Alissa and Jack’s Journey with Sleep Apnea

We often ask our patients to write a testimonial about their struggles, treatment and success. Alissa and Jack were extremely happy I could treat Jack’s sleep apnea. Here is their Journey…

My name is Alissa and I am 42 years old. This is the story of my husband, Jack, and I’s struggle with obstructive sleep apnea. 

The issues began near our 10-year anniversary, when Jack, at about 36 years old, started snoring continuously throughout the night. He sounded horrible, and kept me awake for hours on end. I would lie in bed next to him, covering my ears, as he snored deeply. Frequently throughout the night, he would snort or choke on his snore and gasp for breath before settling back down. 

At first, I thought he was just tired. He had been working long hours at his job; he’s a mechanic for United Airlines and works at Dulles. Often, he would work overnight shifts and come home in the early morning, thoroughly wrecked. He would be exhausted whenever he was home and be unable to do much of anything. 

On his normal work days, he managed to sleep through the night, albeit loudly. Since he was getting a solid 8 hours of sleep, I couldn’t understand why he was so fatigued during the day. I, on the other hand, couldn’t get a wink of sleep, and looked and felt the part at work. I tried everything: playing music, keeping the TV on, earplugs… But nothing helped with tuning out the never-ending sound of Jack’s snoring. 

After a few nights of sleeping in the guest room, my best friend recommended melatonin to help put me to sleep. I eventually started taking a melatonin supplement and also diffused lavender essential oil on my bedside table to help me sleep in our bed. This helped me, but Jack’s loud snoring still  persisted. 

The snoring was only the beginning, though. I noticed that Jack was more irritable than usual, snapping at me over small things or yelling at our dog when she barked. He was overall more moody and angry. It caused many fights, even about trivial things like taking out the garbage. I was beyond frustrated, as he was no longer the man I married. On top of all this, Jack also started developing debilitating migraines and dizziness that only worsened the situation. They would leave him calling out of work to stay in bed, lights off and curtains drawn.

This all took place within a matter of three months, and both of us blamed it on his job. Aside from some allergies, Jack had always been healthy, with a decent family medical history. We couldn’t think of any reason for these changes, aside from being overworked… I was still very concerned.

Now, this might sound silly, but Jack stopped being interested in sex about a month later, and that’s when I demanded he see a doctor. This was just the beginning of a long journey with doctors that gave us almost no answers.

He went to his primary care physician first, who seemed mostly worried about the migraines and dizzy spells he was getting. She attributed his snoring to his allergies and recommended a stronger allergy medicine, which he started. For the headaches, though, she asked him to see an ENT. 

We chose to visit Dr. Mellis, who was wonderful. He did a hearing test on Jack and sent him for a CT scan of the head to see if anything was going on in the inner ear, but everything came back completely normal. Dr. Mellis also looked into Jack’s allergies and congestion to see if it really was contributing to the snoring, but he found Jack’s nasal passages clear. We were left with no answers and were back to square one.

Jack started taking ibuprofen everyday to combat the migraines and get through work, but his snoring kept up even with the stronger allergy medicine he was taking. We went a while completely lost, just surviving, with no clue where to go or who to consult. 

One day while I was at work, I got a call from Jack telling me he was going to the hospital. He said he was having bad chest pains and heart palpitations and was worried about a heart attack. He was 39 years old at the time. I told him it couldn’t possibly be a heart attack, but deep down I was worried. I told him I’d meet him at the hospital and to be safe.

As a realtor, I was able to get out of work easily and I rushed over to the hospital, my own heart pumping a mile a minute. When I got there, Jack was in the ER with a doctor. He looked fine, which I was grateful for. The doctor told me they had managed to get Jack’s heart rate, which was dangerously high when he arrived, back down to normal and that she was planning on running some tests on Jack. 

After a long night spent in the ER, we went home with yet more inconclusive test results and an appointment with a cardiologist. I could see this was really starting to get to Jack, and I tried to be supportive to the best of my ability. We went to the cardiologist the next day, where he ran another few tests and sent Jack home with medication to lower blood pressure.

Still, the cardiologist did not have a solid answer as to why the episode happened, and we were left continuing to grasp at straws. We had hope that the medicine would work by some miracle, but I still had a bad feeling nagging at me. 

After about a month of being on the medicine, Jack began complaining of side effects. He was experiencing nausea and dizziness. He decided to go back to the doctor and was prescribed another medication, despite the doctor still not knowing what the cause of his heart palpitations were. 

This went on about another year, with Jack on and off medicines. During this time, he gained weight and dealt with many uncomfortable side effects that sent him back and forth to doctors who gave us nothing of substantial information. I could see this struggle was really starting to hurt my husband, not just physically, but emotionally as well. Signs I knew were of depression began to develop in him, but I had no clue what to do for him. I suggested he start therapy to help talk out some of the issues he would keep wrapped up inside. 

Jack eventually began therapy and started antidepressants, which helped with the depression some, but not much… It wasn’t until a new coworker of mine told me about her similar situation that gave me a bit of hope. 

My coworker, Josie, said she and her husband dealt with a situation similar to ours a few years back. After many doctor visits and medicines that didn’t work, one of the nurses the couple encountered warned them about a condition known as obstructive sleep apnea. I had never heard of it before, but the symptoms Josie’s husband experienced were almost identical to what Jack was going through.

I decided to do some research on the subject and found a sleep specialist in Herndon, Dr. Queen, who many patients raved about. I decided to make an appointment for Jack, who skeptically agreed to go. 

Dr. Queen told us to use the app Snorelab to record some data of Jack’s snoring patterns prior to coming in for the appointment. It was so easy; all Jack had to do was download the app, press start, and put it on his bedside table near him. It recorded through the night and he slept normally. 

We brought the data in with us to Dr. Queen for our consultation. His staff was so friendly and welcoming, and Dr. Queen himself was very understanding of our situation and frustration. The consultation went well and Jack even had some hope that we were getting to the bottom of this.

Dr. Queen sent us equipment to do a home sleep study to help him with diagnosing Jack. The sleep study was easy to conduct and it was great for Jack because he could sleep in the comfort of his own home. There weren’t too many crazy wires and devices he needed to be hooked up to, and setting it up was easy enough! The next morning, we sent the data over to Dr. Queen’s office and threw away the equipment.

At our next appointment, Dr. Queen reviewed all the data and had a diagnosis for us. Jack indeed had obstructive sleep apnea. To finally have an answer was a miracle for us. We were so relieved! Dr. Queen suggested oral appliance therapy to treat his sleep apnea. This basically meant Jack would wear an oral appliance throughout the night that kept him from experiencing airway blockages. Dr. Queen also suggested going on low carbs, cutting out processed sugar, and drinking lots of water to help lose the weight Jack put on. 

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Jack got fit for his SomnoMed oral appliance and within a week had it ready and able to use. He was motivated to follow the diet protocol and started eating cleaner. He even had the energy to work out! We used lavender oil and a melatonin supplement to help Jack adjust to sleeping with the Somnomed appliance, but he said it was comfortable and easy to use and maintain.  

Since Jack’s been using the oral appliance, our problems have disappeared! He’s back to being energized, has lost weight, and is the playful man I fell in love with. His snoring has pretty much disappeared! We’ve had a couple follow-ups with Dr. Queen, all that have gone tremendously well. It’s thanks to him and his staff that Jack got his answers and we’ve developed a better quality of life than ever before! 

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