Asleep at the wheel
An oncoming car veers into your lane. You bury the brakes and hear screaming tires, but before you take the shoulder, the other driver jerks her vehicle back into the correct lane. You pull off anyway to calm your thundering pulse and catch your breath.
Darla Jones was the driver you encountered on the road; she was falling asleep behind the wheel.
Darla couldn’t recall entire sections of her monthly trips to Davenport. Thoughts of, “Who did I run off the road… who will I run off the road” weaved through her mind. She tried everything: open windows, caffeinated drinks, walks around the vehicle, naps alongside the road. Every extended car trip was becoming harder to manage; she decided to seek help.
Darla, a rural Decorah woman, explained her concerns to Ann Grimstad, ARNP at Winneshiek Medical Center. “I automatically choose Winneshiek Medical Center – my babies were born there. They have treated me for years. I knew they would be able to tell me why I couldn’t stay awake on the road,” says Darla.
Ann suggested Darla undergo a sleep study.
The study revealed Darla was waking up every four minutes all night long – a form of sleep apnea. “The reason I was so tired was I never really slept; it was the reason my life had turned from being joyful to a burden.”
Darla had coped with her disorder for over a year. She says, “Every woman experiences stress in her life. Keeping a family together, working full time – I never thought my fatigue was anything different than what other women experience.”
Darla was fitted with a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine to wear while she slept by Beth Kuhn, Durable Medical Equipment Technician at Winneshiek Medical Center. A CPAP machine delivers air pressure through a mask placed over your nose while you sleep. The air pressure is somewhat greater than that of the surrounding air, and is just enough to keep the upper airway passages open and improve sleep. “I thought it would be awkward to sleep with this contraption on my face, but I was so tired, the relief I felt outweighed the fact I fell asleep each night hooked up to a machine,” says Darla. “Besides,” she adds, “Beth made sure the CPAP machine fit correctly, and adjusted it until it was comfortable.”
Darla now has more energy for her family and the people she serves, and most importantly, is safe on the road. She says, “I had always taken for granted the body’s ability to sleep. I am thankful to have my life back.”