A Rude Awakening

By Jeffery Cohen

“Stop Snoring!” These were the words I was awakened to one weekend by my little granddaughter. As I pried my sleepy eyes open, there she stood: The twisted up face of a three-year-old staring at me, her tone accusing me of some unforgivable offense. Half conscious, I’d tried to decipher the demand that was being made of me even though I hadn’t the foggiest notion what she was talking about. After all, I had been sound asleep until she woke me up. “Grandpa, stop snoring,” she insisted in an even louder voice, stamping her foot. “Grandpa, you’re scaring me!”

“Was I snoring?” I asked my wife, who didn’t hear the question because she had buried her head between two pillows to muffle the sound. Giving her a gentle shake, she peaked out like a shy turtle. “Was I snoring?” I asked again.

“Are you kidding?” she answered. “The bed was vibrating from the sound. The house was shaking.”

“Bria says I’m scaring her,” I said, pointing to my granddaughter who was near tears.

“Is it any wonder? You sound like some kind of roaring lion,” my wife explained.

“I scare her?”

“She’s not the only one. You scare me. You actually stop breathing! I’ve watched you. You take a breath and then you stop breathing for a few second. Just when it gets really frightening, and I’m ready to call 911, you start breathing again with that roar of a snore. You should really get that checked. You have to go to a sleep doctor.”

“A sleep what?” I asked. Up until now, I had heard of a lot of different kinds of specialists – eyes, ears, nose and throat, cardiologists, internists, podiatrists, dermatologists…but a sleep doctor? I thought my wife was making it all up but she insisted there was such a thing and, of course, she was right, so I made an appointment.

The doctor began by asking me all kinds of sleepy questions. “What time do you go to bed?” he asked.

“One or two,” I answered.

“Oh, you really should go to bed earlier. Do you eat before bedtime?”

“Sometimes.”

“You really shouldn’t do that,” he scolded.

“Do you snore?” he asked.

“I don’t know. I’m asleep. My wife says I do”

“Do you stop breathing when you’re sleeping?” he asked.

“I don’t know. Like I said, I’m asleep, but my wife says…”

He cut me off before I could finish. “Well, the only real way to ascertain whether you do have a problem is to do a sleep study. You’ll have to spend the night in the sleep center at the hospital. We’ll monitor your sleep habits and make a determination.”

A week later I checked into the hospital at 8pm, my favorite pillow and blanket in hand – anything that was going to help me get to sleep in a strange place. I slipped into my pjs, flopped onto the queen sized bed and turned on the TV to the football game, not feeling a bit tired. At about eleven, just when my team was starting to score, a technician came in and informed me it was beddy-bye time.

He spent the next half hour pasting electrode patches on every spot of bare skin he could find, strapping straps and buckling belts here, there and everywhere. He hooked up some sort of gizmo to my chest which he plugged into a series of cables. By the time he was finished I was covered in gadgets and wound up in a web of multicolored wires. Then he eased some sort of gear over my head, tightened the straps and told me to just relax. Was he kidding? I began to feel a little nervous sweat. The way I saw it, one power surge and I’d fry like a convicted prisoner in “Old Sparky,” the electric chair! I did my best to crawl into bed as the technician warned me not to move around too much for fear that the equipment might detach. I tried to lay still, tangled in a mass of electronics and sensors.

“Just one thing. What do I do if I have to go to the bathroom?” I asked.

“No problem.” He smiled. “I’ll be monitoring you all night. Just bang on the headboard if you need to use the restroom and I’ll come in.” He whispered, “Goodnight. See you in the morning.” No such luck. Twenty minutes later I banged on the headboard. As promised, my tech answered the call and unattached me from a good part of the equipment so that I could answer the call of nature. Then he reattached me.

I lay there in that strange bed, buried in a mountain of technology, tangled like a spider’s prey in a web of wires. On top of being in strange surroundings and a foreign bed, I was being put to bed two hours earlier than normal, not knowing the outcome of my football game. I was pretty certain there was no way I was ever going to fall asleep, even if I was clutching my favorite blankey and pillow. I lay there in the dark for almost two hours before I finally lost consciousness, only to wake up half an hour later to use that bathroom. Maybe it was just nerves, but I woke up and banged on that headboard so many times that night, it started to sound like the conga section of a Latin band. In the end, I got so little sleep, I wondered if there would be enough data to calculate anything. It was one of the most uncomfortable nights I’d ever spent, and I was glad when it was finally over. Early in the morning, as I was being disconnected, the technician reassured me that I did suffer from a very slight case of sleep apnea. He told me that if I lost a little weight the problem would probably resolve itself. That was quite a relief…until I had the follow-up appointment with the sleep doctor.

There he sat shaking his head as he looked at the results of the study. “A very grave case of sleep apnea,” he sighed. “Do you know, you stop breathing eighty-five times an hour? This is not good. What we need to do now is to have you do a second sleep study. This time we’ll fit you with a c-pap machine which will force air into your lungs and make sure you keep breathing at all times. Then we’ll check the results.” I couldn’t believe I had to do the same thing all over again, but I did.

Some weeks after the study, I was given a c-pap machine. I hooked up the contraption at home, tightened the straps around my head and chin, slipping the plastic mask over half of my face. A long, flexible hose flipped and flopped with every move, anchoring me to the small box that pumped air. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I looked like Hannibal Lecter from Silence of the Lambs, but I figured everyone would finally get a good night’s sleep.

Early the next morning I was awakened by my granddaughter’s protests. As I pried my sleepy eyes open, there she was, staring at me, with all my straps, buckles, plastic mask, hose hanging like some giant tentacle. A look of horror flashed across my granddaughter’s face. “Grandpa, you’re scaring me!”

 

About this writer

  • Jeffery Cohen

    Jeffery Cohen

    Freelance writer and newspaper columnist, Jeffery Cohen, has written for Sasee, Lifetime and Read, Learn, Write. He’s won awards in Women-On-Writing Contest, Vocabula’s Well Written Contest, National League of American Pen Women’s’ Keats Competition, Southern California Genealogy Competition, and Writer’s Weekly writing contest.

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2 Responses to “A Rude Awakening”

  1. Rose Ann says:

    Amusing story of a serious condition. Glad your wife convinced you to go to the doctor. I don’t snore at all . . . despite what my family says :) !

  2. Linda O'Connell says:

    “Old Sparky”… you write funny! Love this story.

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