When George’s daughters noticed that he had stopped breathing while he was asleep, they were concerned. When he realized his heart was racing, too, he went to see his doctor. At Geisinger’s Sleep Center, he found a cure that improved his breathing, his heart, even his weight—and life with his family.
Over several years, George Y., 47, of Tunkhannock, PA, found that he was slowly putting on the pounds. He had just enough energy to last through the day, and he landed on the couch after work each evening. Usually a gregarious gentleman with an easy laugh, his fatigue took a toll on him and his family.
“I’d try to keep up with my girls,” he says of his three active teenaged daughters. “But I’d get so winded, and my heart would race. I sometimes even had chest pains. I got nervous.”
Then his daughters told him that he seemed to have trouble breathing at night, and that he actually stopped breathing for a short time one evening.
“That worried them, and it worried me,” he says. “I finally went to the doctor.”
Surprising and ironic diagnosis
Surprising to George, his family physician recommended that he see a sleep medicine specialist. George also found this ironic, since he is a marketing representative for a company that sells medical equipment, including devices that help people with sleep apnea to sleep at night.
“Since I meet with sleep disorder physicians all over northeastern Pennsylvania as part of my work, I knew I wanted to go to Geisinger’s Sleep Center,” he says. “I’ve always respected the staff there in Wilkes-Barre, and I wasn’t going to go anywhere else.”
At his first meeting with Geisinger’s board-certified sleep medicine specialists, George was also surprised to find that his symptoms—including those related to his heart—matched those of someone with sleep apnea. Left untreated, severe sleep apnea can lead to serious complications, including death related to heart disease. Geisinger physicians scheduled George for a sleep study to determine whether he had this condition and, if so, how severe it was.
Sleeping like a baby
Familiar with sleep studies, George knew he would spend the night at Geisinger’s Sleep Center while specialists monitored his breathing, heart rate and other vital signs.
“It’s one thing to work with someone professionally, but it’s another to be there as a patient,” he says. “Just as I expected, the staff were great.”
As they do with all patients, the Sleep Center specialists described to George everything they were doing as they set up the monitors, and they explained what he should expect during the overnight study.
“Though I was hooked up to electrodes (painless wires taped to the skin) and wasn’t in my own bed, that was the best sleep I’d had in a long time,” he says. “I trusted them.”
Severe apnea, diagnosed and treated
George’s study revealed that he had severe sleep apnea: during sleep, his heart rate slowed and he wasn’t breathing in as much oxygen as he needed. During this same appointment, staff fitted him with a CPAP mask and equipment — the equipment that he sells—to evaluate whether it could address the serious symptoms he’d been experiencing.
“They knew what they were doing, and I had a lot of confidence in them,” he says. “And the mask they fit me with was amazingly comfortable.”
He went home with the device and began using it every night during sleep. He quickly realized benefits from this treatment. He felt rested and energized during the day, and soon felt good enough to resume exercising. In fact, he joined a gym, and he started eating better, as well. He found himself in better shape than ever before to coach girls’ softball, something he does year-round.
Healthier every day
As an important part of every Sleep Center patient’s treatment, George makes follow-up visits to Geisinger’s sleep medicine specialists to make sure the equipment continues to give him the maximum benefit. At his three-month follow-up visit, he got good news. He had lost so much weight and was more physically fit that the staff switched him to a better-fitting face mask and adjusted the CPAP equipment.
“I ended up losing over 40 pounds, and I have a lot more confidence to do many things I hadn’t done in years,” George says with his joyous laugh. “Before, I was tired all the time, but now it’s full bore for me and my daughters. Thanks to the crew at Geisinger, last summer was a great one.”