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New Ulm Medical Center

Breathing easier: Local trucking firm owners, drivers benefit from CPAP machines

Dave Dittrich, 50, knew he snored at night. But he didn’t know how bad it was until the second day of a fishing trip in Canada where he shared sleeping quarters with more than 40 fellow trucking firm owners.

“The other guys told me they couldn’t sleep because I was so loud,” said Dave, who runs New Ulm-based D&A Truck Line with his father, Florian Dittrich. “I decided to go to New Ulm Medical Center. They gave me an at-home sleep test and my sleep apnea was off the charts.”

Sleep apnea is a potentially dangerous condition that happens when someone periodically stops breathing for short periods of time during the night, wakes, starts breathing normally again and then falls back to sleep. The typical cause is throat muscles that relax during sleep and allow the airway to close.

In addition to keeping people from getting adequate rest at night and sapping daytime energy, sleep apnea can contribute to cardiovascular illnesses. It is difficult for the body to repair itself if you are not getting enough oxygen and sleep. Things that can help prevent or lessen the severity of sleep apnea include losing weight if you are too heavy, exercising, quitting smoking, and avoiding alcohol and sleeping pills.

Like father, like son

After Dave’s sleep test late last year, he went to the Allina Health Home Oxygen & Medical Equipment (HOME) showroom, 1601 S. Broadway. He was fitted with a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine that uses light air pressure delivered through a mask to keep his airway open while he sleeps.

“It is amazing,” Dave said. “If I don’t use the CPAP, I need to take a nap right after work. I have a lot more energy than I used to.”

Last spring, soon after Dave got his CPAP, his father decided to get his own sleep study done at the New Ulm Medical Center Sleep Center because his wife had noticed that his breathing sometimes stopped during the night. Florian was a snorer, too, and for years he woke up with a headache almost every morning – one of the symptoms of sleep apnea. Florian’s test results indicated he might benefit from CPAP, as well, so HOME staff fitted him with a mask, adjusted pressure settings and got him started with his own CPAP machine.

“My headaches used to turn into migraines two or three times a week and I controlled them with medication,” said Florian, 72. “But now, I get very few headaches and I’ve been able to cut my medication down to a quarter of what it was. I love it. I’d give up my teddy bear before I’d give up that machine.”

HOME’s products and service

Kris Guggisberg, manager of the HOME showrooms in New Ulm and Mankato, said HOME has a full range of CPAP and BiPAP (bi-level positive airway pressure) machines, masks and other accessories to fit everyone’s needs. The machines are just half as big as they were 10 years ago and include sophisticated sensing technology, humidifiers and other features.

“All of our customers successfully and consistently use their CPAP machines,” she said. “I think that’s because we spend an hour with each person to make sure the settings and fitting are correct.”

Guggisberg said she has seen people with many different health conditions benefit from CPAP therapy. “We feel so good about this; it truly changes people’s lives.”

The CPAP equipment usually is covered by insurance if a sleep study shows a problem with sleep apnea and a physician recommends CPAP therapy. HOME offers a 30 percent discount when a customer pays with cash, check or credit card.

CPAP popular with truckers

CPAP is proving to be increasingly popular among D&A Truck Line’s drivers, who want to stay safe and alert while on the road. The company’s semi-trailer truck cabs have power units that provide air conditioning, heat and adaptors that can be used with CPAP machines between driving shifts. A number of the company’s 50 drivers have CPAP machines, Dave said, and he keeps hearing about more drivers getting sleep studies.

“We didn’t really push the sleep studies and CPAP,” Florian said. “Most of the drivers knew themselves that this was something they needed.”

For more information, contact the HOME showrooms in New Ulm, 507-217-5585, or Mankato, 507-345-8593. For information about CPAP and other products available through HOME, visit homestore.allina.com.