Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Perchance to wake up screaming...

Getting a needle biopsy is a gateway drug to much more exotic medical treatments. I know that now.

Maria has told me I snore. I maintain that it's an excuse to elbow me in the ribs in the middle of the night, but she has convinced others to tell me the same thing, and she says it got worse since my thyroid surgery, but has gotten somewhat better since. This was troubling, because we were going to be sharing a hotel room last weekend with Head Skepchick Rebecca Watson, who is capable of summoning legions of followers to attack and have my head stuffed and mounted.

(I only survived through a cunning plan: get Rebecca so drunk that once she falls asleep, she wouldn't wake up if I stacked frying pans on her bed and pounded them flat with a sledgehammer. She was both willing and eager to join in this plan.)

But to appease Maria -- and to make sure I am not going to die from severe sleep apnea -- I had a sleep study. If you've never had a sleep study, I can't recommend it enough, or at all. They put you in a tiny bedroom deep inside a hospital, hook you up with enough equipment to make you look like an Eraserhead sequel, then they turn out the lights and tell you to go to sleep three hours before you're tired.

I did manage to sleep enough to give them results. No apnea, but a few instances of apnea's weaker cousin hypopnea. Verdict: I snore. I don't know how Maria got to them.

Back to my favorite doctor, Susan Boyle. I couldn't think of a non-lame joke about the suddenly famous frumpy Scottish singer Susan Boyle, and I want to keep this one on my side.

She looked at the report and talked about three options:

A Continuous Positive Airway Pressue (CPAP) machine.

Check this thing out:

I know it's more than breast pump hooked up to an air compressor, but not by much.

An Oral Appliance.

I actually tried one of these. I did the PureSleep thing. It's a retainer that pulls your lower jaw forward so you feel like you're doing a Basil Fawlty impersonation. I don't know if it helped or not, because I would spit the thing out every night. I woke up twice because I had rolled over on it, and it felt like someone was biting my head. Back to the manufacturer.

My doctor pointed out that I could always get one with a strap to go around my head and hold it in. Then she would help me with the paperwork to legally change my name to Poindexter Q. McWussypimple. I told her I'd do it if she put on a dress made from a curtain and sang I Dreamed a Dream for me.


Ugh. One common cause of all this is the soft palette in the back of the mouth flopping backwards when you're lying down, and partially obstructing your airway. The snoring is then similar to putting a piece of paper in a rotary fan. The idea is to tack that piece of tissue up a little so it doesn't get in the way. It's fairly minor out-patient stuff that hardly ever kills anyone.

There was a Super Secret Fourth Option: Tough It Out. Maria already sleeps with a sleep mask, and I doubt she'd go for ear plugs too. Might as well get her a sensory deprivation tank.

What to choose?

Before I did anything, I needed to see an Ear, Nose & Throat doctor, which Dr. Boyle recommended. She also recommended my first Evil Bastard Endocrinologist, so I did my homework on this guy. Seemed okay, and is actually the one the Atlanta Braves turn to when they.. ummm.... snore so much they lose games?

Two things came from that meeting:

  1. I should get a CAT scan of my sinus cavity to be sure there's nothing weird there.
  2. My nose looks broken, probably from when I was a kid.

That second one is interesting. When I was in sixth grade, I went with a church youth group to go ice skating. I'm as much a natural ice skater as anyone from Alabama. But the most fun we had was waiting for the Zamboni to clean the ice, then rushing out and skating as fast as we could while the ice was still wet. When we got up to speed, we would dive forward and slide the length of the ice on our stomachs.

Great fun.

But then I had my head down too far and landed on my nose. Lots of bleeding, and I think that was the first time anyone had tried to cure me by prayer. It worked, or maybe it was the tissue I was holding up to it.

Anyway, I spent the next month at school with people telling me my nose looked crooked. I still have a slight scar across the bridge, and this was about 30 years ago. But my mom was never convinced, so we didn't go to the doctor. Now, 30 years later, I have Guilt Trip Ammo. "Because of you, Maria has to elbow me in my sleep!"

I had the CAT scan yesterday, and I have the films, but I don't know what I'm looking at. The scan was interesting too -- you lie down in front of a giant upended toilet seat and they slide your head in. Once inside, there are things whirring around and you can easily get a feeling that you're in a washing machine spin cycle.

My Reading of the CAT Scan visit is in about two weeks, and then we'll know what's going to happen: breast pump, knife, or Nerd Gear. Can you stand the anticipation?

At least I have TAM to distract me. If my foolproof slots plan doesn't pan out, I'll see you when I get back!


Nicole said...

Have you tried those little nasal strips? That may be for snoring that has a different cause, like congestion. I wouldn't know. I don't snore, or fart, or do anything unlady-like (yeah right).

Tim got elbowed in the ribs for snoring this past weekend... mainly because I forgot my earplugs on a camping trip. I finally gave up on sleep and joined a bunch of hippies singing around a bonfire til 4am. So, it all worked out.

The Man Version said...

How funny would that be? All their fancy machines and expensive surgery thwarted by a box of those Breath Right strips for $8? :)

I tried those things a few years ago, but they didn't work for me. I even tried two of them once while we were sharing a room in London with some friends, and I thought Lisa was going to smother me in my sleep.

I do not recommend two at once. You wake up feeling like your head is turning inside out.

Anyway, if the problem really is in the back of my throat, opening up my nostrils probably won't do much.

I do need to talk to Tim in private/under oath to find out about some of your other claims. With a nickname like Noisy Astronomer, you're going to get a rep...

Artful Dodger said...

Ask Ms Skeptchick what position you are in when you snore. On your back? That little throat thingie is likely the answer. On your side? More likely the deviated septum. In the latter instance those Breath Right strips might help. In the former, go for the surgery. You_do_not_want to do the mask thing.

Artful Dodger said...

Oh, and another thing.....You might want to look into GERD. A simple solution for GERD is to raise the head of the bed by about two inches. This can markedly reduce snoring and acid reflux that you don't even know is going on. Email me for a simple way to raise the bed. You do own a hammer don't you?