You’re probably guessing that I’m going to suggest that Winston Churchill had obstructive sleep apnea. He probably did, but that’s not the focus of this blog post. One of his more famous quotes, is “Never, never, never give up.” Unfortunately, many people with obstructive sleep apnea give up much too early. But time and time again, I see that people who are relentless usually find something that works. It can be one option after trying 10 different options. Or they may need to layer on two or 3 different options.
John was one such patient. He came to me after struggling with 3 different types of positive airway pressure machines (CPAP, APAP, bilevel), 4 different masks, and an oral appliance. We ended up doing palate and tongue base surgery. Surprisingly, he wasn’t disappointed when surgery didn’t help that much. His plan was to go back to trying his dental appliance again, which he preferred to CPAP. After a few weeks, he was happy to report that the dental appliance was working much better compared to before surgery. He tried CPAP as well, and was able to use it better after his pressure was lowered.
Jaime is a fashion designer that was struggling with APAP for the past 3 months. The machine reported perfect compliance, with no leaks, minimal apneas and 7 hours of use every night. She tried 3 different masks, without any success. Her DME (CPAP equipment company) suggested that she try a constant pressure rather than an automatic setting. Within 3 days of starting, Jaime called to say that she’s sleeping much better. This is in line with studies showing that some patients prefer APAP (automatic) over CPAP (constant) pressures, and some prefer CPAP over APAP.
Peter is a 60 year old man who came to see me with a list of 10 surgical procedures for obstructive sleep apnea, including 2 nasal procedures, 3 soft palate procedures, 3 tongue base and epiglottic procedures, and 2 jaw operations. I didn’t see any obvious areas of persistent obstruction on exam, so I was reluctant to offer any more procedures. However, sleep endoscopy showed severe collapse behind the soft palate. He underwent further soft palate surgery by another surgeon, with much improved sleep quality.
These are examples of patients that did not give up. I bet there are many more sleep apnea sufferers that have tried multiple options, but give up just before they find something that works for them.
Napoleon Hill, in his book, “Think and Grow Rich,” tells a story about a man who invested everything he had to mine for gold in colorado. He found a small vein, but it stopped all of a sudden. He kept drilling and drilling, but to no avail. Eventually he gave up and sold all his mining equipment to a junk man for a few hundred dollars. The junk man called in a mining engineer who determined that they should drill 3 more feet. Sure enough, there it was.
I’m not here to say that everyone who persists and never give up will be successful in overcoming sleep apnea. What I see is that more more persistent you are, the more likely that you’ll be able to find something that works for you. In addition to persistence, expert counsel is also needed at the right times. I realize that the above examples are on the extreme side, but I see this happening far too often for it to be a coincidence.
If you have a similar success story, I’d like to hear from you. How much did you have to persist, and how did seeking expert advice help you?