After almost 30 years with sleep apnea and CPAP machines that never worked, Laura Baylo took her cardiologist’s advice and got the Inspire implant. Ultimately, it was everything she hoped it would be — life-changing. Here, she shares her story with Sleepopolis contributor Sharon Brandwein.
I was diagnosed with sleep apnea in my 30s. Sometimes my symptoms were so severe that I woke up in the middle of the night gasping for air, trying to catch my breath — I remember feeling like I was being smothered in my sleep. When my symptoms got to the point that they were hard to ignore, my doctor recommended a sleep study, and I got my diagnosis.
I think most people don’t understand that the diagnosis isn’t the end of it. It’s only a turning point. The road to getting better is a long one, and there are a lot of bumps.
Initially, I got a CPAP machine, and over the next 15 -20 years, it was a hot/cold, love/hate relationship with my CPAP. At first, it worked, and then it didn’t. Many nights I would wake up and find the CPAP mask on the floor, and of course, I didn’t realize that I had taken it off. Or I would wake up to noises in the middle of the night. It wasn’t the machine that woke me; it was the sound of air whooshing out of my mask.
Overall, the CPAP treatment was very inconsistent for me. Ultimately it bothered me enough that I stopped using it. Throughout the years, I revisited the treatment. I think each time I dusted the machine off, I was hoping that something would be different. It was a cycle, and I gave up every time I tried.
Two years ago, on a visit to my cardiologist, he recommended (strongly urged) me to try the Inspire implant. He explained how much my sleep apnea was affecting my health and how dangerous it could be — even more so if left untreated.
I’m in the health field myself, and I believe in science. So after I met with Dr. Jesse Keeler, M.D. at St. Luke’s University Health Network in Pennsylvania and he confirmed I was a good candidate for the implant, I didn’t hesitate (I also did my own research, of course).
The experience was positive all the way around. The procedure itself was a breeze — one day in and out of the hospital, and I was back to work in a couple of days. And there was almost no discomfort.
I couldn’t use the device immediately. Post-op, I wasn’t allowed to do anything but heal. After about a month, I went to a pulmonologist to get the device set up, get the remote, and figure out the right setting to get me started.
Day to day, using the device is super easy; I just hold the remote control over my chest to turn it on. Once it’s activated, I can feel a slight pull at the back of my tongue. The device turns on but then kind of “snoozes,” so to speak, so I have the opportunity to fall asleep. After about 30 minutes, it will kick back on and pull at my tongue throughout the night to stop the apneas.
I don’t notice the pulling while I’m sleeping, but if I wake up during the night, I can pause it to stop the pulling while I’m awake.
Unlike the CPAP, the implant has never woken me up. It’s been one and a half years, and I’ve never had an issue, no glitches, nothing. The only maintenance I have to do is get a new battery every 10 years. And from what I understand, it’s fairly simple; they just kind of go in and change the battery out.
The Inspire implant has been life-changing for me in more ways than one. If my memory serves me right, I used to have about 42 AHIs (Apnea Hypopnea Index) per hour. Since getting the implant, my AHIs are down to about 7 — I wasn’t kidding when I said life-changing.
The biggest thing for me, though, is probably a noticeable difference in wakefulness during the day. The difference is huge. I used to be so sleepy throughout the day but not anymore.
For more information on the Inspire implant, read Sleepopolis’s expert-reviewed guide to the future of sleep apnea treatment.