DAY21 Sonja Akins CPAP Panic


Sonja Akins

5 thoughts on “DAY21 Sonja Akins CPAP Panic”

  1. PROMPT: Helter Skelter (Song)
    STORY: Scrapbook something very unexpected (maybe about yourself).
    TECHNIQUE: Use metallics or metal embellishments.

    STORY: I decided to tell the story of an unexpected reaction to a CPAP mask. I knew I wouldn’t like it, but geez.

    The journaling reads: In 64 years of life, I have only ever experienced one episode of panic. On February 4, 2020, I had my first surgery. I had an umbilical hernia repaired, a minor out-patient procedure, supposedly. I had been put to sleep briefly before, twice, for colonoscopies. I was out about 20 minutes each time, woke up fine, no issues. But this time, I was under general anesthesia for an hour and a half, and I woke up in the recovery room, but slowly. Then, every time I nodded off, alarms sounded because I would stop breathing and my oxygen saturation would bottom out.

    They kept me for hours, and finally decided I needed to spend the night. They wanted to put me on a CPAP machine overnight, to be sure I didn’t have any breathing issues before they released me. They did try an oxygen cannula, but my levels still dropped when I fell asleep. So, late that night, a respiratory therapist came to my hospital room and fitted me with a CPAP machine.

    I had a sleep study done years ago, which was a frustrating experience. I don’t remember why I was referred for pulmonary function tests, but they were normal, so the sleep study was the next step. I had none of the symptoms of sleep apnea, except for snoring. I didn’t wake up with a headache, I didn’t fall asleep while watching TV or sitting at a red light, I didn’t get a dry mouth overnight, and I didn’t have fatigue, insomnia, nightmares, irritability, or mood swings. My dad had apnea, so I agreed to get checked out (have a nocturnal polysomnography), just in case.

    The first thing they did at the sleep center was to have me watch a video about different CPAP masks and machines! I hadn’t even been diagnosed yet, and not knowing whether I even had a problem, they were marketing CPAP equipment and accessories at me! That made me angry from the start. Then, after getting all hooked up with pads, wires, and sensors, on my head, chest, arms, and legs, to equipment that monitored my heart, lung, and brain activity, arm and leg movements, and blood oxygen levels, I tried to go to sleep. That took a while, and I woke up, uncomfortable, several times.

    Eventually, a technician came in. I asked if I’d been snoring, and she said, “Yes, among other things.” She wanted to put a CPAP machine on me to continue the study, but I refused. I thought it was just another push to get me to buy a CPAP machine, so I asked if I had to go home if I wouldn’t allow the CPAP. She told me the insurance company wouldn’t pay for the procedure if I didn’t stay the whole night, so we continued the study without the CPAP machine.

    In the morning, I went home, the study results were inconclusive, and I never was diagnosed with sleep apnea. Now, years later, after my surgery, here was another tech trying to put a CPAP mask on me. I had promised my BFF that if my doctor prescribed it, I would give the CPAP a try. The thought of trying to sleep, ever, with a mask strapped to my face, covering both my mouth and my nose, was disconcerting. I didn’t want to do it, but I had promised, so I acquiesced. The tech fitted the mask snuggly on my face and turned on the machine.

    The first inhale went fine, but the first exhale was a disaster. The machine was blowing air into the mask at the same time that I was trying to, and it felt like air was being forced back down my throat. It was instant panic! I tried to claw the mask off my face, like it was suffocating me, and it wouldn’t come off! I couldn’t catch my breath! I felt as if I was drowning! My hands were flailing at the catches on the mask, but since I didn’t know how they worked, I just got in the way of the technician who was trying his best to release me.

    After he finally got the mask off, I was crying. I felt embarrassed for my behavior and ashamed for being such a wimp. The technician talked me into another try, but I couldn’t do it. We compromised by fitting the mask loosely, allowing air to escape the mask and blow down my cheeks. That defeated the purpose of Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, but I agreed to try to tighten the mask in stages, getting used to it little by little.

    It was a very long night. I did as requested, and each time I woke up, I tightened the mask just a bit. I finally did get it snug, and managed to leave it on, but slept so poorly I felt awful. Meanwhile, nurses kept coming to check on me, because my oxygen levels kept dropping whenever I fell asleep, setting off alarms in the monitoring part of the building. They added oxygen to my CPAP, which helped, but oxygen alone, or CPAP alone, didn’t solve my problem. Fortunately, my surgeon reviewed all my statistics and told me I could go home at lunchtime.

    After a few weeks, I was able to dispense with the belly band, my hernia incision healed up, and I put my first surgery behind me. But that awful experience with the CPAP mask still haunts me. I love sleeping, I enjoy it, and I look forward to it! I don’t want to ruin a pleasant activity in the future by having to face an element of panic every time I face my pillow.

    Supply list:
    * This is a digital layout using the Project Life app.
    * I started with the Big Shot 2 template.
    * I used the Brave Patient Themed Cards.

  2. Wow so sorry you had to go thru all this. This layout is great documentation of your experience. Prompt use on point

  3. I’m really glad you don’t normally experience panic attacks, but I guess that made this one even more frightening. Well done for persevering.

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