Living with Sleep Apnea

San Jose, Costa Rica, November, 2006

“My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him.” Psalm 62:5

It’s hard to believe that I’m finally in Costa Rica after wanting to visit this country for the past ten years, ever since I worked with Dr. K. who mentored me when I was in graduate school. He grew up in Costa Rica and moved to the USA when he was 16 years old. I signed up to go on a tour last April but had to cancel it when I had complications after cataract surgery. The Lord sold my condo after ten months on the market and I was able to buy another house. They are fixing my new house over the next few weeks while I tour Costa Rica for 10 days and then stay with a friend from church for a couple weeks. It is so kind of the Lord to give me this break between moves.

My flight last night was smooth and on time. I sat next to a Costa Rican grandma and her teenage grandson. She only spoke Spanish, but he spoke excellent English. She asked me what time it was and I told her in Spanish! I’m glad I finished my 16 Spanish lessons on CD. How I wish I would have learned Spanish as a child. It’s kind of tough to learn at my age.

I fell into bed last night at midnight at this beautiful hotel in downtown San Jose. It took about an hour to go through customs followed by a 30 minute taxi ride. The only electrical outlet in the room is about 7 feet from the foot of the bed. So I  blew up my air mattress and switched all the sheets and pillow around so my head was at the foot of the bed. I put my CPAP (Continuous Positive Air Pressure) machine on a chair and stretched the cord to the outlet as far as it would go. I should have brought an extension cord. It worked well and I slept soundly which was a blessing. I remembered to get out of bed on the opposite side so I wouldn’t trip over the taught cord. I was cold and there is no heat in the room so I slept in my heavy sweatshirt. San Jose is the city of “eternal spring” with average temperature of 70 degrees since they are at 3800 feet elevation.

I enjoyed seeing beautiful Lake Arenal in Costa Rica.

Reflection

At the age of 40, I told my doctor I couldn’t stay awake during the day and often woke up tired with headaches or choking. He ordered an all night sleep study at a sleep center. They glued electrodes all over my head, put a belt around my chest, and then told me to sleep as they recorded me all night on video and by electroencephalogram (EEG). They concluded that I stopped breathing many times during the night, my oxygen level dropped, and I had no deep stage sleep. The doctor prescribed a CPAP machine which blows humidified air into my lungs all night to keep my airway open. He said I was born with a small airway which collapses as I’ve aged. It took me several months and several different masks before I was able to sleep all night. I always encourage newly diagnosed patients to keep trying to sleep with CPAP for several months and not to give up. Many people say the mask makes them feel claustrophobic.

If a person does not treat his sleep apnea, he has a much higher incidence of heart attack, stroke, depression, and death. They now can diagnose it with a simple sleep test that can be done at home with a pulse oximeter attached to your finger. It is much easier to sleep in your own bed at home rather than go to a sleep center.

I discovered very comfortable nasal pillows (Swift Fx) rather than a mask. The mask actually made a permanent bump on my nose that had to be removed by a plastic surgeon. Occasionally, I still have trouble going to sleep some nights so my pulmonologist prescribed Lunesta that does not affect my apnea. I never take it two nights in a row since it can be addicting. It also helps me adjust to a new time zone when I fly east or west and have jet lag.

Transcend travel CPAP with 3 night battery and Swift nasal pillows.

I’ve learned how to travel internationally with my CPAP machine. The airlines allow you to carry your machine on board in a separate bag since it is medical equipment. I never put it in my checked bag because it is a fragile machine and could break as they toss your bag around, or your luggage could be lost. In the USA, most insurance companies will only pay for a new machine every five years. They cost $400-$700.

Four years ago before I went to Ecuador, I invested in a small travel CPAP (Transcend) and a three night rechargeable battery since they have frequent power failures there. Insurance does not cover the cost, but I like to do international travel so the small size and rechargeable battery was worth it to me. It includes converters for different electrical outlets around the world. I wish I would have had the battery when we lost power for six nights during a blizzard six years ago. That was tough to go to work every day without any sleep.

This is a humidifier that attaches to the hose, but it only lasts for a week and doesn’t humidify the air very well for me.

 

The water chamber humidifier for the travel CPAP is quite large unfortunately and requires a separate electrical cord. It does not run off the battery.

I also used it for ten weeks in Costa Rica last year and it worked well. The battery solves the problem of outlets far from my bed. I just recharge it the next day. I forgot to bring extra filters for my machine. The active volcano ash in the air clogged the filter so I washed it daily until it fell apart. It’s almost impossible to get medical equipment through customs, so I placed a paper tissue over the air intake port to try and filter the air as much as possible.

I also forgot to bring normal saline nasal spray with me for my dry nose. I couldn’t find it in the pharmacy or make the pharmacist understand what I needed. I finally went to the school doctor and paid him $40 for an office visit. He told me to ask for “Steri Mar” (sterile sea water). I did and finally purchased it for $30. So for $70 I had sterile saline nose spray which I normally buy for $3 at Walmart.

My $70 sterile saline for my dry nose. It’s called Sterimar in Spanish.

I hope these hints I have learned the hard way over the years can help you instruct your patients. If anyone has symptoms of sleep apnea, encourage them to tell their health care provider and have a sleep test. Our bodies heal during deep stage sleep and are refreshed. If you would like more information about sleep disorders, go to http://www.mayoclinic.org

Sleep is such a gift from the Lord. I thank Him that these devices are available for us in this day and age.

“I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8

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A Chinese Atheist Receives Christ

Midwest, USA – 1989

About two years ago, my friend and I were going door to door calling to share the gospel with my neighbors. One lady from China named Nina (pseudonym) invited us to come in. She was formerly a radiologist in China, but had moved to the Midwest recently with her husband for his new job in research. She said she was very lonely and was so happy to have some friendly visitors. We spoke slowly so she could understand our English better, and I told her how much I had enjoyed visiting China three years ago. We also shared the good news about Jesus Christ; how He died for our sins on the cross, was buried, rose again, and lives today. We shared how He wanted her to receive Him as her Savior. We asked if she had ever heard this before? She said that she had as a girl when she attended a school run by missionaries. After the communist takeover, the school was closed and the missionaries were forced to leave. We invited her to Bible class and she eagerly began to attend.

After about 6 months of faithfully hearing the Bible taught, Nina received Christ as her Savior. She was so happy and really began to grow in grace. We all were praying that her husband, Daryl, would also receive Christ as Savior. One Saturday evening, I invited them to my home to dinner to get to know them better along with a couple other people from church. We had a pleasant time together and the others left first. As Nina and Daryl were getting ready to leave, I mentioned something about how thankful I was that God loved us so much. Daryl said angrily, “How can God love us? I saw hundreds of people starve to death in China during the famines!” I softly replied that the important thing was that he had the opportunity to receive Christ now and that God wanted all men to be saved, but He wouldn’t force Himself on anyone. Nina stood there silently with a pained expression on her face. I bid them both good night. All I could sadly think about was Psalm 14:1:

The fool has said in his heart, There is no God.

About a year later, Daryl burned his legs during an accidental fire at work, and his legs became badly infected. They did not have a primary care doctor, so he continued to return to the emergency room for treatment. Nancy called me and asked if I had any suggestions? I called Dr Pete, my friend who was a Christian surgeon, and he asked Daryl to meet him at the ER where he was on staff. After examining Daryl, Dr Pete admitted him so he could receive intravenous antibiotics.  While Daryl was an inpatient, one of the elders from church visited him daily and read scripture to him and prayed with him. Nina shared that Daryl was deeply touched by the kindnesses of Dr Pete and the elder, even though he was a total stranger to them and an atheist.

In January, Nina told me that Daryl was being transferred by his employer to Miami, Florida. I was heartbroken as she seemed to be growing so much in her faith and he seemed so much more open to the gospel. But we prayed for them to be guided to a good church.

In March, Nina called me and said how much they enjoyed attending the Chinese Baptist Church! She said Daryl had something to tell me and she handed him the phone. “Miss Pam, I heard the gospel in Chinese at the church from the Chinese pastor. Now I understand what you were trying to tell me. I received Jesus Christ as my Savior! I am so thankful that my sins are forgiven and that I have a home in heaven and that I will be with Jesus forever! I am so sorry I yelled at you when you tried to tell me about God.”

I replied through my tears, “Daryl, I am so thrilled that you are now a Christian and my brother in Christ. Let’s pray together right now and thank God.” We had such a precious time in prayer together on the phone, thanking God for His wonderful grace and mercy to us.

March, 1990 – Miami, Florida

The Lord opened the door for me to visit my parents, who now live in Florida, as well as Nina and Daryl and attend church with them at the Chinese Baptist Church. For my sake, they took me to the English service rather than the Mandarin one so I could understand the service. We entered the large bright sanctuary and were greeted by friendly Chinese believers. The service began and after the opening hymn, the pastor asked for visitors to be introduced. Daryl motioned for me to stand up among the hundreds of Chinese brethren. He began, “This is Miss Pam who first gave me the gospel of Jesus Christ when I was an atheist. I hated the gospel back then and yelled at her. But she did not give up on me and now she is my sister in Christ.” My tears rolled down my cheeks as I marveled at the wonderful work of grace God had done in Daryl’s heart as well as my own!

But God commends His love toward us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. Romans 5:8-9

Reflection

Nina and Daryl returned to China

Nina and Daryl returned to China

After about a year, Daryl and Nina moved back to China. For a number of years I received a card from them every Christmas. One year, Daryl shared with me how his elderly mother also received Christ. I don’t know exactly when Daryl and Nina went to be with the Lord, but it will be wonderful to be reunited with them in heaven above some day and worship the Lord together!

Face to face with Christ my Savior, Face to face –what will it be? When with rapture I behold Him, Jesus Christ who died for me. Face to face I shall behold Him Far beyond the starry sky; Face to face in all His glory, I shall see Him by and by! –by Carrie Breck