I really enjoy working with the patients I see at my sleep lab and often think about all the people I’ve helped. So with that in mind, please join me as I, once again, reminisce on my years as a Sleep Tech.
My Sleep Study Patients Aren’t Stupid
So many of the patients that I see in the sleep lab are quite consciousness challenged, but it’s not funny. These people come in fighting the very sleep that they never really fully attain. It must be very frustrating, to say the least.
I really feel for these people who have struggled, day after semi-conscious sleepless day. Dragging themselves around. Maybe even being ridiculed for being ‘lazy’. Or misdiagnosed with depression; although a lack of good quality sleep can also lead to this. See http://sleepguyblog.com/damaging-effects-sleep-deprivation1/
I mean, here are people who go through life in a fog, with never enough energy to do things. And yet, life is calling out from all directions, screaming for attention. Reality doesn’t care that you’re too tired to do anything at the time. It demands your attention, even if you have none to give.
No, these people aren’t lazy. And they’re not stupid either. It’s just that long-term sleep deprivation has taken its toll…not only on their minds but their bodies as well.
A little empathy goes a long ways.
Therefore, once my patients are all tucked in, and the studies are up and running, I can settle into the mostly quiet solitude and begin the work of saving lives. I say ‘mostly’ because some nights can be quite hectic!
Yet even this generally slower pace has never been boring. There’s usually something going on; like the time one of my patients vanished right before my very eyes!!
With that, I now present to you…
The Case of the Disappearing Patient
But first, a little background.
I travel to several different hospitals, so I get to do sleep studies in various facilities. Also, each hospital has the sleep lab set up differently. This particular night, I was at a hospital where the sleep rooms are down the hall from the control room.
Anyway, when a patient is ‘hooked up’ there are a ton of wires all over the place. These wires are plugged into what’s called a ‘Head Box’. This Head Box is attached by a cable to an amplifier in the patient’s room.
The amplifier then transfers the data from the patient to the control room where I sit. There’s also an infrared camera with a two-way speaker in the patients room so we can talk back and forth.
(By the way, that’s me, cleverly disguised as a sleep study patient. Hey, check out those crazy wires! (It was one of my students first attempt at a hookup. Not bad, huh?)).
Anyway, one of the instructions I give my patients is the need to let me know if they need to get up; say to use the bathroom, or something. This is because I have to go into their room and disconnect the Head Box.
Now you see him, now you Don’t
So here I am, sitting at the computers, doing some paperwork. The studies have been running for a few hours by now. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, a red square appears on one of the monitors. I look up to see the red ‘Loss of Signal’ icon. My lightning fast brain also notices that the patient’s signals have flat lined!! :-0 !!
I take a quick look at the t.v monitor, but the bed is empty!! Double :-0 !!! ! So I go tearing down the hall wondering just what I’ll find, as this guy said nothing about sleep walking. Arriving at his room, I carefully open the door not knowing what to expect. I mean, I hope he’s still in there!!
It’s dark, except for some light coming through a partially open bathroom door. And there, Head Box in one hand, and opening the bathroom door with the other, stands my patient. Stopping dead in his tracks, he looks at me in surprise and says:
“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you!”
Knowledge is Power
Allow me a moment of seriousness.
As a sleep technologist, I wear many hats. One of which is that of a teacher. I talk with my patients about the dangers of untreated sleep apnea as much as they’ll listen. Some listen in silence. Others ask a ton of questions. And then there are those who don’t really seem like they want to know anything, or maybe they’re just too tired to care at the moment.
However, many people just don’t realize that having a sleep study can lead to a huge improvement in their quality of life. Therefore, whether they’re too stubborn, or just in denial, education plays a key role in their treatment. That’s because a knowledgeable patient is a receptive patient.
Consequently, I’ll I talk to them and share as much as they really want to know; even though I don’t know everything myself. On the other hand, I do know enough to do what I do, and I do it quite well.
So how’re you feeling right now? I mean, you’ve read this far (unless you skipped down to this part), therefore you must have some type of interest in sleep problems.
If that’s the case, I’d really like to hear from you, as there are so many people out there struggling, and looking for answers. What you share might be just what they need to hear.
Hey, saving lives is fun, please join me in this quest if you will, and share what you know, and/or have experienced. Your comment could actually lead to changing someone’s life for the better.
Thanks for letting me have some of your time. Till next week…