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Posts Tagged ‘sleep clinic’

  1. A Night in the Sleep Clinic, Part 3

    September 17, 2013 by Diane

    I gave up attempting to sleep, and swung my legs over the edge of the bed and sat up. Johnny appeared in the room in a flash, still wearing the white lab coat, still looking like a sad-sack, only sadder. The room still looked like a mock hotel suite minus the window and the suite, and I still had eighteen electrodes and gobs of paste and strips of tape plastered to my face, scalp, chest and legs.

    “I can’t sleep,” I told Johnny and he said, “Actually, you did. A little. Those electrodes on your head, remember?”

    Oh, those.

    “Is it three o’clock?” I asked. “I’m always awake at three o’clock.”

    “It’s edging to three.”

    His voice was soft, soothing. Or maybe it sounded that way. Maybe I wanted to hear a soft soothing voice at three o’clock in the morning in a nondescript building that housed a sleep clinic.

    “Well, at least I have someone to talk to,” I said, and he might have smiled.  I asked, “Is it boring, watching people sleep all night?”

    “Oh, you’d be surprised. I have stories you could wrap around the moon.” The adventures of Johnny-something, sleep technician. “Sometimes I have to call the police,” he said.

    “You’re kidding.”

    “Oh, you’d be surprised.” He looked smug, standing in the dark with the light from the hallway spilling in. He rocked back on his heels, holding on to those stories. I was too tired to dig.

    I slid my legs back under the sheet. “You must have sleep problems, working the night shift.”

    He deflated quickly. “You’re right. I only get about three hours.”

    Johnny-something, insomniac. Running a clinic for insomniacs. No wonder he looked sad.

    He asked, “Do you want to keep going?” and I figured why not, I was hooked up, three o’clock had come and gone and Johnny-something was decent company, even if he was in the next room watching me on a monitor. So I white-knuckled it through another few hours of fractured sleep, and at five-thirty he was back in the room, peeling off all eighteen wires. It took about five minutes to get them all off. While he hung the wires back on the hooks on the wall I asked, “Can you tell what’s keeping me awake?”

    Johnny shook his head. “We’re not supposed to. The doctors don’t like it. Once I told a woman she had sleep apnea and she screamed hysterically. You’d of thought I was murdering her.” He was chewing the cinnamon gum again. “There’s nine hundred pages to evaluate,” he said, “thirty seconds of recordings on each page. You won’t hear anything for a couple of weeks.” He walked me out the back door, my hair matted with glue, and there in the gray morning light he sighed and confessed that I had signs of sleep apnea.

    I didn’t scream.

    I looked him in the eyes. They were tight. I wanted to ask more, but he’d said too much already. I sent a silent thank-you to whoever had sent Johnny to watch over me.

    “That’s what I figured,” I said, and he perked up.

    “I’ll bet they schedule you for another night in the clinic,” he said, “with a CPAP machine.”

    I kept my gaze steady, imagining the sucking sounds that come from breathing through a mask all night. We both stood in silence and then he stepped back into the shadows of the clinic, and I got in my car and drove home.

    I’d found my answer.

    I’d play dumb when the doctor called with the results.

  2. A Night in the Sleep Clinic, Part 2

    September 13, 2013 by Diane

    It was him and me. Him in a white lab coat and latex gloves; me in a loose T-shirt and leggings and flip flops. He approached, this man named Johnny something, holding a long wire. At one end was an electrode, at the other, a plug. Seventeen more wires hung on hooks on the wall. On a cart, someone had lined up a roll of gauze tape and a pot of paste to make sure all eighteen wires stayed glued to my skin. I was sitting on a rolling chair at the foot of a double bed in a small windowless room in a nondescript building that housed a laboratory for analyzing sleep problems. This is where my insomnia had driven me.

    And it’s where the hour-long process of wiring began.

    Johnny went back and forth between me and the wall of wires. I took two on the chin, one on the throat, two on the outer corners of my eyes and one in the center of my forehead. He ripped sections of  tape from the roll to hold them all down, and then pressed two more electrodes under my collarbone. He handed me another to press “right over the heart,” resting a gloved hand over his own.

    As if I didn’t know my own heart.

    As if the heavy pounding wouldn’t lead me to the right spot.

    Then came the belts, two of them, thick and webbed and designed to measure respiration. One for my chest, the other around my abdomen. He cinched both tight. Then came the paste. He scooped a dollop on his finger and globbed it on my scalp. Pressed an electrode into the mess and did it four more times until all five were in place. He fished a coiled wire from a plastic bag and unfurled it, revealing two plastic prongs. “These go up your nose,” he said, and slid the prongs into place, chomping on his cinnamon gum, his breath moist against my face. “Most people don’t like these,” he said.

    Hardly noticeable, I told myself.

    He fished another wire from a bag, and twanged a plastic filament clipped on the center. “This goes under your nose.” He pressed it into position and ripped off more tape. He gathered all of the wires into a huge ponytail that would cascade over my shoulder as I slept, and plugged the ends into a black box that would hang on the carved wooden headboard. He tossed aside the two pillows on the bed, pulled the covers down, and asked me to get in.

    I got in.

    But Johnny wasn’t done. As soon as I settled back he stuck four electrodes to my shins, plugged them into the black box, clamped a white plastic gizmo to my index finger to monitor oxygen levels, and plugged the black box into the wall. Finally, he stepped back to admire his work.

    “That’s the whole kit and caboodle,” he said, almost smiling. “You could wear that getup on Halloween.”

    I looked at him for several beats.

    “I have to go to the bathroom,” I said.

    I expected some change in his face, some shift of that almost-smile, but he wasn’t about to cave. He wedged himself between the bed and the night stand and unplugged the black box. He unclamped the white gizmo from my finger and watched as I hauled the box and all eighteen wires—four of them trailing behind—down the hall to the bathroom.

    I locked the door.

    I turned toward the mirror…and froze.

    Imagine a horror film.

    A low-budget horror film.

    Imagine the creature in this hypothetical low-budget horror film: a walking, mummified medical experiment gone awry with wires exploding from its scalp of matted hair. But the costumer ran out of gauze, so patches of human skin still showed through.

    That’s what stared back at me from the mirror.

    And he expects me to sleep in all this hardware.

    Piece of cake.

    …to be continued


  3. A Night in the Sleep Clinic, Part 1

    September 10, 2013 by Diane

    I searched for an explanation for my persistent insomnia on a quiet street off a residential neighborhood in a nondescript building on a Tuesday night. I pulled into the parking lot behind a sleep clinic and shut the engine. Only one other car in the lot: an old American-built, the size of a city block. It was me and one other person spending the night. Not a good sign. Another insomniac, I hoped. Only one way to find out. I grabbed my overnight sack and walked around to the front of the building and peered through the glass to an alcove and tried the door. It was locked. I rang the bell.

    I was ready to ring it again when I heard footsteps clomping down the hall. The alcove door opened, revealing a man wearing thick black shoes and blue slacks and a white lab coat and a sad sack face. He clomped through the lobby and unlocked the front door and stepped back. Bald, wiry, he sported a five o-clock shadow and a tan, with a white birthmark curving from the side of his nose to the corner of his mouth. A crescent moon. Fitting, I thought, for a man watching over the sleepless all night.

    I wasn’t keen on the watching part. I wanted a female technician to be standing there, but it was me and him; Johnny something, according to his name tag and his introduction. He closed the door and locked it with a click and led me down a hallway to a room at the end, a small, windowless room with dark apricot walls and a silver spread on the bed made from fabric you see in old science fiction flicks, and pillowcases the color of fresh bruises. Above the bed someone had mounted a microphone, and on the opposite wall, a neat display of wires on hooks. Someone went to a lot of trouble hanging all those wires.

    “That’s a lotta wires,” Johnny said with a slight nasal tone, handing me a clipboard of papers to fill out. He chomped on cinnamon gum. “A lotta wires. And lotsa paste. Lotsa, lotsa paste.” He indicated a jar of it on a rolling cart that had slim drawers filled with medical stuff…gauze, tape, scissors, God knows what, all neatly arranged like the wires. “Get into your sleep clothes,” he said, wasting no time, “and we’ll be ready to rock and roll.”

    I wasn’t keen on that part, either…the rocking and rolling. When he left the room, the door clicking softly behind him, the faint smell of cologne lingering behind, I pulled out my cell phone and dialed a friend. “It occurs to me that nobody knows where I am,” I said, eyeing the hooks full of wires. I gave him the address and disconnected. Then I filled out the forms, pausing over the first one.

    Emergency contact.

    I imagined being electrocuted by the wires, breaking out in hives from the paste.

    I finished the papers and pulled my T-shirt over my head and noticed the camera mounted above the television. Was the Good Humor Man watching me now? I looked around for a blind spot, pressed myself against the wall under the TV and finished changing. Then I poked my head out to the hallway. Johnny was in the next room sorting through supplies, wearing white latex gloves.

    “I’m ready to…uh…rock and roll,” I said.

    He stood up and left off the eye contact and followed me back into the room. He rolled a chair next to the bed and asked me to sit.

    “It’s a lotta wires,” he warned again. He lifted each one gently with two fingers as he described their exact placement. “And lotsa paste. Lotsa, lotsa paste.” He  released the first wire from the hook.

    “By morning,” he said, “you’ll be squirming to get out of these.”

    …to be continued