Here at Easy Breathe, we have serviced hundreds of thousands of patients for their sleep apnea needs. We are fortunate enough to have a great deal of contact with some of our patients and sometimes, preferably, get to know our patients very well – on a personal level. Derrick Sandwick is one of those patients. It’s fair to say that he’s one of all our team’s favorites. Typically, when writing an iCPAP article, it is our job to interview the patient and write a piece on their lives, but not this time. For the first time in our series of iCPAP articles, we present to you a letter written first-hand by Derrick Sandwick:
My name is Derrick Sandwick. I have never written a letter like this before but I think it’s time I do. About 7 years ago I started developing some really bad problems. I couldn’t get through a day without taking a nap or two. I was cranky all the time. I had aches and pains I had never had before. I was 43 at the time and passed it off as “getting old”. As time went on it got worse – a lot worse. I started having big memory blanks and real simple stuff would just vanish as if I had no recollection at all. I would sometimes have trouble concentrating on something, and most noticeable of all I would stumble with spoken words, mostly in the afternoon. Needless to say, I was really worried.
A year ago, after several trips to the doctor and a plethora of tests with no real results my doctor said I should do a sleep test. I knew a little about sleep apnea from friends but I only snore a little and my wife never sees me stop breathing – telltale signs of sleep apnea. The doc said go anyway, so I did.
As it turns out I had sleep apnea on a severe level, and it turns out that all of the symptoms I was having were a result from it. I was relieved. I got a prescription for a CPAP machine and started an exhaustive search for the best machine I could find. My insurance would only pay a small amount towards a machine and as I looked it became clear that amount would not get me much. Just like cars there is a vast difference in CPAP machines. It was at that time I found Easy Breathe. I had made up my mind that cost was not going to be factor in this decision, I wanted to get better and money and/or an insurance company were not going to make my choice for me.
I talked with the Easy Breathe people a few times over the next few days and they helped me understand my choices. They let me think over what was best for me. I finally made the decision to buy a ResMed S9 AutoSet. They were incredibly helpful! By the time I finished asking questions I was positive I had made a good decision.
They shipped my machine right away and within 3 days I was on my CPAP. I had absolutely no trouble adapting to sleeping with a nasal mask on, and used it all night every night. Here’s where the story gets interesting…
After a couple of months I had only some relief, nothing like the stories I had heard from others – that typically included the phrases, “first night I could tell” or “I slept like a baby after the 3rd night”. I began thinking those people were not telling the truth. After a couple of months I called Easy Breathe and told them what I was experiencing. They said that sometimes it happens like that but to send my memory card in right away and they would evaluate what was happening. I told them I was only about an hour away and could I bring it in now, they said sure and welcomed me at Easy Breathe headquarters.
I took my entire machine in. They read my card and tested my machine. We could find no reason with the CPAP machine for my issue. I began thinking I might not ever get full relief. It was very disheartening.
At once, I made an appointment at the Stanford Sleep Center at Stanford University in Northern California. It’s a world renowned sleep center staffed with the very best doctors. When I got there with all my records plus a fairly detailed explanation and timeline of my issues, they spent a great deal of time reading it. They looked over my machine. They asked me tons of questions. When the exam was complete, two consulting doctors came in and told me everything I had done so far was exactly right – I had bought the correct machine and done everything I could do. Then they said words that got through to me. They said, “You have only been doing this for a couple of months and you have been punishing your body with no real rest for a long, long time… give this some time”. They said that it’s not unusual for someone to take 6 months to get relief.
Well, I can tell you I was mad and happy at the same time. I felt there was still some hope of relief but 6 months, wow! Another month went by and all of a sudden I starting feeling a difference. From that point on I steadily improved. In a few weeks I was feeling great – no naps even if I wanted to, no more confusion (well, except the usual! haha) and everything got clearer. When I got relief my life changed. It sounds stupid I know but it’s just what happened. Your body must rest or there will be consequences. That’s all there is to it, no one’s immune.
Just recently I started having some trouble again – sleepy during the day and afternoon confusion. It wasn’t real bad but I’m very sensitive to the symptoms now. I called Easy Breathe again. They told me to get the card to them right away and we will evaluate it. I again asked if I could bring it down tomorrow and they said yes. I showed up, they read the card again and checked the machine. Once again, they did not find anything significant. They did however suggest that raising the pressure might help but to first to ask my doctor. My doctor said to try it. I learned how to adjust my machine by myself early on and when I got home I raised my pressure slightly. It helped and now I feel good again.
The thing to learn from my experiences with sleep apnea and CPAP is not to think your issue will be like anyone else’s. We’re all different. Make sure to get good medical treatment and advice. Make sure you deal with a good equipment supplier – the internet is full of backyard operators. Be sure you choose a good firm, it’s critical. Most of all, give it time. A ton of people don’t get that overnight help from CPAP and then give up. Don’t give up, even if you think it’s not helping. It’s unlikely that you will be one the small percentage of people who don’t get help from CPAP. You must give it a chance! It can change your life.