Trip of My Dreams

Susan Bloom It was to be the trip of a lifetime. Over the course of a month, Lancaster resident Susan Bloom would travel through Europe and Germany, making stops in London, France and Belgium. The goal of Susan’s trip was to commemorate the 70-year anniversary of D-Day and honor her father, a World War II veteran.

But just four months before Susan was set to leave, there was an unexpected setback: She had a stroke.

“I was on the phone at work one day when I noticed that I was struggling to get words out,” recalled Susan, director of the Fairfield County Board of Elections.

Less than an hour later, Susan was in the Emergency Department at Fairfield Medical Center feeling apprehensive about her diagnosis and concerned about what it meant for her travel plans.

“I had been planning this trip for a year and I kept thinking about how I had worked so hard and had saved up all this money to be able to go and do what I wanted to do,” she said. “Now I was afraid that might not happen.”

Luckily for Susan, the doctors at FMC worked quickly to investigate the cause of her stroke. During Susan’s hospital stay, they noticed she was frequently waking up in the middle of the night, a symptom of a possible sleeping disorder.

Susan was visited the next day by her primary care physician, Bradley Lewis, M.D., who was accompanied by Christopher Ryckman, M.D., the medical director of the Fairfield Medical Sleep Lab, also known as the Southeast Ohio Sleep Disorders Center.

“They started asking me questions like, ‘Do you snore? Do you feel rested when you wake up? Do you dream’?” Susan said. “The more we talked, the more I realized that while I felt like I was sleeping well at night, I never woke up in the morning feeling rested.”

Dr. Ryckman asked Susan to complete a two-night study at the Fairfield Medical Sleep Lab. The study revealed that Susan had sleep apnea, a disorder in which a person repeatedly stops breathing as they sleep. Sleep apnea can lead to serious health problems over time, including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, weight gain and stroke.

During a sleep study, electrodes are placed on the patient’s body to monitor everything from brain activity and eye movements, to heart rate and blood pressure. Throughout the evening, the sleep technicians at the lab closely observe and evaluate the patient for signs of a sleeping disorder.

When Susan saw the results of her sleep study, she was shocked. “I couldn’t believe the amount of times I was waking up during the night and the amount of times that I had actually stopped breathing,” she said.

On the night of her second sleep study, the sleep technicians fit Susan with a device called a CPAP, also known as continuous positive airway pressure. The CPAP includes a mask that fits over the wearer’s nose and mouth. The mask creates mild pressure on the person’s airway, keeping it from collapsing or becoming blocked during sleep.

Susan said the CPAP has made a huge difference in how she sleeps. Each morning she wakes up feeling more refreshed and alert than the day before.

“It was amazing how one thing could make such a huge difference,” she said.

Susan’s health improved so much and so rapidly, that she started wondering if she could still go to Europe. When she mentioned her vacation plans to her doctors, they urged her to keep them.

“Because of the quick treatment and care I received at FMC and the Sleep Lab, I was not only able to go and enjoy myself, but I’m now taking better care of my health,” she said. “I feel like I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m 61-years-old and I still have a lot of life to live.”

Tags: Sleep Apnea, Stroke, Sleep, CPAP,