Sleep, Yesterday.

You Are Feeling Very Sleepy.

A much known side effect of being a fellow with a fuller figure is the ability to snore and snore very loudly. You know the kind of snoring, they show it in cartoons when the perpetrator snores so loud that the roof raises and lowers with each breath.

Thats me and my roof is a mess!

It gets loud.

Still, no harm no foul. I live alone and the only living thing that gets to hear the snoring is my dog Archie when he comes for a sleepover and he doesn’t seem to mind, or at least he never comes in to my room and nudges me to roll over. It’s never been a problem for me, I have never wondered why I would so often wake myself with a snort or why I was tired in the day, even if I had thought I had enough sleep the previous night. This went on for some time until a trip to the The Oxfordshire Weight Loss Service ended up with me being referred to a clinical trial for OSA Obstructive Sleep Apnoea. Odd really, I had gone to the meeting to discuss whether a support group might be helpful in dealing with my weight issues and I had been identified as a possible OSA sufferer. Still, gift horses and all that.

NHS Choices has OSA listed as:

Obstructive sleep apnoea is a condition caused when the muscles and soft tissues in the throat relax and collapse sufficiently to cause a total blockage of the airway. It is called an apnoea when the airflow if blocked for ten seconds or more.

I must admit to being really very pleased about the referral, even if it did mean my face collapsed when I laid down. This was definitely not the way I had imagined the meeting going, but by accepting the offer of the clinical trial I could end up avoiding a waiting list of up to two years. I just needed the bandwagon to slow down enough so as I could get my big lumbering frame onto it.

Act in haste, repent at leisure. I think that’s how the saying goes.

Clinical trials are as bad as they sound, if you think they sound bad. If not, listen up. I have never had so many bruises, marks and pains as I did when I was finding out if I was a sufferer of OSA. I was poked and prodded and made to get into some of the most peculiar shapes and contortions. The samples they wanted were not simply subcutaneous (just under the skin) but right into the Adipose Tissue (Fat) and not simply in the arm, but right in my belly. Not once or twice but three times and it was that deep, I thought the biopsy needle was poking out of my back!

It smarted I can tell you.

With no let up, the tests kept on coming thick and fast, in fact so much blood was drawn that they may have well just left a tap in my arm. It would have saved them the bother of having to get out the vein finding machine, honestly, it’s real. It doesn’t work very well (well not on me) but it is real. Thats the thing I absolutely hate about giving blood. No one and I mean NO ONE can ever find any of my veins first time, so I start to stress because even though it doesn’t really hurt that much, by the time the Phlebotomist has stuck me a dozen times before they find a gusher, I’m pretty fed up with the whole show to be honest. Eventually however, once they had taken their blood and cut enough parts out of my stomach, they needed to find alternative ways of torturing me. But don’t worry, the best was yet to come, they still had one medieval trick up their sleeve.

It was called the MRI, the Magnetic Resonance Imaging machine, or MPI Medieval Pain Inflictor as it will forever be known by me. You see, it looks very innocent when you stand next to it but when you are of fuller figure and the operator wants to see the fat in your abdomen, you get pushed into the machine like a cork being squashed back into a bottle and that, let me tell you, really does hurt. I have never been so uncomfortable in all of my days. Because I am so broad across the shoulders, I literally would not fit into the mouth of the torture machine, so I had to put my arms above my head so they could squeeze me into a hole built for people much smaller than I. That’s when the real pain started. I can’t even describe the feeling whilst I was in there. It was as if time stood still and my body screamed to be freed for what felt like a lifetime. To top it all off, they wanted to repeat it for a better look. My god, was there no end to their diabolical, nefarious and just plain perverse torture? And all in the name of science.

The next stage of the process before I was awarded the CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine, was a night in the sleep study room so they could best judge my level of OSA. I’m sure they must use the term Sleep Study in the absolute loosest sense because I can tell you, there was hellish little sleeping went on when I was in there. Firstly, when the computer was turned on, the sound was more akin to a jet turbine than small 12 volt fan. Now I know the NHS isn’t a wealthy organisation, but you would think they would have something modern and quiet in a room designed for someone to sleep, not something from the 1940’s. One that Alan Turing himself had probably worked on when cracking those codes. The noise was unbelievable, the fan ran all of the time because the minuscule memory and processor struggled to keep the machine running let alone do any work. The hard drive whirred and the circuits clicked. Even the LED lights made a noise when they flashed. We are talking OLD.

Anyway, it was in the room and it would be running all night so I would just have to get used to it. The next stage saw me hooked up to a heart monitor ECU style, with a pulse clip on my index finger. I was then treated to a plastic tube around my face and up my nose before I was told I could start sleeping when I wanted to. Yeah right, sleeping, thats the first thing that came to mind after I was hooked up to all of this machinery. I regularly chain myself up to a noisy old electronic beeping machine then try to get 40 winks. I’m well practised at it. It couldn’t be further from that if it tried. Pitch black and silence is what I need before I can fall asleep and start interrupting everyone else’s rest time 😉 Eventually however I started to feel the eyes get heavy and thought I might be on for a little nap when BAM! the light outside the door went on and remained like that for the rest of the night.

They got their readings in the morning and it was an obvious diagnosis of OSA so I can only imagine at some point I must have got some sleep although I cannot think when because when I woke or at least stirred at some ungodly hour, I still had so much of the Sandman’s sand still in my eyes, I felt like I’d spent the night at the seaside. Still it meant that I could get home before the traffic started to pile up.

Eighteen months on from my torture, I still try regularly to use the CPAP as often as I can but even with the humidifier attached to it, my nose starts to block within about 40 minutes of fitting – almost timed to perfection because it’s just as I am about to get some shut-eye, so it invariably ends with the mask being ripped from my face and the machine switching itself off automatically through lack of use. This evening however, I hope things change because having picked up my prescription for a steroid spray to stop nasal blockage, I expect to get a good nights rest and still remain plugged in.

Here’s hoping that tomorrow I am brighter eyed and bushier tailed than I have been in a long time.

‘Till tomorrow,

Stay out of the fridge.

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