Learning through Laughter

Bob Owen, Humorist

I told some of my buddies one day that I was going into the hospital that evening to have a sleep test.  We had a big laugh. They warned me not to fail it.  Little did we know.

So why did I go for the test?  Why did I think I might have sleep apnea?  Because my wife says I quit breathing in my sleep sometimes.  Because my wife says my incessant snoring keeps her awake.  Because I really don’t sleep much.  If you have sleep apnea, then you might get a miracle CPAP and live happily ever after. I don’t understand all I know about it, but friends who use it finally sleep and rest.  Sign me up.   If you don’t have sleep apnea and still take the test, then probably you wasted a night away from home.  I don’t know.

On the scheduled night, I was waiting in the hospital lobby, and the sleep pros came and got me at 8 p.m. There were three others, but this is really all about me.  They took me to the sixth floor and showed me “my room.”  My bed was taken from the grisly death scene of a B-rated movie.  I’m sure.   I should have suspected a rough night when the technician twitched continually.  He told me to put on my sleep clothes, and he would return in a few minutes.

After returning, he scrubbed small spots on my scalp, face, chest, and legs and began attaching wires using silly putty.  30 wires.  THIRTY WIRES!!!

Wires went down my shirt, down each leg of my pajamas and down my back from my head.  Next he put a “belt” around my waist and attached wires to them.  Then he put “something” on my face that stuck in my nose.  Then he gave me something that would be with me the rest of this experience.  It was where all the wires culminated.  It was called a BOB – for Big Ole Box.  You know I couldn’t make that up.

I lay down.  Wires all over me, especially on my face.  Then my keeper said, “Sleep well.”  There’s a special course they take that trains them not to laugh hysterically.  Because he would be watching me all night long from a remote camera, he said, “I’ll come back on the speaker and ask you to do a few movements in order to calibrate the camera.”  In a few minutes, his voice came through loudly.  “Mr. Owen?”  “Yes?”  “Look to the left.  To the right.  Up. Down.”  And on and on.  I felt certain he was video streaming this throughout the hospital.

He came in to turn out the lights.  “Oh, by the way, if you need to go to the bathroom, just speak in a normal tone, and I’ll come in and disconnect you."  It’s been a long time since I asked permission to go to the bathroom.  Finally, he left.  The lights went out.  And I lay there.  And lay there.  I’m paying this man to study me while I sleep.  And, I just lay there.  I was so tired, but with 700 of feet of wire all over my body, and in my face, I could NOT go to sleep.  My friends were right.  I was going to fail the stupid test.

After what seemed to be three days, I spoke gently, “Potty break time.”  The wall answered, “I’ll be right there Mr. Owen.”    I checked my phone clock.  12:30 a.m..  Great, only 4-6 more hours to go.

When I got back in bed, handler said, “You can sleep on your side if you want to.  BUT, make sure the wire on your index finger doesn’t get disconnected.  And, make sure you don’t pull away from the BOB, and make sure you don’t take any of the plugs out.”  This was without question the most uncomfortable night of my life, and finally at 6:30, I gently spoke again.  “I’m finished here.  Come quickly.”

I’ll get the report in a few days, and I feel confident that I won’t have sleep apnea and that I won’t have a miracle thing that will help me sleep.  Brenda will continue to be annoyed by my snoring, and I’ll continue to get four hours sleep a night.  

As he dismissed me, he asked, “Well, Mr. Owen.  How was your experience with us?”  At least he thought enough of me and himself to laugh hysterically.  In fact, he fell on the floor laughing.

It really wouldn’t surprise me at all if this were all a complete farce.  I can just imagine residents on the psyche ward getting together for games and saying, “Wouldn’t it be fun to get one of the sleep patients on our floor and pretend we’re conducting tests.”  And, then they looked up and there I was.

Date of Blog Story: 
February 22, 2011

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