Thursday, November 08, 2018
Snoring, Smiling, and Snoopy (the dog)
It's not just snoring. It can cause high blood pressure, insomnia, behavioral issues, heart attack, heart failure and stroke. Sleep apnea can kill you. So when I lose the very thing that helps, I'm in trouble.
My family of origin has a genetic predisposition toward sleep apnea, where you basically stop breathing multiple times per night. Five of us have been diagnosed, others show symptoms they have, so far, successfully ignored. According to Mayo Clinic, an estimated 12 million American adults have obstructive sleep apnea, and many of them are undiagnosed.
In my moderate case, a "mandibular advancement splint" gives a degree of relief. While it sounds ominous, this is basically a dental appliance, a "night guard" similar to those used to stop teeth grinding or manage TMJ pain. Mine sets the lower jaw forward, opens up the airway, minimizes obstruction, and keeps me breathing. This is a very good thing.
Unfortunately, the splint is expensive and not covered by our provincial health care. Costs range in the thousands of dollars. The employer's insurance plan fortunately covers most of that cost for the initial splint, but not for loss.
One evening, a decade ago, my splint is not in its proper place. Now, it is not uncommon for me to set things in odd places (cue laugh track from Henry), so I patiently search. The most likely locations turn up nothing, the level of frustration rises; I scour every room in the house, nothing! I finally dig through the garbage, where it had once been found rolled up in a tissue, but not this time. I give up.
How could I lose it? $480 to replace! Oddly, the song going thru my head at that point said, "God will provide."
After the fitting for a new one, the dentist's office calls: "Insurance covered 90 percent. All you owe is $48!"
I share my happy ending, and my friend Heather (the Fairy Dog Mother, who dog-sits for vacationing friends) tells me she once found her night guard in the mouth of one of the dogs she was sitting. Fortunately, she was able to still use it -- after a thorough cleaning.
That triggers a memory between my mom and our family dog, Snoopy, who Mom barely tolerated for the sake of the boys. Mom wore a partial plate which was somewhat ill-fitting, so she'd occasionally remove it while eating. One day, Snoopy gets hold of Mom's partial plate, thinks it's a chew toy, and proceeds to break off a piece. Mom is so flustered, she grabs the two parts, examines them and then cries, "I don't think she's ruined it!" and pops the larger part in her mouth.
And then her eyes grow wide as she spits it out and splutters in horror: "I didn't wash it!"
After much scrubbing and rinsing, she fits it back in place. Emerging from the washroom, she exclaims, "Well, praise the Lord and thank the dog, it's more comfortable than before!" She used it for the rest of her life.
Fast forward to today. My splint is aggravating the roots of a molar, so I've not been wearing it since August. As you can imagine, my sleep has been affected. The next step is a root canal, and other dental procedures before we proceed to a refitting. This time, as a retiree, there is no employer's medical benefit. So I again am singing that song, "God will provide." I don't know how, but I'll trust God to figure it out.
One final note. If you snore a lot, and/or think you may have sleep apnea, consult your doctor. A sleep study will follow. This article may help in choosing your best route of management.
Cover Photo by Megan te Boekhorst on Unsplash
Dog Photo: "Snoopy" from the family archives, 1970.