As a kid, I always looked forward to a favorite aunt and uncle coming to our house each year. They usually stayed for 2 nights and before I knew it, we were waving good-bye to them from our front porch. We always got a charge out of Uncle Lloyd constantly falling asleep, even during a short lag in family conversations. He’d be sitting on the couch visiting with us and 2 minutes later be asleep and snoring. I thought that was hilarious, and even my parents and siblings thought it was odd, but funny. We just assumed he was too bored with our conversations and purposely dozed off.
Lloyd continued to have his sleep issues for decades, invariably waking up each morning still feeling tired and exhausted. Around 1985, while in the hospital for some routine procedure, the doctor mentioned to Lloyd something about sleep apnea, a relatively new condition that hadn’t been researched a whole lot yet. The doctor said he wanted to check into it.
To make a long story short, my uncle was the very first person in Iowa to be put on a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine, shipped from Ohio. This new-fangled machine was heavy and cumbersome, about the size of a large dehumidifier. Lloyd spent several frustrating and restless nights trying to get comfortable with the mask and the constant whirring sound of the machine. Medical personnel were at his bedside at home for the first few nights supervising the whole procedure. Lloyd soon became comfortable with the CPAP machine and used it nightly until his death, 10 years later.
It’s a different CPAP world today, and 8 million Americans are using one, including me. Compared to Lloyd’s original one, today’s machines are 90% smaller, considerably more sophisticated, and user friendly. For 25 years, whether I’m at home or traveling abroad, I depend heavily on the CPAP machine to get a good night’s sleep.
I learned that falling asleep during a conversation, or while waiting for a stop light to turn green, is no laughing matter like we thought it was decades ago. People can make history in a variety of ways, and I’m proud to say my uncle Lloyd was the very first person in Iowa to use a CPAP machine.
What unique things or events has your family been part of?