My VW cruised around the back of the three story brick building, the lot dark with only the illumination from the clouded glass entry doors and lobby window casting light into the shadows of the parking lot. My VW glided into the parking space next to the grassy curb, a spot I always look for out of habit. There is a comfort from knowing no one is parked next to my car, as well as the little step that the curb provides when I emerge from my vehicle. “Sleep Lab >” the sign had directed me around the building to the entrance. I was there.
I was also early. It was 9:32. Instructions were to arrive by 9:45 PM for the 10:00 PM appointment. Those who know me either flinch or smile or do both because they know how much I hate to be late for anything. I’m one of those people who likes to step slowly into whatever is about to happen, wrap myself around it in anticipation. I like to be prepared. I want to absorb every bit and being early means that I am ready to do just that. So I attempted to unwrap the little banana Laffy Taffy candy that I had saved for my wait inside the VW’s middle console, snarling as the candy adhered to the inside of the wrapper. A bit of wrapper stayed with the candy, but I popped it in my mouth anyway. It all comes out in the end.. or of the end.
I learned that from the welsh terrier my wife and I raised as our first child. Syd greedily consumed everything he could beg, borrow or steal (mostly steal). That meant he often consumed wrappers in his haste to eat the booty before we could take it from him. If it was chocolate, the remnant would often drip from his terrier beard (don’t worry.. Syd was too ornery for chocolate to have any adverse affect on him). Then there was the time that he ate the components from Mir’s breast pump. Let’s just say that everything always came out of the end when Syd was involved, something that intrigued me every time that I cleaned up our back yard before mowing. More often than not I found myself muttering “Geez, that must have hurt!” as I observed the crumpled foil that had obviously passed through our beloved terrier. The breast pump components he consumedncame out whole and without teeth marks. What my mother in law suggested when I came inside the house with those components is another story for another time. Let’s just say she was one to reuse EVERYTHING.
There was no one to greet me as I entered the unoccupied and quiet lobby of the Sleep Diagnostics Laboratory Center, only a sign that instructed those who entered to wait for a technician to retrieve them at the appointment time. I signed in, then took my seat to wait for the tech. She arrived early, greeted me, let me know that my assigned tech would be there shortly… and it turned out that she was the one who would be my tech. Michelle came back a few minutes later, led me back to my room, gave me the story for how my evening would progress.
From the looks of all the wires and cables laid out on the bed, my evening was going to be interesting. Michelle explained the purpose of the cables, where they would be attached in respect to my body — head, face, chest, ankles — as well as to the extent of monitoring that would be performed. She told me that some patients did not adjust well to all of the cables attached to them, others do just fine. There was a speaker at the head of the bed that would be used to communicate with me, as well as the way I would communicate with Michelle. If I needed to visit the toilet, I would have to call Michelle to come disconnect the cables, all of which would be connected to a box hung around my neck.
Further monitoring would be performed through a camera mounted on the ceiling above the foot of the bed. Michelle explained that recording would not begin until the test was started, so I did my own test and mooned the camera (kidding, really, I am more mature than that). I could change into my bed clothes, which consisted of some gym shorts and an orange tee shirt, then take my seat at the foot of the bed to indicate to Michelle that I was ready for the test to begin. Easy. On cue, when I took my seat on the chair at the foot of the bed, Michelle appeared to start applying the monitoring cables.
Dang, there were more than I thought there would be, especially on my face and head. Numerous sensors were attached to my face, neck, and chin, as well as a tube that monitored my breathing from both nostrils. A microphone was glued directly below my lower lip to monitor my snoring. Sensors were glued to my scalp as well as the back of my head. Cables with sensors were dropped through the inside of my shorts and the sensors were glued to my ankles. Other sensors were glued to my chest, something I knew would cause my to wince when they were removed at the conclusion of the sleep study.
Michelle explained that she would wake me up at different times of the night, with instructions that would vary with the progression of collected data. They would want to see what happened as I slept on my back, each side, as well as what was observed in regards to sleep apnea (blocked, obstructed breathing that occurs during sleep). If apnea was detected, something that is not always indicated by snoring, then they also would likely want to test the affect of a CPAP machine and mask, starting with a mask that only covers my nose. Depending on the affect of that mask, a full face mask might also be tested.
I slept well. I thought that might be the case, enough that hours really seemed like minutes. I did indeed have to wear the CPAP mask, but only needed the nasal mask since I adapted to that mask with no issues. Wearing the mask was strange at first. The machine basically works by applying air through the mask into the patient’s airway, keeping the airway open and preventing obstruction (and snoring). I got used to it quickly.
I got used to it until I tried to talk. Imagine sticking the hose from a vacuum on your nose, then trying to open your mouth. Basically, you suck everything in the room into your mouth.
I wish that I had thought to leave my cell phone in the bathroom. At one point, I did have to request to take a tinkle. No, I don’t mean that I wanted to record that. But I did take that opportunity to look at myself in the mirror and at all the wires attached to my face. Wow! There were a lot of wires. Frankenstein’s monster had nothing on me, although at least I didn’t have bolts holding my head on.
At 5 AM, Michelle bounced into the room to let me know that the study was complete. I could change, shower, and let myself out. Results would be sent to my doctor. The wires were removed expertly, with no chest hair harmed. Voila!
I liked not having to wait for the shower. I liked driving home at 5:30 AM, without traffic. Of course, Miriam had locked the front storm door, so I had to text her to let me in. I sauntered in as she trudged sleepily back upstairs, then plopped on the couch for a little more sleep.
Done. No big deal. For those of you resigned to the same fate, don’t worry.