I just got back from participating in a Sleep Study. It was quite an experience. The name makes it sound like I was part of a survey or research project, but it was actually a diagnostic “procedure” to determine if I have sleep apnea, which is just another in a long line of guesses doctors have about why I might be still struggling with fatigue and breathlessness. The test is rather expensive, but I have met my deductible for this year (how shall we celebrate) so we figured we might as well keep pressing forward looking for a solution.
I feel kind of funny about it, though. I keep thinking about the pioneers, tribal natives in Africa, peasants in China, etc., etc., for whom the concept of a sleep study would be laughably ridiculous. What a symbol of modern wealth and stresses it is. It’s rather embarrassing to me, really, as if it means I have nothing better to do, or nothing more serious to worry about and spend money on. Nevertheless, there I went.
I arrived at a little house near Cottonwood Hospital at 8:00 p.m. Someone had outfitted this house to be a Sleep Disorder Center. The living room was a reception area. The kitchen was full of medial supplies and computers and had two workstations with video monitors for the technicians to sit at. Also, a TV/DVD player for them to watch movies while they are trying to stay awake.
I was escorted to a bedroom which contained a bed, a chair, a TV, a video camera, and lots of wires. After getting into my pajamas, Klaudia (from Yugoslavia) came and explained what was going to happen and had me fill out papers. Then she left me alone “until you are ready to go to sleep.”
I was lonely. I did yoga. I called Roger. I flipped through the stations of the TV. I went to the bathroom. I told Klaudia I was ready.
Klaudia came in and began a laborious process of attaching wires all over me. Chest, back, legs, face (two on my chin, four around my eyes) and scalp. The ones on my chin, said Klaudia, would monitor whether I grind my teeth. The ones near my eyes would monitor my eye movements. The ones on my scalp record brain waves. About sixteen in all, each wire had to be stuck down with goo, paste and tape. (Except, thank goodness, they didn’t use tape in my hair.) Then each wire was attached to a little box that somehow kept track of them all and fed them into the computer that Klaudia would watch all night. Klaudia told me that if I awoke and needed to go to the bathroom in the night, I would need to press the call button so that she could unplug me.
I asked Klaudia what she does all night. She says that every twenty minutes they must look at the video camera and record what position I am sleeping in. She had two or three other patients in other bedrooms to watch as well. Other than that, she could read or watch TV or whatever. We talked a little about night jobs and how she manages to stay awake all night since she works only three nights a week and takes care of her kids during the day. She said she can make it until one or two in the morning reading, but after that she has to do other things to help her stay awake. I suggested yoga, of course. Klaudia told me that they have three patients in the sleep center every night. I marveled that there are so many people in the valley with sleep problems. I never knew!
I heard the other tech preparing the guy in the bedroom next to me. That guy had things worse than me, I could tell. They were discussing how much Ambian he takes to sleep every night. I prayed for him, and for the very large woman in the other bedroom who had a CPAP machine. I prayed for myself, too. I prayed that, regardless of what this study shows, the results would be accurate and the test would be valid in diagnosing (or eliminating a possibility) my problem. I also prayed with gratitude that I am really awfully healthy, all things considered. So, I’m tired. Things could be worse.
Klaudia put a pulse oximeter on my finger. I put in some earplugs, then settled in as comfortably as I could and read until I couldn’t keep my eyes open any more. (My usual night routine.) It was a little awkward packing my pillow just right and settling down with all of those wires. Each time I woke in the night to turn over, I had to adjust the wires carefully. Once, at about 1:00 a.m., Klaudia came and woke me because one of the monitors on my chest needed to be adjusted. I had a hard time getting back to sleep after that. But finally I did, and I awoke again, as is my habit, at about 6:00 a.m. I dozed for not more than a minute or two before Klaudia came in to take everything off and hurry me out the door.
After a year of tests, I know that technicians are not allowed to talk about what they may or may not have learned from watching the test, so I didn’t ask. She did tell me that if the doctor determines that I have sleep apnea, I get to return and do the whole thing again with a CPAP machine. Lovely.
As I arrived home, the sun was just coming up and everything was still and beautiful. A flock of birds flew over the house and I knew that I didn’t want to be anywhere else, any other time (even on my cruise). Now THAT’S a sign of wealth.
As with all medical tests, the whole thing has left me feeling a little tender and raw, like a lump of meat that’s been handled too much. I’m glad it’s Sunday, that I can go to church and be reminded of my connection with God. I keep thinking about my kids and how much I love each one. It’s nice to know that God loves me that much, too, because I’m getting tired of all this. I need a hug from him right now. I suppose a good prayer and a hot shower will have to do.