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My Aspirus Story

A good night’s sleep just what the doctor ordered for Tilton

Patient Name: James Tilton

About seven years ago, 56-year-old James Tilton woke up behind the wheel of his van with an airbag in his face and no recollection of a crash in which he took out a light pole and broke an axel off his van.

After the accident Tilton and his wife discussed what happened, and they determined that he must have fallen asleep at the wheel. A trip to the doctor soon followed.

“When I saw the doctor, he suggested that I go to the sleep lab, but I was too stubborn,” Tilton said.

Six months passed after the accident, and Tilton started to take notice of some other signs of problems. When friends came over to play cards, he’d get drowsy and couldn’t even hold onto his cards. It also became a common occurrence to wake up at night dripping in sweat, or being drowsy and confused in the mornings, even after 10 or more hours of sleep.

Despite the signs of a sleeping problem, it took a second accident to convince Tilton to seek help. This time, he fell asleep while driving in the middle of the afternoon and went down a hill and ran into the back of a large truck, prompting him to make an appointment with the Aspirus Regional Sleep Disorder Center the next day.

“It was my own foolishness for not going to the doctor, but I was in denial and didn’t want to admit anything was wrong,” he said. “After the first accident, I convinced myself it was because I had stayed up late watching TV the night before and was just getting over the flu. When the second one happened in the middle of the day, I knew I had to do something, because I didn’t want to kill myself, or others.”

The sleep center monitored Tilton for 4 hours while he slept, and determined that he had Sleep Apnea, a common condition that drastically lowers a person’s quality of sleep and causes brief lapses in breathing. When he was asleep, Tilton stopped breathing 42 times in one minute.

“The doctors showed me the results and I didn’t believe it,” Tilton said.

Following the initial 4-hour evaluation, Tilton was fitted with a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) device. The device improves airflow and prevents airways from becoming obstructed by delivering a stream of compressed air through a mask that is attached to a small air pump.

“After the first 4 hours I woke up with sweat, and after 4 hours on the CPAP device I woke up and felt like I was 19 again,” Tilton said. “I couldn’t believe how much better the machine made me feel. I was sold.”

Now, five years later, Tilton uses his CPAP device every night and the difference it has made has changed his life. There’s no more snoring, waking up in a sweat, falling asleep while driving, or in the middle of the day.

“ I actually sleep less now because I am getting very sound sleep and I have three times the energy,” says the Wausau native. “Sleep Apnea is something that needs to be addressed. I was as stubborn as anyone, but it’s not hard to wear the mask and it improves your quality of life, so you might as well take the test.”  

Created: Apr 22, 2009

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