Saturday, November 24, 2007

DEAD CPAPS AND HOLIDAZE MARATHONS

About two weeks ago, I thought I was going to suffocate in my sleep. My CPAP machine, which I depend on to keep my airway open and prevent my sleep apnea from occurring, rolled over and died. It was sudden, with no warning at all. The familiar rush of pressurized air ceased and I couldn't breathe. Sat up and ripped my mask off, with my slumber on hold. "What's wrong with this freakin' thing??!!" I wondered aloud. No answer came, so I investigated.

Is the inverter working? Yep. Green "on" light is glowing. Plugged into the inverter all the way? Yep. Plugged into the CPAP all the way? Yep. Pressed the "go" button on the machine. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Well, shit!! Looked at the status panel and saw an ominous error message:  ERROR -- E03. Pressed the "go" button half a dozen times. No change. Message stayed as-is. At that point, I pronounced the patient officially dead, unplugged it and put it back into its carrying bag, then stowed it away. So much for that. No CPAP for you!!! Hello, Mr. OSA! We meet again!!

And so we did. My old enemy, my sleep apnea, returned with a vengeance. It seemed like I was waking up every ten minutes or so. Doze off, wake back up, doze off again, wake back up -- an endless cycle. I was made quickly and acutely aware of just how much I depended on that machine to help me get a decent night's sleep and it decidedly sucked without the thing's aid and support! I knew that the earliest I'd be able to take the thing in to the hospital outlet that provides and services them would be Monday. Four nearly sleepless nights to look forward to!! Gee, whiz -- what a thrill! Next morning, tired and groggy, I called in and left a message on my dispatcher's voice mail, since he was busy and unavailable in person, as is usually the case. Told him I had to take Monday morning off, to see about getting it fixed, as I couldn't take many breaks without the thing. Emergency! Gotta have it!

He found me a more or less suitable load and I headed home on Friday, tired as hell from lack of sleep, but able to drive safely in spite of it, because driving when you're dead-tired is something all truckers learn to deal with on frequent occasions. I didn't sleep any better at home -- worse, in fact, because I'm much more used to sleeping in my truck's bunk than I am my own bed. So, as you might imagine, I was glad when Monday dawned at last. I had been so pooped over the weekend that I didn't even have the energy to ride Velvet. She stayed parked all weekend. Not about to risk getting out on her so tired and maybe crashing her and hurting myself. No way, Jose!

I was lurking like a vulture in the parking lot of the hospital equipment outlet, waiting for them to open up. I pointed to the CPAP bag I carried. "It died. Fix it, please!!" Or something to that effect, anyway. I had to leave it and go back home until their technician could perform an autopsy on it. They called after about three hours and the news wasn't good. Motor was burned up and the tech said it was due to neglect; I hadn't changed the filters often enough. I argued mightily. I DID wash out the foam one at least every two weeks or so, and always had done so! I can't get in town every month to get a new inner filter, as I'm on the road all the time! It's very hard for a trucker to do anything like that, when everything's closed on the weekends when I am at home! Told them that I suspected that the thing may have ended up too close to the sleeper curtain in my truck and that was what probably blocked the air flow. I couldn't put it up on a shelf, because the cord wouldn't reach to the plug in my cab and also the risk of pulling it off the shelf and having it conk me in the head! Not safe, so I had to put it on the floor. Our trucks aren't equipped with the desks that others have. Nowhere else to put it. I tried to keep it away from the curtain, but sometimes, in spite of all your efforts. . . .

My company had just gone on a new insurance plan and although I didn't have a claim on it as yet, the outlet was required to write a letter, explaining why the thing died at such a young age. Insurance will only replace them every five years, normally. Mine didn't last quite two years. When the insurance company got the letter, they'd likely deny the claim and the whole thing would come out of my pocket, instead of just the $500 deductible. No way could I afford that; the five hundred bucks is going to strain me enough, but I might come up with enough in my Comdata "credit union" account to cover most of that. But NOT the whole enchilada!!

Finally, it was decided that since I didn't have an insurance claim as yet, they would refer me to another outlet in town and I could get a new machine from them. That way, I was a first-time buyer, with no previous machine that had died on me. No letter would be written and my insurance would pay their part of it. So, that's what happened. Went over there and the hospital outlet had faxed my sleep study and all the other pertinent information to them. I walked out of there with a new CPAP. A different brand; smaller, and made different, so that there's no risk of it getting too close to that curtain again. And they'll mail me new filters each month, along with mask cushions and a new mask at certain intervals. Everything worked out for the best in the end and by my next break period, I was sleeping like a baby again. Ahhhh -- sweet relief!!

That relief would be short-lived, though, because this past week was a holidaze weekend. Thanksgiving, specifically. The busiest travel day of the year and the exhorbitant gas prices weren't stopping them this year. Holidays present even greater challenges to truckers. Plants and warehouses tend to close early before a holiday and don't open up until the long weekend is over, so it means you're in a mad rush to deliver and pick up your loads before quitting time rolls around.

Such was the case with me on Wednesday of last week. I had a long run down to North Carolina from the area around our yard in Illinois. Started Tuesday, but didn't get far before my hours ran out. I drove over them a bit, in fact, making it into Indiana before I shut down, then logging myself further down the road than I actually was. This was so that the time when I fueled would coincide with my logbook and I wouldn't drive too long getting to the truckstop. If you don't understand all that, trust me. I know what I'm doing when I cheat. I had to save all the hours I could for the marathon I'd be running the next day.

Wednesday, I started out an hour and a half before my log says I did, fueled in Kentucky, then drove all the way to Sanford, North Carolina, non-stop. I was scheduled to deliver at 3 P.M., CST, but I wanted to get there as early as I could, both to beat the brunt of the traffic nightmare I knew would be coming, and to get my load delivered and skedaddle to my next pickup, which would presumably take me home for the holiday. Show up after  they close, and you ain't going home, Jack! You'll sit out the holiday right there!

Stopped twice for bathroom breaks and that was it. Pulled into the customer at Sanford at 1 -- two hours early. I think the forklift was on the truck before I bumped the dock. They want to get 'er done and go home, too!! By that time, I was actually almost three hours over my drive hours in reality, but due to my clever logging, I had an hour and a half left on paper. Amazing what one can do with a little creative arithmetic! That wasn't enough, though, in spite of my creativity. I got my next load pronto -- dispatch was even in a hurry to get the heck out of Dodge. Yep, they sent me to South Carolina to load again, almost a tradition when I'm in Sanford. To a paper mill, which, according to the load info, would be open at least until midnight. Over 150 miles, by HHG reckoning, and pretty accurate this time, because the back roads ARE the quickest way to get down there from where I was. That happens occasionally. But I required more than ninety minutes in order to cover that distance and not show my 65 mph truck running 85, or something like that, which would be unacceptable and would get me written up for a violation.

To hell with the log for now! I gotta get that load picked up WAY before they can close and the later it gets, the worse traffic will be, heading out to grandma's, or wherever. So, I once again went on the old tried, true and well-tested "Drive Now -- Log It Later" strategy. No scales out in the woods anyway and most of the interstate scales would be closing early, as they pulled the DOT bears off the trucks and put them on the roads for extra traffic patrols. Truckers get a free pass often on holiday weekends. The bears have too many 4-wheelers to worry about. So, chances of getting caught for HOS violations are slimmer.

I got to the paper mill about 6, after fighting increasingly heavy traffic all the way down there. I figured up my hours after I had dropped my empty caboose and hooked up to my loaded one and found that at that point I was only 7 1/2 hours over the 11 hours I'm legally permitted to drive. Eighteen and a half hours on the road, straight. Call me Iron Man!!! I wasn't tired -- much. Just nearing a total collapse, as you might imagine. New CPAP wasn't doing me any good at all ifI couldn't get INTO the bunk in the first place. But it was necessary, if I was to have any holiday at all. My marathon over at last, I made my way to the nearest truckstop, found a space at the curb, ate a Subway pizza, then went to sleep.

I got up later than I meant to Thanksgiving morning and made my way home, again through fairly heavy traffic, but feeling much better after the rest I'd gotten. finally. It was after 2 P.M. before I arrived home. Caught up my logbook, showing a break in North Carolina that I actually drove through, mostly, then another shorter break in South Carolina, so that once again my fuel time would coincide accurately. Crossed all the "T's," dotted all the "I's," and went to the house. Took my mom out for dinner. I hadn't eaten much all day and I pigged out on fried chicken.

And now it's too blamed cold to ride Velvet, dang it!! I thought about it until I stepped outside and could see my breath in the air. I went back inside and Velvet's still parked in the garage, sound asleep. I ain't no polar bear. Supposed to warm up again next week. We'll see.

10-7

8 comments:

my78novata said...

Hey thanks for my text message dawg.
Im glad you got that machine fixed. and insurance companies have no heart the workers or drs or anyone. you cant get help anyplace now days. they will never take blame nad like to balme you to have done soemthing to make it fail yeah right!!!!!! you like sleeping you wont do that. but maybe it was worth it as you got a better model well worth it now atleast

jimbobd421 said...

glad you got that breathing machine replaced Dawg. I had similiar the same thing happen to me trying to get unloaded. first i was trying to get all 4 of my drops off before i came home because i had already made motel reservations in Houston because we were going down to Houston to surprise my mom and dad while he's there at MD Anderson with his cancer treatments. with that said, i got 3 of my 4 drops off without a hitch. I pull into my 4 drop to unload my lumber and guess what?????????  gates are closed, front door is locked, note on door says we wqill be closed thurs-sun for the Thanksgiving holiday. Ok well last time i looked this is wednesday, 3pm CST so i called my dispatcher, Nasa we have a problem,LOL. told them about the locked gate, doors no cars in parking lot at all. Your shitting me. you want me to take a pic with my camera phone and send it to you. NO ONE IS HERE!!!!  hold on for a min. he comes back boss man said just bring it back to the house. they should of called us and told us they were going to close early. i'm sure they will get charged for that delivery and no-one being there. anyway i made it back home. sleep about 4 hrs and headed to Houston with wife and son. we made it there and had a great time. ate to much of course. my brother and sister and myself had this surprise planned for months. there was no way no load was going to keep me there in Oklahoma. i was coming home reguardless of what they said. i was only 6 hrs from the house anyway. back home now, relaxing today, head out tomorrow for Dublin,Ga. there going to put that last drop with another drop and take it back to Ok Monday.see ya later gater. Tell Velvet we said hello...vrrmmmm

jeanniebuggz said...


Glad they worked out everything to your advantage re the CPAP and that you are getting your much needed sleep now.  So glad you did get home for the holiday so I had someone to enjoy dinner with.  Another long weekend coming up in just a month and we will have to do a repeat.  Have a good week!

dougdee23 said...

Isn't it amazing how the plateaus of importance rise and fall as we trudge on thru the years !? I do believe you made the best choices on those that just flew by - others will come. See you soon.

loboman62 said...

moondawg  gald to see that you were able to get your cpap replaced and able to get home for the holliday with out too much trouble just a little "creative logging" been there done that enjoy your home time   drive safe    Wolfman  

merry1621 said...

Glad you got your CPAP machine problem solved. And even more glad I don't need one, although I take an Ambien once in a while & I do mean once in a while.  That stuff scares me, so I DON'T take it regualrly.  Shrinks love to give it, family doctors even do, almost as much as they love to give people anti-depressants.....which not a one EVER worked for me & I am not kiddding. I am not bragging when I say I have tried 'em all.  Listen, I tell the proper person, "I have GAD (generalized anxiety disorder) and I have had this for over 35 years. But since there is no "CURE" for that, they try to put me on the anti-dep or sleeping meds.  Nada, no thank you.  I am pretty use to being nervous, and I don't need or want another med to take.  What were you thinking eating fried chiken on Thanksgiving??  I thought it was an American rule we eat TURKEY then.  LOL  Have a good week.....It's beginning to look a lot llike Christmas everywhere but our house.  HELP! xoxo Merry

angelsfaceme1 said...

Dawg,
     Glad you made it home for Thanksgiving. Hubby did to and it was really great getting together with the family together for a change. I know all about creative log keeping thanks to hubby. It still is a bit confusing to me but if it gets him home on occasion I am all for it.
    Sorry to hear about your CPAP and was glad to hear you got the problem fixed with fairly no cost to you. I am on one and you do get to depend on the good nights sleep it helps you get.
I am coming up for my yearly sleep test and am going to ask for a full face mask this time. When my allergies act up the nose mask doesn't work out to well. I end up taking it off in my sleep then wake up choking. It sucks, LOL
 You take care and keep your Angel in the jump seat.
                                         Hugs, Cyndy

mumma4evr said...

glad the cpap was taken care of!!!
Becky