Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Awake after MIA

Yeah, yeah, I've been gone. Life is more important than blogging.

Last night I went to the Genesys Sleep Lab in West Flint for a so-called "sleep study," due to reports from my beloved that I was having occasional -- but scary -- apnea episodes. So I packed up my toothpaste and iPhone, donned my red flowered pajama pants and my Good Beans Cafe teeshirt (thanks StixDesign) and reported in.

Apparently a lot of people in Flint can't sleep. At the end of a long maze-like hallway in the dim afterhours clinic, I discovered I wasn't the only one. There were at least four of us last night getting electrodes pasted onto our anxious foreheads, chests, fingertips and calves.

The tech who tended me said she can't sleep either. She works 10 p.m to 6:30 a.m. every day, and goes home and sleeps through the day on the couch. She uses the CPAP machine, just like I might have to, depending on how I do. She looks forward to winter when the snow makes the world quieter; she lives close to a school and the children make a lot of noise. Sometimes she can sleep through it but not always. While she's watching the sleep subjects at work, she reads books and is studying for her sleep certificate. She was kind and friendly and was wearing a jaunty nurses uniform with Elvis Presley snapshots on it. "I couldn't believe it when he got married," she said, smiling. "My mom said, 'what did you think?'" She is 56 and remembers that moment vividly. She's been sleeping on the couch for six years, since her husband died. Back then she had to start her life all over.

I sort of started my life over at 50, too. The thought of that abandoned bed, empty from the funeral on -- a sad and poignant image. And understandable.

Lordy, the sleep lab felt like a cheap motel. Hard miserable pillows, a bad mattress, no art on the walls, a bedspread that looked like a reject from a hot pillow joint. How could a person, wired up like a weird Shiva, fall asleep like this? At least there was a TV with all the channels. The box of leads slung over my teeshirt, a plastic air fork in my nose, I watched Jon Stewart interview a strangely unfunny Steve Martin. Then the tech came back, turned off the lights and turned on the computer.

I felt momentarily claustrophobic and a bit nauseous, watching an orange light blink on the small plastic helmut on my thumb. It was strange thinking somebody would be watching me, listening to me, monitoring all my vitals, for the next six or seven hours. In another room, somebody coughed, and coughed again. She's worse off than me, I thought. I called Ted and said good night. It was our first night apart in Flint.

I muttered my mantra, a string of trusty repetitions, two syllables again and again, fighting off a wave of despair about my mysterious body, the way each of us is trapped in one body for life -- the same one, always the same and always changing, never quite telling the whole story. I appreciated the widow with the Elvis Presley tunic watching my heart rate and listening to my breathing and noting my brain waves, while slowly turning the pages to her sleep certificate textbook. it can take a lot to get through the night: last night, at least, neither of us was alone.

No comments: