Three years ago, a car accident left Martha with a concussion and with difficulty speaking. Eventually, her concussion healed and her speech improved—thanks, in part, to therapy.
Still, Martha continued to struggle with one perplexing issue: She couldn’t stay awake.
After the accident, Martha’s energy levels dwindled to the point that she was unable to work. After speaking with her primary care physician, Martha was referred to a neurologist, who recommended a sleep study. She was diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea; according to the study, her breathing stopped an average of 44 times per hour.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a condition that affects 18 million Americans. Left untreated, it may lead to increased risk of heart attack, stroke, weight gain and high blood pressure.
At first, Martha couldn’t believe her diagnosis.
“I’ve never had anything wrong with me. I pretty much was in denial about it,” Martha said.
Through medical consultation, Martha learned the car accident had shifted the position of her tongue. When she slept, her upper airway was completely obstructed.
After the sleep study, Martha was referred to a dentist, who fitted her with a dental device to try to advance her jaw in an attempt to open her airway. “The dentist gave me about a 60 percent chance of success, because my case was so severe,” she said.
She was also issued a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) mask to use when she sleeps. CPAP is often given to people with sleep apnea, but many wearers find the machine impedes normal sleep because it is too loud. Others say the mask is uncomfortable and they cannot tolerate wearing it consistently.
Martha tried to use CPAP on and off for months. Meanwhile, her inability to sleep at night made it difficult for her to continue her work as a realtor and public speaker.
“Frustration is a good word for it. This was my new norm. There was nothing else I could do about it,” she said.
In March 2015, one of Martha’s close friends died in his sleep. He was 65 years old.
“I remember standing at the visitation talking with our friend’s kids, who told us they thought it was sleep apnea-related. My husband turned to me and said, ‘You have to do something about this,’” Martha said.
The previous fall, Martha had heard about a new implantable device called Inspire Upper Airway Stimulation.
Eventually, Martha obtained a referral to University of Minnesota Health Otolarygologist Jennifer Hsia, MD. Hsia was the first physician in the Twin Cities to successfully implant the Inspire therapy device in a patient.
Hsia implanted Martha’s device in November 2015 at University of Minnesota Medical Center. One month later, the device was activated. Right away, Martha felt better. “It was awesome,” she said.
The device includes a small generator—which is implanted under the skin of a patient’s chest—and two thin leads that are connected to the generator. One is a breathing sensor, which monitors your breathing patterns while you sleep. The other delivers stimulation to your airway muscles.
Hsia was very pleased with Martha’s results, and says the device is a positive solution for those with moderate or severe sleep apnea.
How has Martha’s life changed since receiving Inspire therapy?
“I still do the same activities, but I’m just not as tired,” she said. “When you’re tired, you’re not engaged. I have more energy to spend time with my six grandchildren.”
Martha speaks very highly of the care she received from Jennifer Hsia, MD.
“She has an incredible bedside manner. As soon as she walked into the room, I felt at ease. She called me personally to see how I was doing,” Martha said. “I can count on, not very many fingers, the number of doctors that would do that for their patients. It was just so awesome.”