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Thursday, October 08, 2015

Returning a Favor

I've known for fourteen years that I have sleep apnea. But recently it started getting noticeably worse.

In fact, last Friday night, it was so bad that I repeatedly had nightmares in which I was trying to do something and was unable to, and then woke up with my heart pounding. I realized that this meant I was going for increasingly long periods without drawing a breath. It made me so anxious for my health that I was too afraid Saturday night to lie down to sleep, instead trying to do so sitting up or with my head on my arms folded on my desk. As you might guess I got very little sleep that night, and none that was deep.

As part of a sleep study in 2009, I was tried out on CPAP, but found it too uncomfortable and could get hardly any rest. As the problem started worsening recently, I took notes from a story on NPR about it, and from comments on that story by other sufferers. I had determined that something called a nasal foam pillow was probably my best bet, but hadn't gotten my hands on one yet. In fact I didn't have a clear idea even of what it was. Because of the word nasal in the description, I thought it might be something placed under one's nose, or even inside it.

So after that horrible night Saturday, I was in Center City and saw my friend Tiffany, a homeless woman who panhandles outside a Rite Aid. She sits several yards to one side of the entrance and usually just holds a sign up without saying anything. I told her about my predicament, and she related that her sister had had this problem, and that she'd been helped by some sort of procedure for holding the head upright. This seemed almost too simple, and the way she was saying it I wasn't sure how confident she was of what she was saying.

Nonetheless, when I got home I wondered if there was some way I could try this. I recalled that on 3 August, when I had my double hernia operated, my head had been uncomfortable on the gurney and other things they had me laid on, and I was offered a foam pillow with a hole in it in which to rest my head, so as to keep it aligned with the rest of my body. This had made me considerably more comfortable, and they let me take it home with me. But I then realized it only worked if I was lying on my back, not on my side -- whereas I already knew that lying on my back was the worst position for my apnea. So I didn't use it further.

But now I realized that I might be able to use this to hold my head upright, and then lying on my back might not be a problem. It just required that instead of resting my head in the hole, I pull the pillow further up so that it's resting on the foam below the hole. So I tried this Sunday night -- and only woke up a couple times, with no nightmares and no pounding heart!

I felt so grateful to Tiffany for the tip she had given me, which felt like a lifesaver, that Monday morning I bought a foot-long veggie grinder to give her first thing, but found she wasn't at her usual corner. Rather than give it to her cold, I decided to have it for lunch and just give her a ten the next time I saw her. A day or two later I learned where she sometimes sleeps, and found her there but didn't want to wake her. (It would be too ironic to disturb her sleep, just to thank her for helping make my sleep less disturbed!)

I finally saw her again today, at her usual corner, while someone was trying to make her move to some other place. I stood by as it developed this person was pressuring her at the behest of the Rite Aid's management, and that it wasn't the first time. After they left she explained to me that previously they had called the police and she'd gotten a citation, so she was moving around the corner to avoid a repeat of that. After she did so I told her how much her tip had helped me the past few days -- this morning I'd gotten up about an hour earlier than I'd been managing to for a while as, evidently, I was starting to become better rested -- and gave her a ten as I'd planned. She hugged me, but I had to leave her soon to try again to call my supervisor from my newly activated phone, and then contact CREDO Mobile again to finish figuring out how to overcome glitches in porting my old number to it.

But as I was doing that I realized how angry her treatment had made me, and when I'd finally gotten the phone taken care of I went into the Rite Aid, asked to speak to the manager, and told him, "If you don't stop harassing my friend Tiffany on the corner, I'm never setting foot in here again." Since he had no answer, I turned and walked out the door. I then told Tiffany what I'd done, and that I know someone who previously organized a protest at a Burger King that refused to serve homeless people and who may be able to put something together in response to this incident too.

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