Thursday, February 21, 2013

To Sleep, Perchance to Breathe; a.k.a It's Always Something

For the past year and a half or so, Jamie's mentioned (ever so subtley, with regular bellows of, "Ken, turn over!") that my snoring has worsened and has asked most of my doctors whether it's concerning that it sounds like I periodically stop breathing while I'm asleep and then awake with a sudden gasp. Of course, she's said this out of concern, but what it sounds like once processed through my warped filter of survivor's guilt is, "Thanks for giving me one more thing to worry about, asshole!"

Thus, last Thursday I went for a sleep study to check for apnea. It was a quiet night away from home (never to be unappreciated) and an opportunity to use my new driving independence to take myself out for dinner and a movie(the new Die Hard) for Valentine's Day.

 After having sensors placed on my scalp, chest,legs, eyelids, and in my nose (to measure brain activity, muscle movement, breathing, and oxygen levels), all I had to do was get a decent night sleep (no pressure).  I admittedly had mixed hopes going in – on the one hand, being diagnosed with apnea and receiving treatment could improve my sleep patterns and boost my energy level  and prove that Jamie isn't crazy. On the other hand,  I thought it would be refreshing to not be diagnosed with something.

 Although the sleep technician couldn't make a full diagnosis, he didn't detect what he would term "severe apnea"  but did record a few apneic events (which is apparently not that unusual for anyone). Subsequently, my data has been analyzed more fully, I've been diagnosed with "mild" sleep apnea (characterized as a suspension of breathing 11 to 12 times per hour); and I'm scheduled to go back for a therapeutic sleep study to see if treatment is effective. Given some of the other statistics spouted at me about my night there, I certainly hope it works. For instance, I was in R.E.M. sleep for a grand total of a half-hour over the course of the night (about 7% of the time), where 20% to 25% is normal. I stopped breathing 29 times during the night, the longest episode lasting just over a minute, which is quite remarkable given the fact that I doubt I could consciously hold my breath that long. At one point, my oxygen levels also went below 70% (should be between 90 and 100%). Oxygen deprivation is not something my dwindling brain cells can afford.This certainly explains why I'm so exhausted at the end of the day and have often been tempted to book time in an office lactation room for a nap (though I never have).

 This may be another way the stroke has taken its toll on the jellyfish.

Apnea also strikes me as just one more way the human body is ill-prepared for survival: "Oops! Was I supposed to keep you breathing when you're asleep?"

Along with:

  • Cancer:  Oops! Was I not supposed to keep growing cells there?"
  • Allergies: "Oops! So cat dander isn't poisonous?"
  • Appendicitis: " Oops! I know you're not using that thing, so is it okay if it explodes?"

It's Always Something (IAS)

As a defense mechanism against an onslaught of happenstance (I think it's callled "life"), I've come to gird myself against disappointment by not getting my hopes up and looking forward to upcoming events. Part of that is also a paranoia I will jinx good things from happening if I tell people about them in advance. I think that began in sixth grade. My father had been given tickets to a Hall n' Oates concert, but his office parking lot had a freak flood  that day, so instead of clapping along to "Private Eyes,"" that night, I spent the evening in our garage, trying to dry out floor mats with a hairdryer.

This preparatory shield is what I'm calling, "It's always something". I suppose it's the more-pessimistic, less-Zen cousin of "Shit Happens". They both  play into avoidance of expectations.

Though as I was getting diagnosed with apnea on Thursday, I was also looking forward to the weekend (and even told some people why:

Saturday was a girls' overnight in Portland for Jamie -- a much-needed, well-deserved opportunity for her to blow off some steam with friends. For me, it was to be a welcome and rare chance for me to spend time with my sons. And as it turned out, everything went according to plan.Wyatt beat me at chess, periodically proclaiming things like, "I'm going to take your bishop in two moves." It took me until the next day (when I did manage to beat him) that that was his code for sacrificing one of his pieces so he could then take my piece (he was shocked and outraged when I didn't take the bait). Gus and I mostly read together and battled captured chess pieces (he doesn't like "winning and losing games" [code for he doesn't like to lose]). We Skyped  with my parents. And, yes, we went through the McDonald's drive-thru and ate in front of Megamind (I'm not above bribery).

Sunday night was Jamie and my Valentine's Day date at the Freeport Holiday Inn Express (thanks to Jamie's sister Jennifer, who watched the kids). The "it's always something" started there when it finally registered with Wyatt that either Jamie or I had been away for three of the last four nights (including my sleep study). This was the last unfair straw to him, so when our car got stuck in the snow trying to get up the driveway (the next IAS), Wyatt actually came out with a shovel in the hopes that he could bury the car and prevent our departure.

When we finally made it to the hotel, the handicap-accessible bathtub I'd booked wasn't quite what I'd imagined. It was really just a regular bathtub with grab-bars.

I like to tell myself that IAS helps prepare me for disappointment, but there's a fine line between that protective layer and self-fulfilling prophecy. Soon after I realized the bath I'd been dreaming about for 2 1/2 years might not happen, we got a call from my sister-in-law, telling us the electricity had gone out at the house. Where we live, no power means no heat and no water. Jamie was considering  going back to the house to help get the wood stove going, since it is somewhat eccentric. We also briefly entertained the idea of everyone coming to the hotel with us.

 One of the upsides to IAS is that  it does encourage me to make the most of the time I can control. So I did take that bath  (with strict supervision) and quickly remembered all the things I love about baths  – just lying still in warm water, dipping my head back and listening to the muffled sounds of the world, opening the drain, and slowly feeling the weight return to my body. And now that we've worked out the mechanics, we realized I don't need no fancy, stinking tub to take a bath. In fact, the one at home is probably a better fit for me.

Next we went out to dinner and happily received a call that the power had come back on at the house. That was a relief and another good reminder to just enjoy each other's company and the little things – like baths  and tempura-fried whoopie  pie with vanilla ice cream. No, not the healthiest choice, but definitely the best.

As I finish writing this about a week later, I'm boosted by the fact that sometimes things do work out pretty well. I say that as I begin a night with the house myself (also a rare and precious gift); Jamie has taken the boys up north to visit friends. I'm taking the day off from work tomorrow with the intention of enjoying some quiet time and working on a couple of projects I've been delaying. Then I received a call from Jamie, saying they'd lost electricity up north and might have to cut their visit short. As Kurt Vonnegut would say, "So it goes." It's always something; it's never going to be exactly as you picture it – good or bad.  It is what it is. Maybe I should go to sleep. There could be a good 31 minutes of rest in it for me.


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