Patient Stories: Gary's Epic Battle
My journey with Obstructive Sleep Apnoea, I believe started in my 30’s. Looking back I was presenting signs of it and I remember falling asleep when grass cutting on lawn tractors which was preceded by a feeling of overwhelming tiredness and constant yawning. At the time I was young and working 7 days a week, so put it down to overwork. However, it did raise some concerns and I was tested for Lymes disease and Farmers Lung - both of which were negative. I just carried on and had never heard of Sleep Apnoea at that point.
The problems for me started in 2014 with symptoms of fatigue, diabetes, bladder problems, and my weight had continued to increase until I found myself at 127 kgs (19.9 stones). Snoring was always an issue for me and it too was getting worse….. much worse!
In the summer of 2015 things went downhill fast - I was starting to fall asleep at work, at home and even a haircut would find me sliding off into the land of nod! My wife had told me she noticed that I stopped breathing when asleep, which was a big red flag!
Diagnosis came in November of 2016 and the months leading up to it were at best hell! The symptoms were getting more pronounced and really impacting my well-being. The fatigue was just devastating, I was up at all hours - either backwards and forwards to the toilet or just awake due to what I thought was insomnia. Daily life was becoming increasingly difficult, and my wife was also kept awake - watching me and nudging me to start start breathing after repeatedly seeing me stop! This went on for months and at the age of 50 I began to think my life was coming to an end. Things were very bad and every part of me was affected. Fortunately, my GP arranged a sleep test in early November and it was confirmed I had Obstructive Sleep Apnoea and was stopping breathing 29 times an hour, which is almost classed as severe! My GP later informed me that because of the length of the pauses, my oxygen levels were so low that I am lucky to still be here - very sobering indeed! However, I took my diagnosis as a positive step and because I now knew what was wrong I could deal with it - actually happy having found the Hope2Sleep Support Charity and researching the condition, and realising the treatments/therapy were very effective.
I was placed on CPAP 3 days after being diagnosed and here is where I consider myself fortunate as I took to it with few problems – aside from a few mask leaks, so everything was ok and I was sleeping like a baby. The snoring disappeared too, as if by magic!
After a few days on CPAP I realised just how badly Obstructive Sleep Apnoea had been affecting me. My response to CPAP was quick and I felt the benefits within a week. CPAP is a total life changer and life giver – for many our worst enemy, but also our best friend!
In early 2017 I contacted a personal trainer, Andre Diurno, who runs a private gym locally. We met briefly to discuss my options and how we moved forward to get me to a better state of health.
I commenced my training shortly after and worked hard for 6 months and my weight dropped to 97 kgs (15.2 stones). A subsequent retest showed my AHI to be 11 so it had dropped into the mild criteria!! My sleep nurse was visibly shocked by my appearance asking me how I had achieved this. My reply was simply "because they told me this was not possible" ….. oh yes it is!
I met Ryan King when training one night and we had a brief chat and he started to help me offering his time - a truly gifted young man to whom I am forever grateful. We train at least once a week now and it is a big part of my journey back to health.
My workouts are twice a day, at home and at the gym, which no way could I have achieved without my diagnosis and CPAP therapy, due to living with exhaustion. I have a cross trainer and assorted weights at home and have focused on Cardio to improve my cardiovascular system, as I believe this is a key part to improving Sleep Apnoea. This has not been without setbacks as I have a badly arthritic right foot, bad knee and I injured my left shoulder, but by far the worst was in February 2019 when I suffered a DVT in my left leg from just above my knee to my calf and I have never felt pain so bad – certainly not something I wish to repeat! None of these setbacks have stopped me though and have made me even more determined. I have even managed the marathon distance cross training and taken part in a charity fundraiser peddling an assault bike for an hour. Over £2000 was raised for that.
Even though I still have Sleep Apnoea, it no longer affects my daily life. I am told I have inspired and changed many lives. Good
I am just an ordinary guy who decided to fight back against a devastating condition and, although not cured completely, I now have my life, energy and the desire to be the best I can be. It has been hard work but worth every ounce of effort.
I am now thriving on CPAP therapy and living again, working hard, gaining new experiences and friends. I love CPAP as it has returned to me what this awful condition took away.
Does my story inspire you? I hope so. Never give up on your belief in yourself or indeed what you can achieve. Anything is possible.
Good luck. Life’s a breeze on CPAP!
Gary Knight -
0300 102 9711