June 11, 2008

Good Night

I have sleep apnea. At least, I think I do. Every few months, without warning, I'll jolt into consciousness, gasping and gulping for air like some strange undersea creature washed ashore from Dreamland. The third time it happened I realized, in my bleary and confused state, that this was possibly "something wrong."

Sensible humans would have hied themselves to a doctor for consultation, but unless my ailments are unsightly or of a digestive nature, I don't bother. Instead, I mentioned it casually to my friend M. M is an EMT, a Red Cross instructor and he is certified for civil disasters. Should there be an earthquake, plane crash, or bloody nose, M is the go-to guy. I asked slyly, "Can someone die of sleep apnea? Like, if they don't actually wake up to breathe?" "People certainly do," M told me emphatically.

But it seems so unlikely. For years, I have been jolted awake, wheezing and gasping, but clearly alive. Yet at any time, I could be jolted into the hereafter. "Well, that was a weird dream," I imagine myself announcing on my arrival. "Someone was holding my head under water. Hey, what the--!?"

Sleep is so intimate, so individual. One can safely assume that most humans have sex in the same way: But no two people have the same dreams. Not since summer camp (with its communal showers) has anyone ever seen me sleeping. I can only suspect that it isn't pretty. Once I fell asleep on a train in Israel and I awoke to find an entire Israeli Defense Force platoon competitively throwing spitballs into my mouth. I have since learned a trick from Jeff, who sleeps cocoon-like, with a sheet covering himself entirely. Jeff takes the phrase "sleep tight" literally.

So I do not relish the thought of a night at the hospital, hooked up with electrodes, slobbering and thrashing around for any curious medical resident to watch on closed circuit TV. But I don't relish waking up DEAD either, so I may need a second opinion.

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