The quiet disease kills loved ones every day. Many individuals are unaware of the silent killer also known as sleep apnea which affects 1 in 15 individuals throughout the nation. Sleep apnea causes individuals to stop breathing several times throughout the night. Over 38,000 people die each year from cardiovascular problems tied back to sleep apnea. This means the silent sleep disorder kills 104 people each day. This is a tragedy that must be addressed by educating the public on the disorder and the therapies available to help those with the disorder.
Sleep disorders affect me personally in several ways. First, I am an African American male and we as a population have an increased risk for sleep disorders such as sleep apnea. In addition, my father and grandparents have had friends die in their sleep from this disorder. Finally, I have seen the issues sleep apnea has caused my dad and am glad he received help to be alive today.
My dad decided to go straight into the Army out of high school. He deployed several times and fought for our freedom in multiple wars. He was a tough soldier so he never thought twice about the sleep issues he had when he retired. He spent many sleepness nights and chalked it up to his military days and being a night owl. He also fell asleep all the time in any location which he tied to his military time of having to be able to sleep anytime you had a chance. However, he didn’t know a sleep disorder was killing him sliently.
This may seem like a minor issue to some, but it means everything to me as my dad is my world. While living with my mom, I was diagnosed with Autism and she put me in special education classes. My mom sent me to visit my dad while I was in the fifth grade and she didn’t really want to help me so she never came back to get me from my dad’s. My dad was my savior as he helped me get into regular classes and become a great athlete. Today I am a senior in high school in Honors classes with seven varsity letters and accepted to six colleges so far. Without my dad I would be nothing and I cannot afford for this silent killer to win.
Over the past three years, he struggled more with his lack of sleep during the night and additional sleep during inopportune times. I was very worried about him and his health as many times he would still be awake when I would be getting up for school. If he was asleep in the morning, I would check on him first thing in the morning to make sure he was breathing. I was scared to death that I would find him one morning not breathing. In addition, he fell asleep at weird times such as my wrestling meets.
Luckily, he went through several sleep tests and was diagnosed with sleep apnea. This meant he stopped breathing during the night not ever achieving a deep sleep. In addition, he would fall asleep at random times throughout the day. He finally worked with the Veteran’s Hospital to receive treatment and it was decided he needed to use a CPAP machine. This helps ensure he breathes correctly at night and stays healthy.
My dad has seen me wrestle my senior year…
My dad will see me graduate…
My dad will see me enter college…
All of these events are possible because my dad received CPAP therapy to help with his sleep disorder. Every year, several loved ones across the United States die because they do not receive help for their sleep disorders. My story is different and I am thankful for that.