Tools of Success: CPAP Saved My Caretaker

Sleeping CPAP Breath Cycle
This is Derek E. with the third story in our series of scholarship winners.

Before I can relate a personal story about sleep disorders, I have to explain how a sleep disorder became a part of my live. I lived most of my life in Idaho. We lived on a rural farm and had a lot of animals. I got myself up, dressed and got myself to school. Every day, I babysat my two younger sisters and was responsible for caretaking of the rest of the animals, washing clothes, and other household chores like cooking, dishes, cleaning my room, and if there was time after chores I would try to do my homework.

My home life was more that any one person could bear. The chore list was always long and many times, I didn’t finish it. Punishments included beating with a belt or hand, being slapped on my head, repeatedly being told I was dumb and/or stupid, and all my personal belongings taken from me from my room except my bed. I wasn’t allowed to eat dinner if I didn’t get my chores done and I stopped counting the number of times l went to bed hungry. I never had any personal or private time.

My school life and social life weren’t any better. Both teacher and kids made fun of me because of the way I dressed. I was lucky if I was allowed to shower once or twice a week and if I didn’t have time to wash my clothes, I wore dirty clothes to school. I was called trailer trash. I was always in trouble with teachers because I was too tired from chores to complete my homework or would doze off in class because I was tired.

In March of 2013, I was in a car accident. Both my parent kept telling me, I was faking it to get out of chores. In reality, I had traumatic brain injury.

After missing almost a year of school and a court order, I was removed from my mother and moved to Utah. I am very familiar with sleep apnea and continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) because my guardian uses one. She has obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS) where she stops breathing for a few seconds while sleeping. The stoppage of breathing for a few seconds may not sound like a big deal but it really is. It is like dominos falling. It creates excessive sleepiness during the day. Excessive drowsiness during the day creates a lack of concentration which can cause workplace accidents, low work productivity, and even cause accidents while driving. Her CPAP provides her with a continual positive airflow which keeps her airway open to reduce the breathing stoppage. This allows her to sleep better which in turn reduces excessive drowsiness during the day.

One might ask; what’s the big deal? The big deal is I depend on my guardian for many things. Using her CPAP not only positively affects her quality of life but also affects my quality of life. . Since my car accident, I have been unable to drive, so my guardian drives me to school, volunteer service, extracurricular activities, and medical appointments. Because of my poor past family and school life, she helps me with my school work and teaches me needed life skills. Without her CPAP, she wouldn’t have had the energy or patience to help me catch up a year of school so I can graduate with my class this May. Nor would I have been accepted into college for fall 2015. My guardian effectively using her CPAP has provided me and continues to provide me with tools I will need to live a successful life.

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