Last night I had my 9th overnight sleep study, or polysomnogram. The first seven were at the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic, which is probably the world’s foremost location. My proximity to it as a student at Stanford made it possible for someone at our undergrad health center (not exactly bastions of medical genius, though they do make med students do rotations there) to think of referring me over. The last two have been at the Sleep Center with the Palo Alto Medical Foundation (technically it’s with the Camino Medical Group but they merged. And they’re all Sutter anyway).
I was first diagnosed with relatively mild but utterly annoying Sleap Apnea in June of 1997. The first study was on June 3, in fact. One should certain read more at the wikipedia page, which is pretty good, but apnea, in a very short version, is when one has sufficient obstruction in one’s airway while sleeping that he or she actually stops breathing. Over time, a person actually gets used to this, and to the decreasing amount of oxygen in one’s blood that results, and eventually has a heart attack and can die (I would think waking up to a heart attack makes it hard to call 911 coherently, even compared to having a heart attack at all but in other situations).
Two things prompted me to go back to the Sleep Disorders center for more help recently. Of course, I had been sleeping worse, and I’ve never tolerated my CPAP machine well (wow! shocker! I don’t like having a plastic tube connected to a mask attached to my face while I’m sleeping!) so I had to do something. Also, several factors have been exacerbating things such that, despite a whole slate of lifestyle changes (I don’t drive much, I walk to work and used to take the train before that, etc), I am just running down.
When I went in for my appointment with the head of the Sleep Disorders Center I found out my blood oxygen level had hit a low of 70%. Anything below 95% is cause for concern. That really blew my mind away.
So, since I’m pretty sure no mask is going to make my issues with a CPAP go away, I’m looking at a major surgery that involves basically cutting my lower jaw loose at the joint so that it can be moved forward, pulling the tongue forward along with it. It will be my 5th surgery on my jaw or throat.