HEALTH MATTERS: Surgical treatment for sleep apnea is a dream come true for patients

CONWAY, Ark. – Nearly 30 million people in the United States suffer from sleep apnea. Many times it is left undiagnosed or untreated. Now, a relatively new operation is helping Arkansans sleep through the night.

Imagine turning off the lights, getting into bed and never getting a good night’s sleep.

“It was the constant waking up and the inability to just sleep. My body got used to it,” Chris Stratton said.

Stratton has suffered from sleep apnea all his life, even trying CPAP machines.

“I just couldn’t. I failed,” Stratton said. “I had gotten used to the fact that I had sleep apnea and I wasn’t sleeping.”

This acceptance lasted for decades until he saw an advertisement for a new type of treatment.

“That was it,” Stratton said. “I knew exactly, I said ‘this is what I want.'”

Immediately, he scheduled a consultation with Dr. Patrick Fraley at Baptist Health in Conway.

“People with untreated sleep apnea are at increased risk for heart disease, heart attack, stroke, lung disease, pulmonary hypertension,” Dr. Fraley said.

After a year, Stratton was finally approved to get the device called Inspire.

“It’s an implant that goes over the nerve that moves your tongue, then it runs a wire under the skin to what looks like a pacemaker in your chest,” Dr. Fraley said. “When you go to bed at night you place a remote control over that part and it turns it on, and then when you fall asleep and lie down and breathe, your tongue will stick out and prevent it from blocking your airways. ”

Stratton said the difference is day and night.

“You just have a ton of energy, you feel great and honestly, I couldn’t be more grateful for that,” Stratton said.

It’s not just the feeling of being alert and awake, but what’s happening now when his eyes are closed.

“I never had a dream because I never got enough sleep to make it happen and I remember right after it was activated I had a dream and I woke up and I was like, ‘Damn, what was it?’ I mean it was absolutely insane,” Stratton said.

Dream to dream, for Stratton, this machine is a dream come true.

“It added years to my life,” Stratton said.

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