Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Columns

September 2, 2012

HOPKINS: It's a matter of life and breath

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — My apologies for stealing the headline from “Your Local Lung Association’s” public service announcements from the late 1970s, but if you didn’t read Don McNay’s column which appeared in Friday’s paper, some of you may want to go back and read it. McNay, who writes for our CNHI group of newspapers, wrote about the diagnosis of his sleep apnea and how it’s being treated.

His advice could be a life-saver. Apnea is the suspension of external breathing. Since we all need to breathe to live, this can cause a serious problem while we’re asleep. Many people, especially those who are overweight, have it and there are far too many who don’t know they’re suffering from it.

Apnea made headlines after the death of former NFL star Reggie White, who died the day after Christmas in 2004, when it was reported that he suffered from apnea. Although the cause of death was cardiac arrythmia, apnea is believed to have played a factor in the events that led to his death while he slept.

A CPAP machine (it’s a breathing device) attached to a mask worn by the user, provides a continuous stream of air, allowing the user to breathe. One of my friends who uses the device calls it his “Darth Vader mask.” He jokes about it but doesn’t mind wearing it because he knows it’s doing what it’s designed to do: helping him sleep through the night, getting proper rest and — most importantly — staying alive. I’m sure his wife and kids are grateful for it.

I have several friends who have apnea. One went to Sisters Hospital’s St. Joseph campus in Cheektowaga for a sleep study. There’s an actual room where you’re monitored while you sleep. He got there one evening and they hooked him up to several wires that recorded his sleep patterns.

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