Program Aims To Help Sleep Apnea Patients Rest Easier

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More than 18 million American adults have sleep apnea.

Those sleepless nights don't just make sufferers tired, they cold be harming health.

Dr. Shawn Magee of the Stormont-Vail Sleep Center in Topeka says the pauses in breathing that sleep apnea patients suffer lower a person's oxygen levels and arouse the brain and sympathetic nervous system. He says the result is concern for high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

CPAP, or continuous positive airway pressure, can pause the pauses. People sleep wearing a fitted mask that's connected to a machine which provides pressure. Magee says the pressure keeps the airway open, which, in turn, stops snoring, oxygen drops and repeated brain arousals.

However, those machines can cost $500 to $1,000 or more. Magee says about 10 percent of the patients they see at the Stormont-Vail Sleep Center don't have insurance or resources to obtain them.

Topeka's Marian Clinic, which serves people without insurance, also sees the cap. Executive Director Karily Taylor says the clinic saw 55 patients last year who would benefit from the device. She says the clinic will diagnose and advise patients of the treatment, but, if they are left on their own to seek out resources to obtain the equipment, they'll find the patient returning six months later with worsening symptoms.

That is where a program with Stormont's sleep center and the Kansas Equipment Exchange had come in to help. They want people to bring them CPAP machines they're no longer using to be cleaned, restored and passed on to someone in need.

Magee says there is a strong feeling a lot of machines are out in the community and not being used that would help a lot of patients.

Taylor says it's not only about the equipment. Through the program, she says Marian patients are able to access Stormont's staff for education and training on the CPAP. She says being able to fill the gap and get the equipment into the patients hands has resolved many problems in seeing patients follow through with treatment.

You can learn about the Kansas Equipment Exchange by calling 1-800-KAN-DO-IT. If you have a CPAP machine to donate, you can bring it to Topeka's Marian Clinic, 1001 SW Garfield, during their regular business hours. (8:30 am to 4:30 pm, Monday-Thursday, 8:30 am to 3:30 pm Friday -- Closed Noon to 1 pm each day)