It is rare for me to have an uneventful doctor’s visit. But recently I had an appointment that could be regarded as such.
“Everything looks great,” my doctor said, examining my three surgical incisions he had made two weeks prior to this visit. “You’re healing up on schedule.”
Minutes later I left his office to meet my mom and my son, both waiting in the lobby. It felt amazing to be under the guise of “normal” for once. What a gift to not hear how complicated my case was or how unique my symptoms were.
No, this particular appointment was simply ordinary. I was healing OK. And to me, that was extraordinary.
Two weeks prior to this appointment I had undergone surgery for an Inspire Therapy implant to help my sleep. A battery operated stimulator was implanted under my right collarbone, with two leads extending out from it in opposite directions. One lead went by my lungs between my ribs, while the other one wrapped around the hypoglossal nerve in my neck. Once activated, the lead next to my lungs will sense when I am not breathing, signaling the main implant. Then an electrical pulse will be sent to the other lead, causing the hypoglossal nerve to move my tongue out of my airway. This all will happen while asleep.
See, sleep apnea left untreated is dangerous and life threatening. During a sleep apnea episode, the airway collapses, leaving the body without an oxygen supply. An emergency signal is sent to the brain, causing adrenaline to race through the body to open the airway. Someone with sleep apnea can have this happen dozens, if not hundreds of times throughout the night.
According to my last sleep study, this is happening to me 51 times an hour.
Although I have tried all kinds of treatments for sleep apnea these past three and a half years (even surgical), nothing has helped me long term. During the last several months, my lack of restorative sleep snowballed into an even greater issue. Fatigue became an unrelenting bully, affecting nearly all aspects of my life. No matter how much I slept or how much caffeine I consumed, I always felt a blanket of exhaustion over me. Driving long distances became unthinkable, because I might fall asleep at the wheel. Depression, forgetfulness, and confusion became regular visitors. In wakeful hours my brain was working overtime to try and function with daily tasks, and during sleep it interpreted my body’s survival tactics and adrenaline rushes as terrifying life and death nightmares. Sleep was not – and currently is not – ever restful or restorative for me.
I had my implant surgically placed five weeks ago. My follow-up appointment was three weeks ago.
Now I am just days away from the Inspire Therapy implant being activated…but I am afraid.
I am afraid I will be in the 5% of people implanted who do not receive any benefit from the device. Conversely, that does mean that 95% of my surgeon’s patients do have positive results from Inspire Therapy, but my body has not typically been one to follow the majority when it comes to medical issues.
I am afraid of complications. The “what if” scenarios are strong in my head right now. I have experienced rare and painful complications many times through the years, including my jaw issues that were brought on by surgery gone awry over three years ago.
And finally, I am afraid of letting others down who are cheering me on and praying for me. Even though this outcome is beyond my control, there is part of me that feels responsible to share good news. I had jaw dislocations over the summer and muscle spasms that were unbearably painful after this latest surgery. It’s hard to not feel like I am burdening others with more disappointments, should this implant not work.
These fears are real, but they aren’t everything.
I am also optimistic.
Sometimes it is easy to see God’s provision, while other times it is more difficult. These last several months I have seen God open doors time and time again.
In April it was determined my airway collapses in a way that could possibly benefit from Inspire Therapy. The next four months were filled with countless phone calls and emails between our doctors, insurance, and the Inspire Therapy representatives. (A huge shout out to my husband, who did most of the footwork on this!) My case was repeatedly rejected by insurance, but it was finally, miraculously approved after many prayers, and three appeals. My implant surgery was set for late October.
However, with my Apnea-Hypopnea Index numbers nearly twice as high (51) as the threshold for severe (30), my surgeon mercifully expedited my surgery to late August, two months earlier than first scheduled. God’s grace.
And perhaps most significantly, since my surgery date was moved, my activation date also got rescheduled.
The new date for my implant activation is what would have been my dad’s 75th birthday.
My dad will always hold a special place in my heart. Two years ago his birthday was extra memorable and cause for celebration. He had just been released from spending several days in the hospital after fighting a severe infection alongside his cancer. Only weeks later my dad passed away. Of all days my implant activation could be scheduled for, having it on my dad’s birthday feels like a hug from Heaven.
I don’t know how these next few days will play out. I don’t know if Inspire Therapy will work or whether or not there will be complications.
I do know that even though my fears are strong, God is stronger. There remains purpose through all of these struggles, and there is comfort in trusting God with my life. God’s leading has been evident throughout this whole process, and certainly He won’t let me go. I hold onto Joshua 1:9 – “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
And regardless of what is ahead, I was able to have at least one ordinary doctor’s appointment just weeks ago. Maybe…just maybe…I’ll be able to have more of those simple, straight forward kind of appointments in the days to come. Either way, I will be thinking of my dad at my next one.