Not your grandmother's spectral locomotive
So, I’ve got this thing called ‘Sleep Apnea.’ Apparently, I stop breathing approximately 80 times an hour. The tip off to this was the freight train that passes through my house every night, which is conveniently blamed on my snoring. Anyhow, lots of people have sleep apnea, so one of my doctors said I needed to have a sleep study done. This was last December.
I finally get to the sleep center in February, where they put me in a room full of closed captioned TV cameras, strapped me into some gear that made me look like an Air Force fighter pilot and told me to go to sleep. They called it a CPAP machine. They woke me up in the middle of the night and swapped out masks, then told me to go to sleep again.
Couple weeks later, they called me and told me that they are ordering me my very own snazzy machine and will call me when it comes in. Without going into the boring details of how a complete clusterfuck between two durable medical goods providers and a doctor’s office that somehow hates communicating with both their patients and providers, it was June before I actually got the machine.
Went to the sleep center place to pick up my machine. They gave me a tiny mask that fit over my nostrils, told me to make sure I fill up the tank with distilled water (but to let them know if I happen to get pneumonia, because apparently this happens from time to time), and sent me on my merry way with the added information that I get a new mask every six months or so (Medicare rules).
So, I get home, eager to try out my new machine and bring peace and tranquility to my house, and perhaps not die in my sleep.
Apparently, I am a mouth breather, because the shit just didn’t work. No matter what setting I put the thing on, air was forced out of my mouth. Aside from being the oddest sensation I’ve had since the early 1980′s when I popped a tab of mescaline while attending the St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York City and decided it would be a good idea to run screaming through a field in Central Park after coating my body in cooking spray. Don’t ask…
So, back to the sleep center to pick up a full face mask, which they gave me and reiterated that I could not get a replacement for about six months. That night, I fill the machine tank with a new supply of distilled water, get into bed and attempt to attach the mask to my face, only to discover that one of the clips is missing.
Three weeks later, I get the new clip….
Now, it is the end of June, six months from the date where my doctors told me if I don’t get one of these machines ASAP I could die in my sleep at any time, I finally have a working CPAP machine and can finally, finally, finally sleep through the night without waking the dead or joining them.
Yeah, let me tell you how this worked out. It didn’t. Apparently, I’m one of those who can’t sleep with a bunch of shit strapped to their head. No matter how much I adjusted the straps, it didn’t matter. Even doing the ‘unrecommended’ act of taking an Ambien didn’t work. No sleep. Or at least not for more than a half hour or so at a time. This went on for two weeks.
Since I was told that I was stuck with that mask for six months or so, I did the only thing I could think of to start sleeping again. I quit using the machine. I figured I would wait until September or so when I had some extra cash and see if I could buy another mask, perhaps a different size or style, or perhaps find something else that would allow me to use the machine again and not die in the middle of the night.
Well, last week the sleep center calls me and tells me I need to bring the machine in for ‘compliance reasons,’ so they can prove to Medicare that I’ve been using the machine, that they would get paid and I would get to keep the machine.
Mind you, this is the very first I am hearing about this requirement.
Had I been notified of it when I got the machine, I would have called them after the first couple of weeks to tell them their shit isn’t working for me, and they need to train me, teach me, refit me, resupply me or have me turn the damned thing in. They didn’t.
So, now I have to bring the machine back and may face some financial liability, which will go into the pile of some $1 million or so of other unpaid medical bills that have piled up over the past decade or so while I had no insurance coverage and could not get insurance due to pre-existing conditions. That’s a whole other story, right there.
I looked on the Interwebz to find out how much it would cost to buy my own machine, masks and supplies to make sure I don’t wake up dead one day. That idea was snuffed out pretty quickly.
Anyhow, we’re back to where we were nine months ago. Freight train city for the rest of the house while I sleep blissfully for about four hours a night, thanks to Ambien and a handful of other very powerful medications.
The bright side? I don’t hear my own snoring, and if I die before I wake, I’ll not be the wiser.