Friday, August 1, 2014

Me and my sleep apnea

I have been suffering from sleep apnea for quite a few years already. It started to show when I was still with OSCC some 6 years back when I would sometimes "accidentally" sleep at my cubicle. Early on I just dismissed it as because I was growing fat (we ate a lot at OSCC.. :P and I barely went anywhere except my cubicle) and also because of babies. Oh babies.. those cute little things that keeps you awake at night so that they can be so cute and charming when your friends and relatives come over the next day. So it was dismissed. Later on I got more and more used to sleeping at work, started associating it with my lack of motivation and sometimes feeling of downright depression. And I kept growing fatter and fatter, which I assumed was the reason why I was getting more and more tired.

But then around 2 years ago a friend of mine suggested maybe I've got sleep apnea. And a few other people suggested I go to a sleep clinic and all that. Put it off for quite a while. Until I feel I couldn't put it off any longer. My condition got so bad, that almost everyday I worked around half day only, because by noon I could barely keep my eyes open, much less think to do my work (and as a programmer, thinking is a big part of the job). Last year for raya we didn't even go anywhere because I couldn't trust myself to drive long distances. The year before we went back to Kedah, I only got up to Rawang, then I got so sleepy I couldn't drive anymore, my wife drove all the way to Gurun. I started dozing off on my motorcycle and barely miss dividers and lorries (ON MY MOTORCYCLE.. can you imagine how tired I was to doze off on a MOTORCYCLE!!! I was controlling it, I wasn't riding it and dozed off while someone else was controlling it, I WAS CONTROLLING IT).

And that's just the beginning. Not to mention the amount of depression I had to fight off because I wasn't getting my jobs done, my datelines was flushed down the toilet, my freelance jobs I had to cancel because I couldn't deliver, the debts I had to take to keep on going with less income, the whole spiral of self blame and self loathing, the doubt, the second guesses, the shame....

So late last year I started to take action. Asked about my company policy on footing the bill for sleep apnea treatment and Alhamdullillah they will foot the bill for treatment by any panel specialist. So I started doing research and found that the Sunway Medical Centre had sleep study facilities. I went to a panel clinic and got the recommendation letter to see a nose and throat specialist for my condition.

Over at Sunway Medical Centre I was treated by Dr. Gan Tong Nee. He's a great doctor with many years of experience with this kind of problems. I wanted to go into the sleep clinic immediately but he suggested I try the nasal spray first. So went on the nasal spray for around a month. Still not much improvement. So we actually had an MRI done. From it you could actually see the nose polyps build-up in my nose. He suggest to have them removed first because he said even if I was to use a CPAP machine I wouldn't use it for long because it would be very uncomfortable. So I had a MINOR surgery to have them removed. The doctor said minor, but let me tell you, if they cut you up anywhere near your face, mmm... minor is an understatement. I had to have someone collect my piss for 3 days because I couldn't get up. Maybe it's also due to my being a little bit obese so it exaggerated the problem, but seriously, NOT MINOR. But what a difference it made. In the first few weeks after all the bandage came off, I felt like I didn't even have a nose anymore. It's like the whole front of my face was a gaping hole and air came in and out as it pleases. It felt nice. But as soon as my medical leave was over, and I went back to work, the whole problem started again. So this time the good doctor put me in a sleep study.

This was how I looked like taking the sleep test. All wired up like some fat ironman. And the sleep study concluded that I still had sleep apnea despite the surgery so I'll have to start using a CPAP machine. But after thousands and thousands of ringgit paid for by my company for all the check-ups and surgery, they won't pay for the machine because that machine would be brought back home and I guess owned by the staff or something like that. Whichever way it is, it wasn't covered. If I bought it from Sunway Medical Centre, it could set me back at least RM 10k-12k depending on the model I choose. So, since I have to pay for it myself, I looked for a cheaper alternative.

After much search and googling I found I bought the Apex iCH Auto CPAP for just RM 5800 (including the full mask) and have been using it ever since. I changed to the nasal mask because the full mask kept on leaking probably due to my many many facial hairs. But apart from that it has worked pretty well. It has a built in humidifier which helped a lot to keep the nose comfortable without feeling stuffed up in the morning. But most days I don't even fill it up with water because my kids sometimes play with it while I sleep. There was once my youngest one actually toppled it when there was water inside. Good thing it fell on the pipe out side and so the water didn't get into the machine and damage it but ever since then I only use water if my kids are all asleep already.

And what's my verdict? Well, Alhamdullillah I have been productive at work ever since I got the machine. I'm putting in a full day worth of work and I have caught up with most of my work at the office. I still haven't taken any serious freelance job yet but can actually look forward to taking on some soon once the opportunity arrive and I've cleared some personal projects. And most importantly, and that's why I'm writing this today, is yesterday we just came back from Kedah. I drove the whole 10 hours crawling there, and the 9 hours crawling back. I was tired by the end. With the last few hours I had to keep on massaging my neck and thighs to give some relieve to the tiredness I felt, but apart from that, Alhamdullillah we are safely back home. And so it has been proven beyond any shred of doubt that the RM 5800 I spent (and additionally RM 500 for the nasal mask) and all the surgery I had to go through was well worth it. Alhamdullillah.... I'm not completely out of the woods yet, but at least now there is hope and insyaAllah I can get there...

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