This is an offshoot of the original Liam & Janet blog. That blog has become overrun by Liam's inability to keep his mouth shut when something annoys him. The serious rants there seemed incongruous with the humor columns. The plan for the humor columns continues to be to post a new one every Friday, plus occasional extras when the mood strikes.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Mr. Vader... Paging Mr. Vader

More in the continuing saga of the sleep apnea. Again, thanks to the friendly folks at, without whom this experience would be no less bizarre, but would be infinitely less fun.

UPDATE: It's come to my attention that not everyone is familiar with the workings of a BLOG. Newer posts are posted above old. This one is the second in a series (of two, so far). If you have not yet read the first part, please page down to "Modern Medicine: Takes My Breath Away" first, and then come back to this one. Thanks, Liam.

Vader, Paging a Mr. Vader.

I have a game for you. By the time you read this, you have probably already read my diatribe on my first experience with modern sleep disorder medicine. In this article, I made one crucial mistake, and I challenge you to find it. Need a hint? It's in the second to last paragraph. Still missing it?

In that essay, I wrote the fateful phrase "...and told to come back to repeat the procedure...". Innocent enough, right? Can you guess which phrase has gotten the MOST reaction from people? Right, that one. A significant fraction of readers of the essay have said something like "Please let me know when you write the essay on the second visit, I have to read it!" I'm flattered, but...

My second visit was just like my first, only with less sweating and hand wringing, and more of a general resignation as the cart-o-pain was wheeled into the room. Now, I suppose I could just post the first essay again, changing a few key sentences, and say "Look! What you asked for!", but most likely that would not satisfy. I could go into more detail on what happens at a sleep study, but that would be boring ("...and then, when the clock read 12:17am, I rolled over and scratched an itch on my left buttock...").

So now I'm in a bind. My public is calling (even if my public consists primarily of 9 people, 4 of whom are family members who read the first one because I insisted), and I have nothing to give them.

So let's fast forward to the morning AFTER my second sleep test. It's morning, I haven't slept, I have to head over to work, and after all of that, I'm in possession of.... a number. Really, that's what I got. 9. Apparently this number means something. The magic answer to all of my troubles. 9.

It turns out, that's the pressure setting for my CPAP machine. Yeah, that's the problem with modern medicine, they're never content just to DIAGNOSE a problem, they always want to FIX it, too. In this case, the fix is a CPAP (Continuous Positive Atmospheric Pressure) machine. At least that's what they call it, but they can't fool me. When I was a child, my parents had an old "canister style" vacuum cleaner, and you could pull the hose out of it's normal socket and plug it in to the exhaust, and now you had a blower. Sometime between then and now, some enterprising child combined that with a nice game of "playing doctor", and the modern CPAP machine was born. There is an important difference. If you stuck the end of the vacuum cleaner hose into your mouth, you ended up blowing the contents of your nasal passages all over your hands and your shirt and anyone in front of you. Don't ask me how I know this. Let's just all assume I'm so intelligent, I can guess.

The CPAP machine blows at a much lower pressure, and at a much lower volume, but the principle is the same: Force your throat open and air into your lungs, and you'll no longer stop breathing in the night. By the way, you need a doctor's prescription to buy a CPAP machine, and yet to my knowledge there is still no restriction on buying a canister vacuum cleaner, which is also much cheaper. Not that I'm suggesting anything.

When I got my CPAP machine, it came with a fancy setting called "CFLEX". I can only imagine this is for Mr. Universe, as the only part of my body which will still flex is my tongue, and that only... well let's just say I talk in my sleep, and it only gets worse when I'm conscious.

It turns out, getting your CPAP machine is just the START of the fun. Interface technology has come a long way as well, by which I mean, they put something on the END of the hose, and attach that something to your head with straps. That something is called a "mask", and BOY are there options. There are nose-only masks, there are mouth-only masks, there are "full face" masks, and I'll bet if you looked long enough, you could find someone selling a rectally fitted mask. If you find one, I DON'T WANT TO KNOW.

But the "hot ticket" in CPAP masks these days is something called "Nasal Pillows". They call them that because "Nostril Stretchers" wouldn't sell. But actually, they work quite well, if you can breathe through your nose. And if you don't have a cold. And if you don't have an allergy attack. And if you don't have sinus trouble. In other words, about one day a month. The rest of the time I'm on the good old Full Face mask, which looks like a clear plastic version of the mask which "will drop from a compartment above your head, in the event of a loss of cabin pressure". As I'm putting it on at night, I'm always aware that even if my kids have climbed into bed with me, I must put my own mask on first BEFORE helping them.

So, to recap. CPAP machine? Check. Hose connected? Check. Mask connected to hose? Check. Mask on face? Check. Straps cranked down just tight enough to leave nasty red welts on my face for everyone at work to comment on tomorrow? Check. Time to turn on my CPAP machine for the first time. Time to become... Liam Vader, Lord of the Sith... which I shall tell you about next time, as my wife just pointed out that it's midnight, and I've been saying "A few more minutes, hon" for the last hour and a half's worth of "Can we go to bed now?". Besides, the CPAP machine is waiting, and it gets jealous if it thinks I'm sleeping with other hoses.

Good night.

Copyright (c) February 19, 2005 by Liam Johnson.


Blogger Unknown said...

So you had part two. Pretty much the same as mine. It even has a picture!

Did I Shave My Legs For This? Part Two

Sunday, July 02, 2006 8:29:00 AM


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