From Sore Foot to CPAP

Have you ever had a week that just went from weird to surreal?  I’m in one of those now.

It started out with my foot hurting and ended with me being diagnosed with severe sleep apnea.  In between there were x-rays, blood tests, a sleep study and finally a class in how to use a CPAP machine.

After all that, I sent an email to my doctor saying, “So now that we know I have sleep apnea, can we get back to figuring out why my foot hurts?”  It’s been one of those kind of rides.  I show up, limping, complaining about a foot and the medical community naturally wants to check how I sleep at night.

Back to my foot.  It was hurting, but only after walking or sometimes after sitting.  It was just one of those weird things that one week it hurt badly for a couple of days and then went away.  Sharp pain and then fine.  I’ve had trouble with my feet before as a long time sufferer of gout.  On the assumption it was gout, I took my gout pills.  On the assumption that I need new shoes I switch to wearing my good sturdy walking shoes.

Seemed to work and then, my foot started to hurt again, so I did what I do best – I started writing.  In this case an email to my doctor. She wrote back, “go get the gout blood test and make an appointment.”

When you go to the doctor’s office there is this little dance you have to do no matter why you’ve come in: pulse, blood pressure, temperature, weight, “Do you smoke?”, “Why are you here?”, etc.  I’ll admit that I looked at the number on the scale will a little disbelief. I knew I ate a “little” more during the holidays, but not that much.

So the doc checks out my foot.  Agrees with me that it’s likely not gout and orders x-rays.  Then tells me of what could be wrong with my foot: Stress fracture, tendon problem, pinched nerves, still could be gout and your BP is great.

I should have just replied, “Thank you.” and left.  Did I, no. The exchange starts with:

Doctor: “Well, your blood pressure is fine, you’re doing great on that.”

Me: “Yes, but I was a little shocked by my weight.  It shouldn’t be up that much.”

Doctor: “When did we last test your thyroid and blood sugar?  Have we checked your testosterone since your radiation treatment?”

I kind of lost control of the conversation after that as the doctor started listing all the medical problems that could cause weight gain and ended with the words, “sleep apnea.”

Again, I missed an opportunity to keep my mouth shut, but instead said, “Oh yeah, I remember when I had gallbladder surgery, the nurses kept asking if I’d ever been tested for sleep apnea, and my wife has said she’s heard me do that stop breathing thing at night.”

Something I should point out about a good doctor, they listen to everything you say.  I have a great doctor.

So I left her office with a long list of new blood tests to get and an appointment for a sleep study.

One of things I love about my health provider is that they’ve got a great on-line system with a website I can log into.  I can email my doctor and test results are emailed to me at the same time the doc gets them.  By the end of the day I knew that the x-ray was normal, no stress fracture, and that my uric acid was normal so no gout.

But the sleep thing loomed on the horizon.

The sleep study turned out to be the home version.  They give you this thing to wear on your wrist.  It’s got an oxygen sensor that goes on your finger and a single lead you have to tape to your chest.  It’s kind of like a FitBit on steroids and all you do is put it on, go to sleep and drop it off at the clinic the next day.

The blood lab was a little extra scary as the technician had a “trainee” badge on and took out three vials to fill.  I thought of asking if she was going to leave any blood for me, but after the doctor’s office I decide it best to zip it and endure.

On the sleep study they don’t email you the results.  You have to go in to this group clinic with 20 strangers to get your paper with the test results.  Kind of like high school on the day after an exam. The high-tech thing they do is to email you a link to a video on sleep apnea to watch at home.  I am thinking that after 20 years the doctor got tired of doing the same lecture for patients so he just recorded it.

It was a nice video and laid out the basic facts along with a list of life style changes you can make to reduce or even eliminate sleep apnea.  Diet, exercise, sinus rinse … yeah I could do those, even though the sinus rinse video was a bit disgusting.

The faithful day came only two days after I turned in my wrist worn tricorder.  There were a bunch of people in line waiting to check in and I noticed the staff were separating us into two groups.  At this point I got to thinking about Bible stories and was wondering if I was going to be a sheep or a goat.

The lady at the check in desk looked at her list and told me, “You’re in room A5,” which turned out to be the room furthest from the desk and I limped my way down.  Yes, my foot was hurting again and I was on my way to see how I breath at night.

At the door of the conference room was a nice man with a stack of papers asking,

“Name?”

“Reynolds,” I said.

“Here’s your results, let me get you a mask and a machine,” he replied.

“Great, I am a goat.”

“Sir?”

“Never mind, large mask please.”

Then this nice RN shows up and starts with, “You’re all here because each of you has severe sleep apnea. How many of you watched that video?  Good almost everyone.  You know those life style changes the doctor talked about? Great! Yes. They won’t work for you, you have severe sleep apnea and need the CPAP machine.”

Great, this guy was going to be fun to listen to.  Turns out he does the machine demos because he also has severe sleep apnea.  Those words got tossed around a lot that afternoon, “severe sleep apnea,” along with “Constant positive airway pressure,” and “CPAP.”  And a fair amount of, “Really?” and “Seriously?” from us sitting in front of our toys.

So sitting with 20 of my new friends, wearing our masks, the nice man showed us how to plug the machine in and adjust the mask along with sage advice like, “You only need to use this machine on nights you want to breathe.”

As soon as I got home, I took some ibuprofen for my foot and sent my doctor an email with the subject, “So back to my foot.”

That email resulted in a referral to podiatry and two days later I am sitting in this exam chair, shoeless, and looking at a guy who looks like he could have been a line-backer.  I gave him the quick version of my foot pain.  He then took my foot in his hand and squeezed a little.

I screamed, a little.

He then described what my condition was, something about inflamed tendons and pinched nerves – I wasn’t really listing that close as I was mostly watching where his hands were in relation to my feet.  He had two solutions, shoe inserts to provide better arch support, and he’d be happy to give me a nice cortisone right into the affected joint right now.

I think I went a little catatonic at that point as I remembered my last painful shot of cortisone.  There was a bit of time where the room was blurry and I think the doctor was trying to get my attention. Clearly, I was expected to speak so I used the only part of my brain that was functioning at the moment, my engineering brain.

So, my engineering brain takes over and says, “Sorry, I was just doing a calculation in my mind trying to determine which would be worse, continuing with my foot pain as it is and buying the inserts, or letting you stick needles in me.”

He smiled, “Good calculation to make.  And the result is?”

“I’ll try the inserts and if they don’t work, cortisone will still be an option?”

He then gave me info on the inserts, where to buy them and opened the door to set me free. I didn’t run from his office.  Well, mostly because I couldn’t.

This week I go in for a followup with my new friend the CPAP machine.  Frankly, I am just hoping that this week moves away from surreal and back to merely weird.

Till next week,
Andrew

About Andrew Reynolds

Born in California Did the school thing studying electronics, computers, release engineering and literary criticism. I work in the high tech world doing software release engineering Then I got prostate cancer Now I am a blogger and work in my wood shop doing scroll saw work and marquetry.
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60 Responses to From Sore Foot to CPAP

  1. Your not so little journey sounds so similar to mine without all the run around. Foot issue-check. Sleep issue-check. Lots of X-rays-check. Inserts-check. Blood work-check. Oh and I don’t have sleep apnea. I have something called Periodic Leg Movement Disorder not to be confused I was told with Restless Leg Syndrome. Meds were worse than the affliction! I hope the CPAP works great for you.

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  2. I found myself glued to every word until the end. Your sense of humour under such a stressful time is commendable and your ability to translate it into writing and make it so compelling, bravo! It’s hard not to feel compassion for your situation. Walking and sleeping are two basic functions that are easily taken for granted, and when encumbered, very frustrating, but not a hint of whinging from you. Please God, you will feel better soon with the CPAP machine and the inserts. Xx

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  3. Debra says:

    Your “sheep and goats” reference really made me laugh! You have kept your sense of humor despite what sounds like a very difficult time! I think if a paining the foot got ended up with a diagnosis of severe sleep apnea you were a little lucky. Great inconvenience, but lucky! You certain know it’s nothing to ignore, so I’m glad you’re getting the CPAP machine and I hope it really helps!

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  4. Sorry you had to go through all of that. The medical practitioners these days do not all have the best bedside manner and there is a distinct lack of compassion in general.
    The CPAP machine should work for you, once you get the hang of it. I used to put them on patients when I worked in the nursing home.
    It is helpful for another person in the family to also know how to put it on you.
    I hope your foot feels better soon.
    Much love,
    Annie 🙂

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    • I’ve been using the CPAP for about a week and I’ve almost got it working. Went in today for a followup and got a different kind of mask that I hope will work better. So far the results are great. And my foot is doing so much better.

      The part I blame is the big hospital system. The doctors were very helpful and understanding once I got to them. Sadly the insurance and administration put so many gates in that it can be difficult to things done.

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  5. YAPCaB says:

    I was on CPAP for a few months. I was one of the lucky ones. Lost 25 pounds and no longer need it. I must say when I started using it I felt much better in the morning. Here’s hoping the inserts work.

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    • So far it all seems to be working. It would be nice to get off the machine some day, but the docs aren’t hopeful that I am in that category. Still, you never know.

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  6. Connie T says:

    I think it is your shoes that cause foot problems. Once my feet hurt for months. It hurt to walk. I bought Easy Spirit shoes. My feet got better. If I try a different shoe my feet start to hurt again. I have tried lots of different kinds of shoes but the Easy Spirit shoes are the only ones that do not hurt my feet. I think they come in Mens too. I find that inserts do not help me at all.

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    • I’ve never tried Easy Spirit. I’ll have to look into those. I did go to the SAS shoe store over the weekend and bought better shoes. I’ve used them before with good results, but they’re a bit pricy. So far the inserts are working for me, but I do hear mixed things about them so they’re not for everyone. Thanks!

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  7. Mirja says:

    Andrew, you really have a great sense of humour and had me laughing whilst reading your story.
    Don’t get me wrong, CPAP machines sounds terrible; it would give me sleeplessness.:)
    I have had cortisone injection into my foot. It hurts a bit but not for long. For me it was a wonder.

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    • The CPAP, isn’t as bad as it sounds, but still not something you want at your bedside. If the inserts don’t work, I maybe be getting that shot, but my foot would have to hurt a lot more than it does. And sometimes the best way to deal with discomfort is to laugh about it.

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  8. artseafartsea says:

    I learned more about sleep apnea than I ever knew before. Hope the machine works out. I do know quite a bit about foot problems. Pain, injections and surgery being the things I have had in recent years. I had quite bad pain in big toe and the Podiatrist tried the inserts, which led to the shots, Cortizone, from there to surgery. I can tell you the shots did not help me but were not painful at all (not sure that’s the norm though). Finally, the surgery did. Now have a new stainless steel joint in my big toe which seems to work fairly well. I am still walking. Good luck to you!

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    • So far the inserts are working, and I hope that is it for me. The Podiatrist thought my case was simple, but made sure I had the clinic’s number – just in case. The machine is a bit annoying, but seems like it is working just fine. I am feeling better in the mornings.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. dorannrule says:

    Well Andrew, you know I was reading this carefully since we are both sharing unexplained foot pain and umpteen million tests. I hope your shoe inserts work and quickly and the CPAP thing works wonders too. My brother uses one of those and has become greatly attached to it. Pun intended. Actually, it helps him a lot since he really does stop breathing without it. Good luck my friend!

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    • You know, I was thinking of you the whole time I was sitting in the waiting room and especially while my doctor was entering the orders for all those test. The inserts are working well and the CPAP machine is starting to show it’s value.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. floridaborne says:

    My sister has sleep apnea. She used to snore so loudly you could hear her when you were walking on the sidewalk outside her house. She has a CPAP machine and I rarely hear her snore. However, when I fly out to visit her it sounds like Darth Vader is in the house. 🙂

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  11. Good grief. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, especially since my foot felt fine and I sleep well (I hope that came across with a sense of humor. It’s so hard to tell in the blogosphere. I don’t usually joke–except at myself–but feel we know each other well enough!). what a lousy week, or good week for solving physical problems. I like that you can email your doctor. So not true in my world.

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    • Yeah, I am still trying to decide if it’s a good week or bad. Mostly it was just a week. Being able to email my doctor is great. It’s made my healthcare better and more consistent. I am hoping more doctors and health providers set this up.

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  12. Jo says:

    Wow, wow, wow! Glad you have a great doctor or this could have turned ugly. Jo @ Let’s Face the Music

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  13. kritsayvonne says:

    I read this post with interest, empathising with you all the way until the sheep and goats. I burst out laughing and when my husband asked why I was laughing I should have said, ‘Oh just something on a blog’ . Instead I tried to explain, now he thinks we are both weird!

    Hope you foot is better soon and that you get to grips with the CPAP . X

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I hope that your foot feels better soon. This rainy weather can’t be helping matters for you.

    Good luck with the CPAP. I have Sleep Apnea and have been using a device since 2001. It has made a world of difference in the quality of my sleep. The tricky part is finding the mask that works best for you.

    Sweet dreams,
    Ω

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    • So far I have just the standard mask and a loaner machine. The machine is very quiet. The mask isn’t the best, but works. They wanted us to just use the standard stuff for a week or so to get use to everything. I go in later this week to buy my machine and see what mask options I have.

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      • That’s good advice, Andrew. I wore a mask for years when I did work in asbestos abatement areas and had no trouble adapting to wearing one at night. Others are not as fortunate. I transitioned to a nasal pillow system about 8 years ago and love it.
        Ω

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        • They were clear on the point that it would take awhile to get use to the whole thing and best to wait on buying things until we know what issues we face. They’ve started me on a kind of nasal pillow. It’s okay, but I am hoping they have something in the store that fits my face a little better.

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  15. In the words of Mick Jagger “What a drag it is getting old” Good luck.

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  16. Annika Perry says:

    Oh, Andrew, nothing is easy is it?! Two diagnosis and help with both so quickly is not bad I suppose. Not good to have either problem but if the solutions help, that’s great. I know people who have had the injection into the ankle with huge benefits for a couple of years or so – but there’s always the needle I guess. Here’s wishing you good relaxed sleep and pain free walking! 😀

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    • I was a bit shocked with the speed and effort my doctors put into getting me through the sleep clinic. And a bit disappointed that I had to push to get my foot looked at. But in the end they came up with solutions to both that are working.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. davidprosser says:

    Whatever the original reason for the trip to the doctor’s it’s great they found out about the sleep problem.The foot would certainly be secondary to that. With luck, the foot problem has been sorted now without the cortisone injections.
    Hugs

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  18. jfwknifton says:

    I’m strangely comforted to read that somebody else was shocked by their weight after the Christmas festivities. Who would have thought that the almost compulsory large meals would have had that effect?

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Margie says:

    Wow – two solutions in one week!
    I know a few people who now use the CPAP machine, and the improvement in the quality of their lives has been amazing.

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  20. Jeanette Jordan says:

    This was a great post! I belly laughed through the whole thing!! Please write another like this!! Thanks!! Jeanette

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  21. My cousin Didier in France loves his CPAP almost as much as he loves his wife, it has changed his life for the better in so many small ways. I had a sleep study done almost ten years ago but it was at a sleep center, I had electrodes all over me all attached to a big box that I slept with along with a blood pressure thing, I can sleep through anything but I wondered about people with sleeping issues. They never found anything to write home about. It’s nice to know you can now do it at home. I hope your foot feels better very quickly. 🙂

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  22. Carrie Rubin says:

    Sorry to hear you’ve had to visit medical clinics so much recently (literally from head to foot!). Hope the CPAP helps and the inserts too.

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    • They did miss a couple of spots in the middle, but I am okay with that. I’ve been to the clinic every other day for a week. It’s gets old fast.

      and even with just a few days using the CPAP and inserts, I am feeling much better. I’ve got more energy in the day and my foot felt good enough for a trip to the book store.

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  23. This was a great post. I loved it. Because I live on the other side of these exchanges…I’m the one who orders the sleep study for a person coming in with a foot complaint…I find it enlightening and very humorous to hear it from a patient’s honest perspective of what a clinic visit can be like. 😀

    I hope all goes well with the CPAP…and I hope your foot feels better as well. 🙂

    Have a great week,
    Phoebe

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  24. PiedType says:

    What a delightful week. Not. I had to go back and reread to see how you got from a sore foot to a sleep apnea diagnosis. Hope the inserts fix the foot and the CPAP thingy helps you sleep better and eventually lose some weight. Wait, uh, how does sleep apnea make you gain weight? Guess I missed that part.

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    • I am hopeful it will work. No, I didn’t say why. The theory is that sleep apnea deprives your body of rest, put stress on it and you metabolism starts to partly shutdown converting more food to fat than burning it. Or something like that. But it is a bit of a chicken and egg thing. Being over weight can cause sleep apnea and sleep apnea can cause weight gain. You never really know which side of the egg/chicken you’re on.

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