Generation CPAP

cpap-benefitsI have finally given in.

After years of pain and discomfort (Carol’s pain and discomfort, not mine) I was finally convinced by my bed co-inhabitant to seek the help SHE needed!  The dreaded CPAP

OK … Sleep Apnea is not really a funny issue, unless you try to make it one.  Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a serious issue.  For most people it can manifest in a number of ways that most people might assume result from just a poor night’s sleep.  Sleepiness during the day, irritability, morning headaches, even frequent bedtime trips to the bathroom are some of the innocuous signs that something is messing with your sleep.

But it can be much, much more dangerous, as sleep apnea is also capable of triggering strokes and cardiac arrest.  In the worst cases, it can even cause death!

Interestingly enough, my symptoms included one not listed in most information on the condition.  I would constantly be jarred awake by sharp, stabbing pains in my ribs.

Carol has Gary Dornhoefer elbows!

Simmonds style best exemplifies Gary Dornhoefer

Flyers great Gary Dornhoefer

And those occurrences are perhaps the biggest reason to seek treatment.  No one looks forward to the constant … uh … verbal encouragements of one’s wife … Constant, persistent, never-ending encouragements to get something done.  Yet I was remarkably resilient in resisting those provocations!

I was NOT going to be wearing one of those obnoxious, intrusive facemasks and try to sleep while connected by tubes to a loud screeching machine!  Not me …

And so Life and wife have a way of “encouraging” compromises.

The Light came on for me when I noticed an increased difficulty in staying sufficiently alert during the day, despite my daily lunchtime catnap habit.  The Light became a glaring accusation once I found myself nodding off driving home from work.

The first step in resolving a problem is recognizing you have one … or actually listening to the one constantly, persistently trying to convince you that you have one.

So what I learned was both interesting and frightening.  My at-home testing revealed that I was experiencing an apnea episode, where breathing is obstructed by the throat’s soft palate,  7-8 times an HOUR!  And that – I was assured – was not nearly as bad as the worst cases, which can occur up to 30 times or more an hour!

The really scary part is that you can actually stop breathing.  Carol would tell me of listening to me stop breathing for seemingly long stretches and then convulsing in fits of guttural hacking.  Of course I challenged her to show me.

25758101Sleep apnea tends to occur in adults who are overweight (check … but only slightly!).  But it can occur in anyone, at any age … even children can develop it.  Obstructive Sleep Apnea is the most common form and the one for which I am being treated.  Central Sleep Apnea is neurological in nature, where the brain fails to send correct signals to the muscles that control breathing.

Although I have no data to back this up, I was also told that a high percentage of men with necks requiring shirt collars sized 17 and up are more susceptible to obstructive sleep apnea.  In addition, a large percentage of unwitting sufferers with partners possessing sharp pointy elbows are more likely to seek treatment, if – for no other reason – than ending that constant, persistent spousal “encouragement”.

Anatomy-of-Obstructive-Sleep-Apnea

What most surprised me was the effectiveness and relative unobtrusive nature of CPAP (Continuous Positive Air Pressure) treatments.  The machine I was provided (ResMed AirSense 10 … roughly $190. co-pay from my healthcare planMarried-Sleeping-Concept-300x300) is much quieter than I expected, having heard nightmare about noisy contraptions rivaling window air conditioners in ruling the nighttime environment.  The masks used to provide the CPAP benefit come in three styles ranging from full mouth and nose cover to simple nasal pillows (the ones I use) that nestle snuggly against the nostrils.  No need to be limited to full, intrusive face masks!

After three months of use, I have to admit I am sleeping better; maintaining wakefulness longer; and making fewer trips to the bathroom at night.

Now everyone is happier, and my bruised ribs are finally healing!

 

 

 

 

The Problem with Women in Medicine

B2GjpG6CQAATYc7Now before the Politically Correct legions on the internet break out the Tar & Feathers, I am not suggesting that women are necessarily bad for the American Health System.  On the other hand, recent experiences suggest that women seem to have a YUGE gap in one aspect of practicing medicine in a society where – last time I checked – males comprise roughly half the patient population.

Now this problem likely will not manifest should you be a male below the age of 10 or should you suffer from chronic or debilitative disease.  No, the problem is much more pronounced if you are a relatively healthy male simply in need of temporary care for any number of Life’s more manageable maladies.

The problem?  A significant deficit in Compassion!

Allow me to demonstrate with a few recent examples.

Over a recent stretch of 7-10 days I was afflicted with an annoying – but manageable – sinus infection.  No big deal, right?  But I just could not get rid of it.  So after missing a day of work due to lack of sleep from a nagging, hacking cough, I decided to seek the assistance of the American Health System.

After making an afternoon appointment, I announced to my wife of 31 … oops … 32 years of my desire to make a doctor’s appointment .  Carol – a Neonatal nurse for years and years – helpfully offered to accompany me.  Despite my selfless insistence that her presence was not necessary, I acquiesced to her rather persistent interest in my well-being.

That was Mistake #1 …

Nurse-PractitionersDue to the immediacy of my condition, I was unable to see my regular physician – a male, I might add – but was completely satisfied with being place in the care of a Nurse Practitioner.  When admitted to your typical patient treatment room, we were joined by the NP (whose name will be protected regardless of her crappy bedside manner) followed by her shadowing medical student … also female, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

As I launched into a brief synopsis of my symptoms and answering a few pertinent questions specific to the outbreak, my lovely wife felt compelled to add a rather over-dramatized version of my more audible coughing plus her preliminary diagnosis (“just a cold”), along with a completely unnecessary portrayal of my “needy behavior” during the peak of my critical debilitation.  That’s when the NP turned to Carol and said, “Oh … He has the Man flu!”

home-postThe room broke down into spasms of hilarity.  Well, most of it anyway …

I was hardly amused …  And though I will credit the med student for breaking a noticeable sweat trying to contain her female guffaws, the complete lack of medical decorum was alarming.  So once the laughter died down, I stared down the NP and mentioned that her remark lacked a certain sense of Compassion.  She was almost able to wipe the smile off her face.

Then she turned to female medical student and told her, “Yeah … Don’t do that. It’s not nice … or professional.”  At which point she looked at Carol, who was still doubled over in laughter, and broke out in tee-hees and titters all over again.  By this time said female medical student was losing her battle with Propriety and was turning six shades of red.

Aside from the ruthlessly snide anti-Man remarks and goofy sick voices (I know I don’t really sound like that!), I was half expecting them to drag out the contraction demonstration belt in which so many women seem to take perverse pleasure in!

I felt lonely and minimalized.

Flash back roughly 23 years ago … After siring three sons, it was time for me to do my part to belay Carol’s stress over future pregnancies by doing the only manly thing I could, sacrificing my own mechanism of fertility to the wonders of Modern Medicine!

As I walked into my urologist’s office, accompanied by the ever “sympathetic” Carol, I was met with so many smiling (female) faces that I immediately relaxed as my stress over the impending procedure melted away.

Then the jokes started.

imagesI will spare you the offensive images and suggestions that were rained upon my delicate mental state.  But the psychological impact was demoralizing … even if I managed a nervous laugh here and there.

I was so unsettled I decided to take the issue up with my urologist … pre-sterilization.  But when I mentioned that his female office staff could use a few reminders on Compassion and Empathy, Dr. HedgeClippers looked at me and said, “I can’t say anything.  They scare me!”

It’s tough being a Man in a Woman’s world …

 

 

 

 

The Irish Catholic Hajj Lived

The trek towards Middle America is daunting in an Econoline van, 700 miles and 11 hours long.  Yet the draw for a 17-strong contingent of Philadelphia area products from the Roman Catholic Church and school systems is irresistible, as witnessed by a core group that has made the South Bend trek to University of Notre Dame football games 17 times now.  

The underside of an obscure card table, inscribed with the names of past participants documents the participants from year-to-year.  Those making the Hajj for the first time dutifully add (R) to their names to signify their rookie status.  We also made habit of marveling at the precision organization, courtesy of Major General (Honarary) Edward Brady (Father Judge ’74), and execution.  Staying out of the way – unless called upon – for fear of ruining the mojo.

The group was not nearly as rowdy as might have been – and probably was – years ago.  Then again most of use are on the downhill side of 50 or below sea-level of 60!  It does seem to mute the wackiness.  The one exception being the call to “Huddle up!!” by Staff Sargeant (Hon) Lenny, a call to imbibe shots of intestinal fortitude.

You learn to celebrate Life more managably as you grow older.

Friday was for a tour of the Notre Dame campus, steeped in history not limited to football.  As a Philly guy, never quite bitten as badly by the ND bug, hearing the story of John Cardinal O’Hara (former Philadelphia Cardinal of the Archdiocese and President of Notre Dame) next to his marble crypt is one example.  The Battle of Gettysburg story of Reverend William Corey, steadying New York’s Irish Brigade in the hours before their date with Destiny at Little Round Top and the wheat field, is quite another.

As for the football experience, the pageantry and loyal following the Fighting Irish inspire is evident at every venue.  For me, the excitement generated by the Notre Dame Band of the Fighting Irish, on Friday particularly with the horn section warming up the crowd inside The Rotunda was simply spectacular!


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Saturday, the focus was FOOTBALL … not to be overshadowed by perhaps the nicest stretch of weather shining down on the Best Tailgating Experience ever!  (OK … Honestly the guy with the satellite dish and 40+ inch screen might have an edge here.)  It’s difficult to imagine a better day.

The Miami of Ohio – Notre Dame game was anticlimactic, given the obvious talent gap and the Irish’s ability to step on Miami’ s throat in the 1st Quarter (Final: ND 52 – Miami 17).  But the highlight truly is that there’s much, much more to enjoy at the Notre Dame Football experience than just a lopsided victory!

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View of our rental’s backyard in the vicinity of the University of Notre Dame

The Irish American Hajj

Sixteen men, one determined young lady, two Econoline vans (bench seats), 700 miles, 11 hours … A journey meant for the die-hard fans of The Golden Dome, The Fighting Irish, Knute Rockne, The Four Horsemen, and other Legends of the Gridiron ….

An American Hajj (Commitment)

A two-decade tradition expanded to include wannabes and hangers-on.  The planning intricate, resourceful, learned … Leadership the envy of military staffers ….

We depart at zero-dark-thirty for the University of Notre Dame with kisses from the women folk left behind. (Admittedly some of which are not all that worried about more spacious beds, cooking for one, and quiet evenings curled up with Netflix.)  The assault vehicles are loaded; GPS devices homed in; coffeed up and leisurely fed by one weekend widow, we are Oscar Mike!

The Summer of Orange Discontent

Description=ab23638.jpg AB23638 (RM) Traffic cones along side of road Taxi

Official Flora of Orange Summer

Many have heard the lame joke, made at times like these … “What’s the State flower of (fill in your favorite State/Commonwealth in dysfunction)?”  The punch line is pictured to the right.

It’s been one of those Summers in my little slice of Heaven on Earth.  Seems every week I am running into large rectangular announcements that “This road will be closed beginning on (month-date.)”  The amount of road work going on is enough to set commuters’ neck hairs a quivering!

My guess is that the Silver Lining in all this traffic disruption this Summer is a good sign for The Economy as a whole; but it truly wreaks havoc with the rate-of-productive-effort vs. travel time ratio.  And for some reason this Summer has seen much more infrastructure investment than any other Summer I can remember.

img_0036Summer’s tend to be most beneficial to blooming orange cones; but this one might set a record, not just for orange cones but also for orange detour signs (announced weeks in advance) and the deployment of the Flagger Forces of Evil.  I have joked recently that any hostile power, looking to pose damage and mayhem to American society would – as their first step in subversion – invest heavily in Flagger Force franchises.

Those guys are EVERYWHERE.  And even though they might seem innocuous, they control the smooth flow of American auto society.  Too perfect a cover for a nefarious force looking to nonchalantly position themselves at numerous strategic venues and choke points.  Reminds me of German efforts to sabatage the Allied response to the Nazis’ World War II offensive in the Ardennes (Battle of the Bulge).  They sent commandos to infiltrate behind Allied lines, disrupting communications and responses by – among other things – changing routing and destination signage!

img_0035It’s getting to the point where I am recognizing Flagger Force operatives moving from one choke point to another.  That cannot be a good thing!

My work commute is generally a non-invasive, relaxing commune with Nature along the secondary and back roads of eastern Montgomery County, Pennsylvania (Hatboro, Upper Moreland, Abington, Cheltenham).  No stress, relaxing scenery, manageable traffic …

Until this Summer anyway …

On any given morning, I can find two or three of my favored secondary roads impassable due to construction or repair work.  From the all too obviously needed bridge rework to road re-paving to power-line tree trimming to sewage and water line installations to God only knows what, it has been a particularly active Season of Infrastructure!

Terwood Road (closed since July 5) has been a real kick in the commute, a direct route slicing east-southeast through bucolic settings guaranteed to settle the most nervous commuter.  Worse yet, the popular route’s closure in an area not exactly brimming with non-invasive alternative routes, throws other east-west secondary routes in the area into complete disarray, forcing me to use primary routes (e.g. Route 611) where the driving is closer to Mad Max: Fury Road than psyche-settling leisure.

UPDATE:  Just days after posting this, Welsh Road (Route 63), another rather vital East-West commuter link, particularly for PA Turnpike access in eastern Montgomery County, had two sections narrowed to one lane (one for bridge work crossing over the Turnpike); had another stretch east of Washington Lane completely closed for God-only-knows-what, and is being resurfaced!!

It’s both maddening and reassuring in the “Infrastructure, Infrastructure, Infrastructure” way of thinking.

  1. Roads – and the utilities running along and below them – are essential.
  2. Roads take a beating.
  3. Roads require maintenance and semi-regular investment to maintain long-term utility.
  4. Maintenance and Investment Time sucks when moving from Point A to Point B!

There’s NEVER a good time to do it.  And when it’s being done, it’s never a good time for anyone … other than the good people (so far as we know) of Flagger Force!

Just shoot me already … (That was sarcasm, FF!)