August 18, 2005

Traveling CPAPs

Paul Craig has a great post that folks who have to travel with a CPAP machine for sleep apnea (like George) should read. God bless Paul for educating the hospitality industry by calling ahead and asking/explaining/requesting for what he might need in the event of a power outage. I never thought to do this.
...I call several hotels in the area in which I am staying and start asking questions about generators and battery usage. After all, I’m not attempting to lug a 12 volt deep cycle marine battery through airports. I’m fairly certain this might arouse the suspicions of those very nice and accomodating security screeners. When I explain the situation to the hotel management, I get a quick indication of how accomodating the staff really is. Recently, on a trip to Chicago, the staff purchased a fully charged deep cycle marine battery just in case. On another trip, I was assured and then shown the backup generators with enough power for the entire facility for up to five days.
I guess I assumed, since Jenna and I have long used a nebulizer for asthma, that any real hotel chain would be prepared to provide backup power for their patrons medical devices. In the case of a nebulizer, you always know that you can go to a fire department and plug in. But with sleep, it's a different story. While you're on a nebulizer for the 20 minutes it takes for a breathing treatment every 4 hours, you're on a CPAP for 8 or so hours each night continuously.

The thing that perhaps the very young, healthy, nimble hotel 20-something Holiday Inn hotel management staff might not understand, is that these devices can be a matter of life or death. When george went for his sleep study, his Oxygen level dipped into the 70s while he slept. He stopped breathing more than once each MINUTE. During a waking state, this would probably send him to intensive care. They told him he was one of the more serious cases they'd seen. They didn't even let him finish the night there--they sent him home after two hours.

Paul explains the miraculous changes a CPAP machine can bring for someone with sleep apnea. For one--you reduce the risk of a certain heart attack or stroke. Second, you have a brain during the day.
After three days of using the CPAP, something rather strange and wonderful began to occur. It was a sensation unlike any other I have ever experienced. I can only describe it as feeling alive again.
The difference between the way Paul and George handle their sleep apnea and sleep machines is interesting. Paul is an advocate for himself. He doesn't want to spend a night without the CPAP on. George on the other hand has a real love-hate thing with his CPAP. He hates it. He loves what it does. After a night without it, he doesn't care either way about the machine because he disappears into the funk of semi-conscious "what's the use"ness.

Thanks to what Paul wrote, I know to ask questions when making hotel reservations that I would have assumed I wouldn't have to ask.

I guess the moral of the story is: If you depend on a breathing machine, don't assume anyone has you covered, even if you're paying them.