Commencing CPAP

Kage Baker was familiar with various breathing aids. As you get older, you either need something yourself or someone you know finds themselves hooked up to the tanks and tubes of assisted respiration. She quite hated the idea of something on her face, though; she was grateful to the end that she never needed it herself.

It’s miraculous that she didn’t – bronchitis was one of her hobbies for years, but once it was licked it never came back. Somehow, Kage avoided emphysema or COPD or that patron monster of informercial attornies, mesothelioma. Avoiding the last was especially noteworthy, since we lived for over a decade in an ancient, weird cottage literally covered with asbestos tiles … but then, we never made a habit of going out and snorting lines off the walls.

Anyway, her lungs were kind and didn’t give her problems as she aged. Neither have mine, actually – my lungs are fine. My problem is that I have obstructive sleep apnea, and my epiglottis blocks my airway at intervals while I sleep. My heart, burdened as it is with with chronic heart failure, is unable to pump hard enough to oxygenate my blood sufficiently with what little oxygen I get. My lungs do what they can, but for months  my brain has been slowly turning to pudding.

But today I got my CPAP – my continuous positive airway pressure mask! Kimberly drove me to the office, as I was too groggy to feel safe; it also seemed like a good idea to have someone with a functioning brain listen to the instructions. The mask is a multi-purpose wonder. It’s designed to deliver nice breathing air at an increased pressure to my nasal passages as I sleep, and literally force oxygen down my bronchia. This does two nifty things: makes sure my airway cannot close on me in my sleep, and gets a good adequate amount of air down to my lungs.

The fitting for the mask was rather amusing. The room where the respiratory techs met me was full of shelves loaded with various mask models – some of which were evidently intended for use on the surface of Mars. Or maybe came equipped with IR goggles for use in the dark – some looked like giant fly masks. There was one that looked for all the world like a burka face piece, in a camo print: the mind boggles. Luckily, one of the techs looked at me, and said doubtfully, “You have a tiny nose …” So I got a tiny mask, which basically only covers my sub-standard nose. I don’t care; it’s light, comfortable and works fine. There are straps enough to keep a war helmet on my head, and a long hilarious hose on a swivel that runs to the air pump.

The pump is also small. And, to my delight and astonishment, it is practically silent! I will not become a noise hazard! In fact, I’ll be less noisy than I was, because this will stop me snoring as a side effect. It’s got a satisfying number of lights and buttons, to control air pressure and duration and hydration; and I’ve been sternly tutored in all necessary hygiene. And I’d like to think that 50 years of reading science fiction has given me a head start in air mask cleanliness anyway.

I’ve taken two naps today – one with mask, one without. I wanted a trial run and a control, to see if any immediate difference is noticeable. And it is! I woke from the maskless nap feeling like a bowl of mashed potatoes dropped on the floor – ie, normal; but with the mask on, I woke feeling all sparkly and alert.

In the meantime, the whole set up business has been incredibly easy. I can sleep normally, I can move my head on my pillows, and I can scare the cats if they come to lovingly sit on my face in the night … I just open my mouth and relax my glottis, and WHOOSH! A hurricane roars out of my mouth and the kitties will be flying.

No end of fun, and I haven’t even slept the night through yet! I can hardly wait to see what I feel like tomorrow.


About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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6 Responses to Commencing CPAP

  1. Tom says:

    From your mouth, so to speak, to ghod’s ear. Or rear. Whichever gets better results.


  2. johnbrownson says:

    …And a deafening cheer goes up from the assembled friends and companions: Huzzah!


  3. buggybite says:

    I have a close friend who uses one of these, and it has made a world of difference to her. The gentle sound of the respirator is infinitely preferable to what her snoring used to be like, and now she gets a good night’s sleep. I’m glad it’s working for you as well. That’s one of your health issues that will be forever improved.


  4. Becky Miller says:

    Woot! Let’s hear it for science! Keep us posted. This is fascinating, I’ve only heard tiny snippets from people with one of these, never the details 🙂


  5. Lynn says:

    Fabulous, Kathleen. Fabulous! I woke up from sleep feeling tired and with a headache for most of the past 5-6 years until I got my C-PAP. Haven’t had a morning headache since!

    And the noises you can make are awesome. Can’t wait to visit someone with a cat!


  6. Cynthia Olsen says:

    So very relieved you can now sleep AND breathe.


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