Other Tests with COPD Part I: Sleep Apnea

Other Tests with COPD Part I: Sleep Apnea

There are several diagnostic tests to diagnose COPD. There are also a few tests to diagnose other medical problems concurrent with COPD, or to diagnose similar illnesses such as pulmonary hypertension (which can also be a result of COPD). My pulmonologist ordered two of these tests for me. One was a polysomnography, a sleep study, to determine if part of my exhaustion was caused by sleep apnea. The other test was an echocardiogram to determine if I had pulmonary hypertension instead of COPD, since I had never smoked, didn’t have Alpha 1, and never worked around chemicals.

If I did have sleep apnea, it would be nice to know so I could do something about it. A CPAP machine and mask usually works wonders and the extra resultant rest would help my exhaustion enormously. I was actually kind of looking forward to it.

Since I live in a very rural area I have to travel to get to my pulmonologist, allergist, etc. We live 80 miles from the town where my doctors and the hospital are, and where the tests took place. Luckily, the sleep study and the ECG were in the same building and even better, the echocardiogram was scheduled first thing the morning after I had the sleep study.

My family got a hotel room to stay overnight so they could be there to take me home when I was done. We had a nice time going to our favorite places in town, especially the used book store. The hotel room was nice and the pool was still open so my son was set to have fun. We were able to turn the travel into a nice family day.

At 8:00pm my husband and son dropped me off for my sleep study. I met my sleep tech, Alan, who told me to go ahead and get comfy in my pjs and relax while he took care of another patient. The room was quiet, with one twin sized hospital bed, a large chair, and medical equipment. There was a TV for patients who wanted to watch it. I read instead, “A Tale of Two Cities,” which made me feel all scholarly and serious. The only sign that someone would watch me sleep was a small black bubble in the corner of the ceiling where the camera lay inside it. I had expected a huge one-way mirror with a panel of techs behind it, like something out of a police interrogation room (not that I know what it looks like from personal experience), so I was comforted that it really just seemed more like a hotel room.

When Alan returned from his other patient, he hooked me up to all the sensors which would provide feedback on my breathing, eye movement, any snoring, and brain waves. It took two hours to hook me up. Luckily, we were both avid readers so we talked about our favorite books and favorite authors as he worked.

I sat in the large chair while Alan sorted out sensors and wires – he was very methodical, I think he had to be – and then put a dollop of “glue” and then the sensor on my skin where he needed it. He did this all over my face, all over my head in my hair, on my collarbone, my arms, my hands, my abdomen, and my legs.

I took a bathroom break and when I looked into the mirror I shrieked. Now, I have been known to shriek at my reflection before, especially after a few bad haircuts, but not like this. Wires ran from metallic dots all over my face, threading with the ones all over my skull, covering my hair in some kind of cyber weave wig. I even had a tiny microphone wire inserted into each nostril.

I looked like the Terminator who got the measles.

Not a look I want to cultivate, although my teenage son would’ve thought I looked “cool, man.”

Now, sitting for two hours being poked and prodded is exhausting. So when he was done and it was time for me to actually get to sleep, I was ready. All the wires were looped together and connected to an electronic monitor at my waist that was about as big as a slice of toast. Alan was really helpful, elevating the bed as I needed, turning on the fan for the white noise I like, putting on the nightlight so it wasn’t too dark for me. He tested everything to make sure all the sensors were working, then said good night and left me to get about the business of sleeping. It was slightly uncomfortable, but I managed after a few minutes of wondering how a person could make his living by watching people drool, snore, snort, and poot in their sleep. Fascinating.

All too early in the morning (6:00am), Alan woke me up. My reputation is apparently notorious for my attitude in the morning, because he met with a cup of coffee in his hand. Wonderful, wonderful man. While I sipped on bean juice, aka heaven’s little gift, he unhooked all those wires and sensors. It took much less time and conversation. He even scrubbed all of the gel that held the sensors on.

My husband and son were already there to meet me and we went on to greet my next test, Part II: the Echocardiogram.

I received the results really quickly, as in 90 minutes after the test was completed. My pulmonologist called to let me know that I did not have sleep apnea after all.

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