If your GP or Pulmonologist wants you to get a sleep study, DO IT!

My blog has been quiet lately as my wife was in hospital; she was there for two weeks and one day.

Fifteen days.

She has congestive heart failure, but is home now and is feeling much better. However, this condition is one we’ll be living with for the rest of our lives. That’s the short version; here is the longer one:

That first Tuesday of August, we had an appointment with her Pulmonologist. We’d been referred by her GP back in January, as she was having terrible headaches, and had been finding herself a bit short of breath.

The Pulmonologist suspected asthma, and started her on a course of inhaled medications. This went along for a few months, with modifications to try to increase their effectiveness.

On that day of the appointment, when my wife began to come out to the car, she could not catch her breath at all; even though she’d had several stops for rest along the way. This gave her a panic attack because she could not breathe; and her rescue inhaler was of little use, as she could not get air into her lungs. She wanted to go back into the house, but somehow we both knew that we HAD to get to that appointment.

She was so out of breath that I had to borrow a wheelchair from the clinic’s entry and wheel her to her appointment.

And then we were beneficiaries of a flash of insight from God:

When the Pulmonologist saw her, he said, “You should be much better, almost completely better, by now.” He looked at her blood-oxygen level, and it was only 84%. (It should always be greater than 90%.) He saw that her toes were blue, and then in a moment of realisation said, “We can only do so much for you here at the office. You need to be at the hospital where they can look at your complete condition and do a full assessment. Please sit here; I’m going to make a set of notes for both the paramedics and Admitting at the hospital; and then I’m going to call the ambulance.” They immediately put her on oxygen.

She left on the gurney with the paramedics while I drove to the hospital in the car.

The rest is a bit of a blur, but here is a synopsis:

Her heart was not working as well as it should. This was due to diagnosed, but untreated, sleep apnea. The lack of oxygen during critical sleep periods had harmed her heart. And it took a while for the consequences to build up. She had been retaining fluids at a high, a far too high, rate, due to the reduced heart function. This in turn caused her lungs to fill with fluid.

In hospital, she got a course of diuretics, to get the excess fluid out of her body. In case you might be thinking that it’s a small quantity, I can tell you that it’s 36 pounds. All water. Thirty-six pounds would approximate FOUR GALLONS. Imagine a drinking water carboy and it filled most of the way up. THAT’s how much extra fluid she had been retaining. No wonder it was filling her lungs.

Meanwhile in hospital, I was simply amazed at the big and small works of God which surrounded her during her stay. There was much intervention by people with so many gifts in so many different areas; doctors, nurses, even those who clean her hospital room. All were contributors, all were significant. I do want to mention the special gift that one nurse shared with my wife: when she was really, seriously, downhearted about her condition and wondering if it were a death sentence, this nurse took the time to talk her through every one of her fears and to show her that God had healing in store for her. It so miraculously turned around my wife’s attitude that I knew I was in the presence of God, working right there in that hospital room.

Thank you, Lord.

She continues to improve at home. She’s doing more and more each day, and I have wept quietly in front of God as I thank him for the return of her laughter.

Our healthcare clinic has a brand-new Transition Clinic where the heart patient is put in the care of a cardiac-specialist MD, a Nurse Practitioner, a Nutritionist/Dietitian, a Pharmacist, and even a Social Worker to help with all the paperwork. Our first visit went well, and we’re clearly on the road to better health; both of us.

Meanwhile my wife will tell you herself that she is a convert to CPAP therapy. It turns out that there are new, improved, masks which allow claustrophobic patients like her to comfortably tolerate the mask and the CPAP therapy. She’s rather angry with herself that she did not have to go through this; if she had listened and found a way to begin the therapy some 20 years ago, none of this would have happened – and that includes her ectopic atrial tachycardia, which she battled last year. Yes, the ectopic atrial tachycardia was a warning sign of untreated sleep apnea.

She is faithfully wearing the mask, she is sleeping so very much better, and she is proud of herself for doing the therapy. However, not as proud as I am of her; as I have been on CPAP therapy for some 15 years and can attest to its benefits – just in sleeping better.

The important thing here is, learn the lesson: if your GP or Pulmonologist wants you to get a sleep study – DO IT!! Don’t wait, because heart trouble could be just around the corner. Sure, having a CPAP isn’t a lot of fun, but you do get used to it, you sleep so much better, and … the alternative is not pleasant.


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