For most, sleep is a treasured bliss that is irreplaceable. For my Grandmother though, to go to sleep was to take her life into her hands. While some invest in luxury pillows, 800-count sheets and expensive mattresses to enhance their nightly resting, my Grandmother was forced to invest in surgery. This is how sleep apnea had a tremendous effect on her health and lifestyle.
When my grandmother married her husband, she was unaware of the importance he would serve her later down the road. She had always been a snorer, as well as her mother, but later in her life it began to become a larger issue. One night, my Grandfather noticed her snoring stop in the middle of the night. He checked on her and realized she was not breathing. In a panic, he punched her chest, relieving the obstruction of her breathing.
My Grandfather continued to do this a few times a night and it became a sort of routine. However, when he died early in his life at 59, my Grandmother was terrified to sleep alone. Temporarily, she moved in with her daughter (my mother) to feel more safe in her slumber. Yet, she knew she would need help beyond that.
When she finally went to the doctor, she was observed overnight. Turns out, she stopped breathing over 100 times in her sleep. This information for the scary truth for my Grandmother and she was eager for answers.
The doctor told her that she would need surgery to open up her throat and let her breath better. Before the surgery could be performed though, the doctor advised her to sew a tennis ball to the back of her pajama shirt. This would help open her airways so she could go through the night more safely. This non-traditional guidance helped my Grandmother survive the night before the incision. The surgery went smooth and she recovered easily. She was very lucky to regain her strength back so easily and return to her normal sleeping habits.
My Grandmother never used a CPAP machine. This technology was new when she was being diagnosed. When she finally went to the doctor, he did not bother to prescribe her the machine and decided to go straight into surgery as soon as possible. However, her current doctor is aware that if she ever had issues again, CPAP is a very reliable option.
I am so blessed to know this information about my Grandmother. It makes me realize how blessed she was to live with sleep apnea and survive despite never going to the doctor. I am more conscious of my body’s habits because of the knowledge of my Grandmother’s sleep disorder. I want to know more about my sleep habits because I believe that the these little things contribute overall to my health and well being.
Our generation has a tremendous advantage over the past ones. Not only have we done more research on sleep apnea but we also have more options on surgery and therapy to recover. CPAP is also much more stable and safe than sewing a tennis ball to your pajamas! It amazes me that my Grandmother even survived so long with this disorder.
Information can save someones life. When my mother witnessed all of this happen to her own mother, her involvement in her health skyrocketed. She joined a gym, quit smoking, did not drink or take medicine before bed and invested in a pillow that keeps her neck more raised (allowing easier air-flow). When I was born, she informed me of my Grandmother’s past health. It was shocking news, but without me knowing, I would be more careless about my health.
I am aware that not much can prevent sleep apnea. Without knowing anything about this disorder though, I would be at a higher risk. I have made the decision to never become a smoker and to keep my weight in check. These two things will not only help prevent me from getting a sleep disorder, but will save me from other health issues as well. It is very important to stay verbal with your health. When you are held accountable, not only are you more obligated to hold to your word, but it helps the other person as well. If we all talk about our health issues, we can influence others to be more aware of their bodies and well being. This is the first step to preventing illness; dealing with sleep or not.
To say I am thankful that my Grandmother to have had this issue would be false. Yet, I am glad that something beneficial came from it. Our family is very active and mindful to what we consume. It has influenced me to be much more interested in health. I want to become a Physical Therapist one day so that I can help people recovering from throat surgery to relieve their apnea. Just as my Grandmother recovered from her surgery in 1992, I will help others rehabilitate from theirs as well. As I see it, her suffering led to the recovery of many others, through my actions one day. That truly is magical.