Author: StJohn Piano
Published: 2020-11-05
Datafeed Article 190
This article has been digitally signed by Edgecase Datafeed.
1000 words - 175 lines - 5 pages


How you feeling?

StJohn Piano:

Better, thanks. Not 100% though. More like 70%.

At the height of the sickness [0], had a really bad episode of sleep apnea in which I woke up unable to breath. Very dry mouth and throat - tonsils were swollen and stuck together. A tiny (really tiny) bit of air was getting in and out as I was trying as hard as possible to breathe. [1]

There's a number of thoughts that go through your mind at such a moment. [2]

Thought it was quite possible that I wouldn't manage to find a way to start breathing again in the limited amount of conscious time left to me.

I reckoned I had about 10 seconds to get to the bathroom and get a drink of water before I passed out and.... well, that would be it.

Luckily, I keep a bottle of water in my room at night. I was able to remember that it existed, remember where it was, get it, drink a bit, and separate my tonsils. [3]

But.... that took some seconds. Very bad experience. Not something I care to repeat.

Entertainingly, I recall that my primary emotion was anger (rather than e.g. fear). Something like "What! All this work and effort, and this is how I go? This is unworthy!". I felt... affronted. [4]

Anyway, I did quite a bit of reading about sleep apnea immediately afterwards. [5] I've always had a bit of it, nasal congestion at night, that sort of thing.

Looks like the tonsillitis pushed it over the edge, up to a crisis level. (I read later that this is a known issue with tonsillitis.)

Spent the next day getting everything I could think of that might help. Humidifier next to bed, bed wedge to sleep at an angle, etc. [6]

Day after that, called local NHS outpost. Conversation went approximately like this:

Me: "I've had a very bad episode of sleep apnea. I woke up unable to breathe. What can I do to mitigate this problem?"
Doctor: "Oh, it's coronavirus. You need to get tested."
Me: ".... Ok, will do... Well, however the test turns out, do you have any advice about the more mechanical problem of continuing to breathe?"
Doctor: "Hm. Well, with coronavirus, sometimes it helps if you sleep prone, on your stomach."
[deleted section in which I said I'd had problems with something like sleep apnea in that past, but never this bad. Doctor is dubious, and says that in any case not much can be done until after the coronavirus test result comes back.]
Me: "I see."
Doctor: "Glad we could help."

I was rather surprised. Had expected at minimum "Take sudafed, drink tea with honey and lemon, get a humidifier, oh and get tested for coronavirus." Was hoping to see if the doctor knew of anything that I hadn't thought of.

In 2020, we appear to have lost the capacity for medical advice for anything except coronavirus. If you have tonsillitis, you're on your own.

Actually, "get tested and try lying prone" isn't even medical advice! It's more like "Here's your McDonalds' queue number". [7]

Anyway, on balance, I think it's helpful to look Death in the face now and again. Sort of a mental reset. Clears away the fluff.

Been doing a certain amount of thinking over the last couple days. Recalled you mentioning how we all get the same thing - "one lifetime".

This turned out a lot longer than I intended. Sorry.

Might turn it into an article, though.

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Recently I had a short illness, which I have self-diagnosed as medium-level tonsillitis. Unnoticed build-up, ill for 2-3 days, and recovery over 3-5 days. It's possible that the ultimate cause of it was in fact coronavirus.

I used these pages to self-diagnose:



Update, prior to publication: Got a coronavirus test result back - it was negative.

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You know those sorts of movie scenes where an assassin clamps a cloth over a sleeping person's mouth to suffocate them, and the person wakes up and struggles but suffocates anyway? Felt exactly like that.

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All of which are bad.

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This separation didn't happen instantly, by the way. Drink a little bit, separate a little bit, breathe a little bit more, and repeat a few times, while half-suffocated.

Note: When you wake up and can't breath, you don't immediately know why you can't breath, and you can't be certain that water will help. It's just a best guess.

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It's a good thing to know about yourself - how you react to imminent death. Good later, obviously, not right in the moment.

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I slept (badly) that night lying back against a pile of pillows so that I was half-sitting up. Helps to keep your airway open.

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Full list:
- Hypoallergenic duvet, mattress protector, pillow protectors. "Hypoallergenic" = "relatively unlikely to cause an allergic reaction". Basically, the items are made out of synthetic fibres rather than natural materials. The idea is that the synthetic materials prevent accumulation of dust mites and bacteria.
- Full bottle of water within easy reach.
- Humidifier. Raised on a plastic box, with a cloth underneath it to absorb any runoff water.
-- Note: Be careful to observe where spray from the humidifier might condense, and that there aren't any open electrical sockets in those areas.
- Bed wedge.
- 4 pillows layered on top of bed wedge, so that I lay back on an incline to sleep.
- Oxygen concentrator nearby (but not on), ready for use. I already had this available - I bought one when preparing for coronavirus to affect me or a relative.
- Took 1x Sudafed Mucus Relief night capsule before sleep.
- Took 1x Clarityn allergy tablet (10mg) before sleep.
- During the day, had a couple hot teas with honey, lemon, and ginger.
- Paracetamol / Lemsip
- Lozenges
- Soup

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Here's some actual medical advice, which is applicable to a variety of sicknesses, not just coronavirus:
Home treatments for coronavirus

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[end of footnotes]