Part 1 of this series discussed how men rationalize their denial about having “Sleep Apnea“.
Today, in Part 2, the discussion revolves around starting to recognize that you might actually have sleep apnea, and the transition from denial to accepting the possibility.
Two new factors took me from absolute denial to grudging acknowledgement of the possibility:
- Meeting a new doctor at age 50
- Discovering that all my siblings either had or suspected they had Sleep Apnea
Meeting a New Doctor at Age 50
For a doctor-phobic, middle-aged, suddenly less-healthy man to be forced to select a new doctor, you begin to have visions of midlife crisis and a sudden need to buy a Ferrari. After all, new car pride should make any man feel better.
Fortunately, my wife was insistent on me having a new doctor, and the Ferrari wasn’t really in the budget.
So, the easiest solution was to call the most convenient doctor’s office and find out whether any of their three physicians was accepting new patients. They all were, but there was more:
- The first was a distinguished-looking man who was also the owner of the clinic. While he was certainly qualified, it was also evident that he would merely be a temporary solution, and another change would be needed in a few years.
- Next was friendly woman with good credentials and references, but not many middle-aged men feel comfortable being examined by a woman doctor, and that was the case with me.
- The last choice was a man in his late thirties or early forties and that was perfect. He was old enough to be experienced, and young enough to work with me long-term.
So, I had a new doctor. Unfortunately, even after I transferred my medical records from the last doctor, and swore that I’d been healthy enough to pass a life insurance exam two years prior, the new doctor insisted on a full checkup. He used words like “turning 50“, “baseline EKG” and “elevated blood pressure.”
The higher blood pressure was the most worrisome: After more than a decade of proudly testing at “120 over 80,” this test showed about “150 over 105.” Because of the higher numbers, the new doctor started asking questions about every aspect of my life, and zeroing in on any recent changes.
Grudgingly, I admitted that recently I was always feeling exhausted, but I pointed to an expanded workload and added stress due to a number of situations.
Then it happened: He asked if anyone ever said that I stopped breathing while sleeping, or whether I had ever been been tested for Sleep Apnea.
Time stood still for awhile as my potential responses passed through my mind:
- Take the easy way out by denying that anyone ever suggested that I stopped breathing. After all, he had never met my wife. What would it hurt?
- Tell him that I have been tested numerous times by nosy doctors who also misdiagnosed this condition.
- Bolt for the door and find yet another new doctor who might not be as thorough.
Suddenly, my lips failed me as I heard my own voice saying, “Yes, my wife has complained for years about me stopping breathing throughout the night.”
WHAT!!! – WHERE DID THAT COME FROM?
He next asked, “Do you fall asleep during the day?” GULP! Well, not unless you count waking up face down on your keyboard. So I admitted to finding it harder and harder to stay awake throughout the day.
That was it! He scheduled me for an overnight test at a local sleep lab. DOOMED!
After the rest of my exam, the blood pressure dropped some, and the doctor explained that he was prescribing immediate blood pressure medicine – instead of sending me to the hospital. That got my attention!
All in the Family
During the time between the doctor’s examination and my appointment at the sleep lab, I traveled to a family gathering back in my hometown.
Naturally, my wife pipes up that I am going to be tested at a sleep lab for Sleep Apnea.
To my surprise, one sister admits that she and her husband have Sleep Apnea and sleep with breathing machines. My other sister and our brother chimed in that they have always suspected that they had Sleep Apnea too, but had never been tested.
Could it be true?
There it was! – The Indisputable possibility that I actually could have Sleep Apnea.
Okay, MAYBE I could have Sleep Apnea, but that doesn’t mean that anyone will ever convince me to use a breathing machine with a mask at night.
In the Part 3 of this series, you’ll learn what a sleep lab is like, and what kinds of data is revealed by the test results.
For faster information, read “The Perils of Sleep Apnea–An Undiagnosed Epidemic: A Layman’s Perspective“.