It’s always good to hear positive news stories about the health care being provided by VA caregivers. I want to share one with you because it involves me. VA health care providers have played a significant role in my well-being and for that I am truly grateful.
A few years ago I was diagnosed with sleep apnea, a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. I would wake up numerous times during the night and never seemed to get a full night’s rest. It was cause for concern.
Early in my marriage my wife, a VA nurse, expressed concern about my loud snoring and pauses in breathing during the night. She urged me to see a doctor because it was becoming increasingly unbearable for her and me to get a good night’s sleep.
I kept saying I would see a doctor but never did.
One night, in 1999, my brother and I were in Cooperstown, New York, for a week-long baseball camp. We shared a room for a week and one night he woke me up in a panic.
“Ozzie, Ozzie, are you okay?” he asked. “You’re choking man,” he said. “You had me scared.”
He relayed that message to my wife when we returned home.
My wife then demanded I see a doctor and SOON. She suggested I take part in a sleep study.
One week I was scheduled to go to Biloxi, Mississippi, to accompany then Biloxi VA Medical Center Director Chuck Sepich to serve as Master of Ceremonies at the dedication of the Pensacola, Florida, Joint Ambulatory Care Center.
In discussing my situation with Chuck, he arranged for me to do a sleep study in the facility’s sleep lab. It was an eye-opening experience and perhaps a lifesaving one.
I reported to the medical center’s sleep study wing. Prior to going to sleep that night the technicians hooked me up with all kinds of wires. I felt like I was going to the electric chair and jokingly asked the techs if I was entitled to “a last meal.”
They monitored my sleep that night and in the morning I was informed by the medical staff that I had stopped breathing an alarming number of times during the night.
With the test results in hand I returned home to Texas and my wife quickly scheduled an appointment for me to see the health care providers at the Dallas VA Medical Center to address my sleep apnea.
They went over my sleep study results and quickly arranged for me to be fitted with a CPAP machine. CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. The machine helps those, like myself, who have sleep apnea, to breathe more easily during sleep. It increases air pressure in my throat so that my airway doesn’t collapse when I breathe.
It took some getting used to. At first it felt uncomfortable. In talking with the VA doctors and others in my predicament they all said I would get used to it and that it would make a world of difference once I realized I was getting a full night’s rest without any interruptions. They were right. It has made a significant difference in my live. I even use the CPAP when I take weekend naps.
It has certainly changed my life. I feel more rested now and am no longer sleepy during the day. I actually look forward to going to sleep at night knowing I will get a full night’s rest and not having to wake up during the night. My wife no longer complains about my snoring and she too now gets a full night’s rest.
The CPAP machine now accompanies me in all my trips and my wife does not mind my new sleeping partner.
Editor’s note: March 6 – 13, 2016 is Sleep Awareness Week.