Breaking the generational cycle of Sleep Apnea
"Ten years ago, I did not know much about sleep apnea. Back then, I just thought of myself as someone who had trouble sleeping from time to time. When I was younger, I could go without sleep and go about my day. Little did I know that sleep apnea was already impacting my life and about to get worse as I got older.
When I was a teenager, my father kidded around with me that I inherited his big neck. It turns out the big neck was also a feature of my grandfather and great-grandfather along with a receding hairline. I actually inherited a medical time bomb that could go off at any time as I got older. Sadly, my father suffered multiple heart attacks and strokes. His last heart attack unfortunately killed him. The root cause of these tragic medical conditions was his severe sleep apnea.
In the meantime, as I got into my forties, my sleep apnea was getting worse. I was getting accustomed to the tread mill of little sleep, lots of coffee, and becoming less physically active. The added stress of a high pressure job in federal contracting was making things more difficult. In the end, the treadmill at the gym was replaced by sitting on the couch after work watching the television. So many nights after work, I had almost fallen asleep at the wheel.
My wakeup call was when I was on a road trip to visit family. I stopped off at a gas station to fill up on gasoline and coffee. In my sleep deprived state, I accidentally popped the hood of my car thinking it was the gas cap. 100 miles later, I make a stop and someone walking by noticed my car hood was popped. That was the moment I knew I needed to see a sleep doctor.
I made an appointment at the Metropolitan ENT medical center for an initial check up. During my first visit, I was informed that I had a deviated septum in my nose and probably had sleep apnea after the doctors peaked inside my neck. I was being introduced to a whole new medical vocabulary - deviated septum, apnea, oxygen deprivation, and sleep studies. I soon became familiar with going to sleep studies.
That was I also met Dr. Michael Abidin. After looking at my sleep study results, he diagnosed me with sleep apnea and made a promise to treat my condition. Dr. Abidin also promised me that he would become my new favorite doctor. Over time, that did become true. As we were going over my serious condition, his sense of humor helped to ease the tension and take the next right actions.
By the time I had initially visited Metropolitan ENT, I had been harsh with myself that I had not accomplished more with my life. Many people go through that as they get older. Dr. Abidin explained to me that my deviated septum and sleep apnea was causing significant oxygen deprivation which causes significant cognitive impairment. If anything, he told to appreciate all that I had accomplished given that I had this progressive condition. Looking back, my sleep apnea was starting to impacting my life back when I was a teenager. I was up against a progressively fatal condition and my sleep apnea was going to win out unless I made some changes. It was time to take some action.
I gave the sleep mask a try and found it did not work for me. Many people swear by their sleep masks and I am glad that is available to those that can use it. That meant I had to explore surgical treatments.
Dr. Abidin recommended that we first try treating my deviated septum with surgery. This was my first surgery I ever had. This surgery was an outpatient treatment and I was able to go back home and recover. Besides having a temporarily painful nose for a few days and better breathing through my nose, an unexpected result came from the surgery. My follow up visit with Dr. Abidin indicated that my blood pressure came down significantly. Soon afterwards, my primary care physician at the time recommended that I discontinue two out of three blood pressure medications.
My sleep apnea's progression was lessening but was still causing me sleep problems. About a year later, Dr. Abidin and I explored throat surgery. It was recommended that I have my tonsils out along with my adenoids to help increase air flow in my throat. I was also encouraged to get what was called a hyoid suspension.
Until then, I never even knew I had a hyoid bone. From what I researched, a hyoid suspension is a surgical procedure to treat sleep apnea and can help to improve the airway behind the base of the tongue. I was facing the prospect of having three surgical procedures done in one day. At first, the prospect of these surgeries seemed a bit scary. I then recalled the popped hood incident with my car and the many times I had almost feel asleep at the wheel. Taking a risk with surgery seemed less scary when I also recalled my family's history of heart disease and sleep apnea. I decided to take a chance. Dr. Abidin was candid that there were no guarantees that this surgery would ever cure my apnea. I was willing to go forward with surgery but had my expectations in check.
I went through with the surgery and earned an overnight stay at the Alexandria Hospital. It took a few weeks to fully recover. My blood pressure had decreased even more since my deviated septum surgery. Dr. Abidn told me before the surgery that a new world would open up. He even mentioned that I will notice more of the world around me. Now that I was having better air flow of oxygen, the color of the sky, trees, and bodies of water do now seem brighter.
A recent sleep study indicated that my sleep apnea was officially declared "cured." For that, I am truly grateful for a new quality of life.
Thanks to this surgery, I now have a more active lifestyle. Before I started my sleep apnea treatments, I used to get out of breath going up the stairs. Thanks to these medical procedures, exercise classes are now a regular part of my life. I am grateful to have an active life that seemed lost for good."
Dr. Abidin is still my favorite doctor. Many thanks.
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