When it comes to health care concerns, David Lotierzo is like most men...he waits. Most men think their condition will improve with time. And when most men see a doctor, they probably won't bring it up.
Like a typical guy, David suffered for years. It began in 2006. He'd wake up twice an hour. Over the course of a night, he'd be up 10-12 times. Back then he dismissed it as an overactive bladder since he went to the bathroom each time. He lived with this for years.
But then he started to gasp - deep fearful gasps that jolted him awake. Again, he lived with this for years.
Finally, he had a big scare. He woke in the night, jumped out of bed and couldn't breathe. He made the choking sign to his wife and then fell to the floor. He waited in a panic for nearly thirty seconds until his throat relaxed enough to breathe.
Following this, he knew he should call a doctor, but life intervened: a move, a new job and caring for twins.
A typical guy can have a typical wife - the type who gently reminds a husband to take action. David's wife nudged him until he finally mentioned it to his family physician.
"My doctor asked if there was anything else we should talk about before she left the room," he says. "That's when I told her that I might have sleep apnea."
He immediately had a sleep study. He had a restless night sleep at the center, but the technicians got the data they needed. The results went to a local pulmonologist - David was a severe case.
"My numbers were bad," David says. In fact, his breathing stopped or slowed 22 times per hour.
He started on a CPAP machine, which is a mask connected to an air pump. But he struggled with it. "With that mask on, I felt like I was suffocating," he says.
He had the foresight to see this option wouldn't work.
"I knew I'd try wearing it but would slowly stop using it," he says. So he needed other options.
One option was a dental device that would thrust his lower jaw forward and help keep his airway open. Again, David didn't trust that he would wear it every night.
Another option was surgery. That's when he met with ear, nose and throat specialist David Prager, MD.
"Dr. Prager talked about the CPAP, dental device and surgical options instead of only pushing surgery," David says. "I liked that."
The surgery would do several things - tighten the loose tissue in his throat, increase the breathing room in his nose and correct a deviated septum.
David liked the idea of a permanent fix and discussed the surgery with his wife and parents. While the results could vary with surgery, David trusted Dr. Prager. "He was knowledgeable, professional and made me feel confident in his ability," David says.
Dr. Prager is an independent member of the medical staff at Easton Hospital where David had his procedure. The surgery went well and David was pleased with the hospital staff.
"After surgery my nose was packed with gauze, so I was pretty uncomfortable," David says. "But the staff at Easton were kind and checked on me regularly."
Dr. Prager removed the nasal packing the following day, and David felt much better.
David's recovery went well. After a week of rest, he was soon back at work and active with his twin four-year olds. He visited Dr. Prager regularly for progress updates.
The results on his follow-up sleep study were much improved, but that was no surprise since David was already feeling so much better.
"I didn't wake up at night or gasp," David says. "I felt so rested. I no longer had that the drop-off in my energy level that happened every afternoon."
"Sleep apnea is an all too prevalent problem," says Dr. Prager. "And yet only about 20 percent of patients ever get diagnosed. This is unfortunate since treatment is simple and effective. If left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to heart attack, stroke and high blood pressure."
David has used his experience to help nudge others who are suffering from sleep apnea. "While I'm no activist, I do speak up since I know how bad it can be if left untreated," he says.
Since he is now the one encouraging others to seek treatment, he had to find a way to thank his wife.
"I was a terrible snorer," he says. "While it hasn't gone away, my wife says that the surgery has really helped take the edge off."
Now everyone gets a better night's sleep. That's a pretty good gift from a typical guy.
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Easton, PA 18042-3892