I dreamed of getting as far away from city lights as possible to view the meteor shower. I thought Monument Valley, in the extreme Southeast corner of Utah sounded good. There is a nice lodge down there called Gouldings. It would have been nice to stay there and view the meteor shower from there.

However, certain realities have come to bear. Financially, a trip like that just wasn't in the cards. We also had some other obligations that made it difficult to get away this weekend.

Instead, we drove up to the Snow Basin ski resort, just outside of Huntsville, Utah. When I was in the area last week, I noticed that it would be a good place for star gazing. It provided a particularly good view toward the Northeast, and was away from city lights - both requirements to see the Aurigids, as they are called.

We arrived at the viewing area at about 4:45 AM. We broke out the lawn chairs, and our jackets and blankets. I'm not sure what the elevation was, but I would guess that it was somewhere around 6-7000 feet. The temperature was somewhere in the 40's.

Almost immediately, we saw our first meteor. They were pretty constant. We probably saw about one per minute on average. We brought some bagels, yogurt, and juice with us to have an early breakfast as we watched the meteor shower.

The Peak of the meteor shower was supposed to be at 5:37 AM. Within a couple of minutes of the peak, we saw the most spectacular meteor. An exceptionally bright one was streaking across the sky, when it split into three parts. It was like nature's fireworks.

As it got closer to 6:00 AM it was starting to get light. We packed up our things, and continued on into the town of Huntsville, Utah. Just outside of Huntsville, there is a Trappist Monastery. We had never visited there before. We arrived at about 6:45 AM, and learned that there was a daily Mass conducted there at 6:30 AM each day. There were even a few cars in the parking lot, that we assumed belonged to worshipers. They have a gift shop there, and apparently they sell honey there. Bryan wanted some of the creamed, cinnamon honey. We would have too, except the store didn't open until 10:00 AM.

As we headed back to Huntsville, from the Monastery, I drove up to the place where I had parked my truck, just over a week ago, and called Dawn Ann to learn about the results of her biopsy. It was here that I first learned of her breast cancer. Huntsville will never be the same to me again. That spot, in some ways, has become a sacred spot to me. Perhaps that is how it is with places in which we have life-changing experiences. It is a place in which I came to realize how much more I need to depend on the Lord, for the life, health, and future of our family.

We retraced our steps from Huntsville, past Snow Basin Ski Resort and on home again. Both Bryan and Amy conked out in the back seat of the car. We listened to the KSL Outdoors radio show to keep away on the way home.

We arrived home at about 8:45 AM. We all promptly crashed and took naps until about noon. It was worth it though. The meteor shower was really fun. The time together invaluable. I hope the kids will always remember the time we got up at 3:00 IN THE MORNING! to view the meteor shower.

Since Dawn Ann's diagnosis, I have made a determination that I want to have a few fun family outings between now and the time of her surgery. It might be quite some time before Dawn Ann feels like getting out and about once the surgery has taken place.

I also want to make a point of us having a little time together for a day or two sometime before her surgery. Perhaps we'll celebrate our anniversary (October 18th) a little early this year!