Unmasking sleep apnea’s nightly ritual

I have taken off the mask and I can now sleep unencumbered once again!

A doctor advised me that I no longer have sleep apnea and don’t need the machine that has forced air into my nostrils over the last several years just to keep me breathing.

I had seen the doctor at the VA Hospital of Philadelphia after complaining about phlegm and mucus that had developed a few weeks ago. A physicians’ assistant provided me with a new five-foot hose and filters for the machine that pumps air into me at night. I apologized to her for not following orders. I hadn’t washed the hose or cleaned it out for a number of years and changed the filter only two or three times in seven years.

Hey, I’m a Vietnam veteran and I put up worth a lot of crap while sleeping. You ever sleep with your clothes on the jungle floor not knowing if “Charlie” was creeping up on you to end your breathing forever?


CPAP is short for “continuous positive airway pressure” that pushes air into the hose to keep the airway open. If you snore, or if you’ve been told that you make gasping or choking sounds in your sleep, then it’s likely you have obstructive sleep apnea. You’re not alone, according to the VA doctor. Sleep apnea is an extremely common condition affecting millions of people.

If you have obstructive sleep apnea, something is actually blocking your ability to take in the air you need to breathe. This happens when your airway relaxes during sleep. The muscles of the mouth or throat collapse, blocking the airway and preventing oxygen from getting into your lungs.


You can die from it.

That’s what happened to Reggie White, the great Philadelphia Eagles defensive end. He died at age 43 after suffering a fatal cardiac arrhythmia, which was attributed to sarcoidosis, a tissue inflammation disorder, and the sleep apnea that plagued the ordained Evangelical minister, known with affection as “the minister of defense.”

What happened to me was that I lost nearly 50 pounds nearly a year ago. My son had made macaroni and cheese and left it out all night. I ate it and got food poisoning and ended up in the emergency room of the VA Hospital.

I also took part in a study for an “Apple Smart I-Watch.” A research group offered me $650 to wear the watch for a year while technicians viewed every movement that the device recorded while on my wrist. I learned I could measure my daily activities and I got incentivized to exercise every day walking two miles a day. I began to lose weight, lots of weight.

The doctor told me that I overcame the sleep apnea after losing all that weight.

I owe it all to my son Nicholas, that son of a B for whom the Universe used to cure me!




4 comments on “Unmasking sleep apnea’s nightly ritual

  1. […] In addition, my loss of weight added — or in this case, “subtracted” — another benefit. I got cured of the sleep apnea that had forced me to wear a mask in bed the past 10 years or so. (See sleep article.) […]


  2. contoveros says:

    The following comments are from the Facebook page for this story:

    Janet Mather
    Wow! I had no idea! Glad you are sleeping better.
    Yeah, my wife would nudge me awake almost every night before I got the CPAP device. I lost a lot of weight and the doctor told me that the excess contributed to the problem.


    Tamara Ambros
    Good for you. I need to practice what you preach.
    I get unencumbered sleep nowadays.
    I mean nights . . .


  3. Congrats on feeling better and sleeping soundly.


    • contoveros says:

      My head feels so much better as it cradles in the pillow unblocked by the stiff plastic covering that surrounded my nose and the straps across the side of my face going to the back and to the top of the head.

      Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty my head is free at last!

      Liked by 2 people

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