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Patient Stories: Kath - My Shock Diagnosis!

My story of living on CPAP for the rest of my life started with the day I confidently went to the Sleep Specialist thinking I would be given the news that my sleep test had proved I didn't have Sleep Apnoea after all.  HOW WRONG I WAS!!!  Instead I was told I was on the border of severe Sleep Apnoea, with a reading of 30 apnoeas per hour. 

I was convinced I didn't have Sleep Apnoea as I wasn't ever aware of waking up in the night to start breathing again, and I also wasn't overweight.  Yes, I knew I was a snorer (but it never bothered me, as I slept through it!).  I'd always been known as a 'dead head' in a morning, which I now realize was because, unbeknown to me, I'd hardly slept due to stopping breathing approximately every 2 minutes.  I was always tired and exhausted, but I put this down to being a busy music teacher and just allowed myself the odd nap when I could fit it in.  My GP regularly asked if I slept well when I used to go to him for appointments, and I assured him I did, as I was never aware of my apnoeas and didn't wake up choking and gasping like some sufferers do.  In a way, it was a relief to be given my diagnosis, as at last I could make my friends and family feel guilty for calling me a 'dead head' and I was told I could live a much better quality of life with CPAP treatment!  It also explained the reason why I would practically collapse with exhaustion every now and then, and I've lost count of the times I'd been checked for things such as anaemia, diabetes, thyroid problems and glandular fever etc.  In fact, if I'd been diagnosed with Sleep Apnoea years ago, as my GP pointed out, we could have saved the NHS a lot of money!

The day I brought my CPAP Machine home was exciting as I'd read the stories of the miraculous overnight cures others had gained from using their machines.  Well I can assure you that didn't happen for me (and most sufferers tell me it didn't happen for them either).  It's wonderful to hear such lovely stories of overnight success, but for most of us we have to persevere until we get the comfortable sleep we deserve!  I was determined to get my treatment working for me though, due to the other dangerous health problems associated with untreated Sleep Apnoea - such as heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, thyroid problems, alzheimers and other links that they are finding out as more research is being done.  After I'd been diagnosed the whole family realised that my own mother must have also been a sufferer.  Her snoring used to make the house vibrate, she had regular bouts of depression, struggled to lose weight, had high blood pressure and numerous other connections.  Sadly she died of her first ever sudden heart attack at the age of 49.  If only we'd known...........

My life has been so much better since I got treated for Sleep Apnoea.  Whilst I didn't have the physical conditions lots of other sufferers are subject to, I sufferered greatly with anxiety, and anyone who has known this kind of suffering will understand this can be as bad as a physical illness!  There are other improvements I've noticed since going on CPAP therapy such as:-

  • No more swollen ankles I was prone to.
  • Hair being in much better condition, as pointed out by my hairdresser.
  • Teeth needing less dental work, as observed by my dentist.
  • No recurrent chest infections which used to happen and usually needing more than one course of antibiotics to clear.
  • No more asthma (I only had mild asthma though which appeared to be stress-related and linked with my chest infections).
  • Rarely needing daytime naps, unless I abuse the fact we all really need 7-8 hours of good safe sleep.
  • Able to handle life's lemons much better, which was difficult when I was sleep-deprived (even though I didn't know this).

Back in the day when I got diagnosed Sleep Apnoea was a very lonely 'condition' here in the UK - in that most hadn't even heard of it.  This has thankfully changed due to more awareness, although unfortunately most sufferers still haven't been diagnosed yet or even realize they have got it.  Thanks to a great GP, Ear Nose + Throat Specialist and Lung Function Specialist, I'm one of the lucky ones to have been diagnosed and I can now say that my mask and machine have grown to be my best friends, although I promise you I never thought this day would come as I had a real love-hate relationship with them in the beginning!

I hope reading this helps people and encourages them to always remain compliant with their Sleep Apnoea therapy or to push for a diagnosis if you suspect you may be a sufferer.

Best Wishes for Good Safe Sleep!

Kath Hope - Founder + CEO of Hope2Sleep Charity