We spent the Xmas period waiting for the results of Richard's second MRI scan. The doctors thought they had found something but weren't sure what, hence the need for the second test, this time with an injection of luminous gloop so they could see more clearly what may be causing his awful migraines. The good news is that he only has an enlarged vein in his brain, which does not require any medical attention.
Richard has suffered from migraines for over thirty years. He's run through every tablet available on the NHS. Most night's he's sat with an ice-pack on his head. He also has irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) which means he can't drink alcohol, eat spicy or fatty foods, and has a string of allergies longer than your arm. Eating out can leave him ill for days, even when the menu is pored over carefully. Even minor changes of routine, such as a day's travelling, can put him in bed for days.
However, for years I've grumbled about his horrendous snoring. He sounds something like a cross between a hovercraft and a pneumatic drill. Watch the video to learn what I mean:
Being complained-at by me encouraged Richard to complain to his doctor, who sent him to a specialist clinic. They sent him home with a testing kit made up of a plastic peg for one index finger and a sort-of bracelet for one wrist. These were wired into a box which then sent data to the hospital's computer.
When he walked into the clinic to receive the results, he was told his was the worst case of sleep apnoea the specialist had come across in seventeen years. Sleep apnoea isn't just snoring - most people snore, and that's fine. Sleep apnoea is when the snoring noise is caused by the person fighting to breathe, if they even can breath. During a six-hour period, Richard stopped breathing 480 times.
The computer printed out a chart whose graph line is supposed to be a long, level line. Richard's zigzagged that much it went, quite literally, off the chart. He vanished for thirty minutes, probably whilst visiting the bathroom. No, our house isn't that big - he often falls asleep on the throne. Many a night I've yelled, "Wake up and get off the pot!" Such are the dignities of marriage.
When your specialist asks how come you're not dead, it's serious.
Oddly enough, what clinched the diagnoses was the video. The nurses found it most amusing and were eager to meet the star of the show. Richard apparently has an unusually narrow windpipe with a larger than usual epiglottis, which causes his air supply to be cut off. There is no cure, he was told, and in his case surgery wouldn't work. The only aid is to spend every night, for the rest of his life, with an oxygen mask. Better that, though, than dying in his sleep - which is a real possibility
Sleep apnoea results in a person not sleeping properly. As much of the body's healing and self-regenerating work happens then, this interuption results in lowered immunity, lethargy, bad temper, confusion, clumsiness, poor concentration etc. People who have this condition are significantly more prone to strokes and heart attacks, and also type-two diabetes.
Richard doesn't drive a car, but if he did then the specialist said the licence would have to be rescinded. Likewise, he would not be allowed to work with heavy machinery. A person with sleep apnoea, due to their poor night-time sleep, can readily fall asleep at any point in the day. The minute Richard sits down at home and relaxes he falls asleep, even in mid-conversation.
The specialist also told Richard that many of his other problems, such as migraines and IBS, will probably calm down a lot once the oxygen mask equipment has been organised - which will be sometime in April. April?!! Such is the efficiency of the NHS.