Quiz #110. 28 Days

What happened when I went to the sleep doctor? Steve's Stay-at-Home Coronavirus Quiz for April 6, 2021.

When you’re old--and I am--it’s hard to not to talk about going to the doctor.  The simple truth is that your body just doesn’t work the way that it used to and you need to see more and more doctors to try to keep things running right.  And so it is that when you talk with your friends, family and other people your own age, the conversation all too often turns to everyone trading stories about their trips to the doctor.  

Sara calls it the organ recital. No one likes it--and yet everyone does it. (Sara tries not to.)

You’ve been warned. 

These things happen.  

Sorry about that.

As Sara and I slowly emerge from our stay-at-home coronavirus cocoons, one of the first things I am doing is going to my doctors--doctors I have avoided seeing in the last year unless it was a medical emergency.  These visits are more like tune-ups.  The first on my list was an appointment with my pulmonologist.  I visited her on Thursday, March 25th, almost two weeks ago. I’d first seen her in 2018 when I was diagnosed with a mild case of sleep apnea.  Since those first visits, I have used a CPAP machine at night which forces moist air into my nose to make sure I don’t stop breathing while I am sleeping.  When I first saw the pulmonologist, I had a sleep study.  Hooked up to a monitoring device at home, it tested my sleep, revealing that I stopped breathing 13 times an hour. That’s considered a mild case of sleep apnea.  “Normal” is when you stop breathing less than 5 times per hour.

My CPAP machine which, during the day, is kept in a drawer next to the bed.

As noted in Quiz #104. Conduct Unbecoming, one of the things that happened to me during my stay-at-home life was that I woke up too early, between 4 and 5AM, no matter how late I stayed up the night before  Always tired, it was not unusual for me to take morning naps on those 3 weekday nights, Tuesday through Thursday, when I had to work until 11PM.  On weekends, I’d take long, mid-day naps.  They were great.

The visit to the pulmonologist was good news, bad news.  Even though I had not been to the pulmonologist for more than a year, it turns out the CPAP machine was tracking my sleep, wirelessly feeding my sleep patterns back to some server somewhere. More insidious than any algorithm tracking my online purchases, preferences and searching.  More overbearing than Santa himself. (“He sees you when you’re sleepin’…”)  When we sat down for my exam, my doctor already had a record of my sleep.  How long I’d slept and how often I’d stopped breathing during that sleep.  The good news was that my apnea, with the machine, was normal.  I only stopped breathing 4 times an hour.  The bad news was that I wasn’t getting enough sleep--sometimes 4 hours a night, other times 7.  She wanted to know why.  I told her about my unusual work schedule and revealed that I don’t wear the CPAP machine during my naps.  Her diagnosis wasn’t exactly rocket science.  I wasn’t getting enough continuous sleep.  On those nights when I wasn’t working at night, I’d fall asleep between 8 and 9PM.  No wonder I woke up between 4 and 5AM.  The naps helped, but they kept me in a sleep deprivation trap because my circadian rhythm was off.  Her treatment plan was more common sense than medical science.  Go to sleep at the same time every night--and no naps.  She warned me that resetting my body’s circadian rhythm would not be easy--and it would take 28 days before it was fully reset.

Though I have complained in these quizzes about waking up too early, as noted in Quiz #104. Conduct Unbecoming, I know that Dr. Rick is right in those Progressive commercials, “You wake up early. No one cares.” Still, as much as I am not a morning person, I have always liked the quiet solitude of the overnight.  Over the last year, waking up too early has helped me write these quizzes.  Quiet, dark and alone. No distractions.  Just me, my laptop and my thoughts.

The first weekend was hard.  I was grumpy during the day and really craved my naps.  Poor Sara.  On those nights when I did wake up at 4AM, my pulmonolgist’s  advice was to get out of bed, stay off devices and go to a different part of the house to read a non-disturbing book until I got tired again.  Barack Obama’s “A Promised Land” did the trick on the first few early morning wake-ups.  By the second weekend, I’d done a good job of being able to stay up until 11:30PM--and slept most days until 6:30AM.  Still, this past Sunday night, Easter Sunday, April 4th, I slipped back into my bad habits, falling asleep at 9PM and waking up at 4:30AM to start the work week.  Reformed and always reforming.  As I write this on Tuesday, April 6th, I’m 12 nights into resetting my body clock.  16 more to go. Returning to normal isn’t easy.

This Tuesday, April 6th, also marks the end of March Madness with Baylor beating Gonzaga Monday night to win the NCAA Men’s Championship  As noted in Quiz #2. March Sadness, I have long been a fan of the NCAA Tournament--though this year, not so much.  In a typical year, I’d run several pools including my so-called Jeopardy Pool that I have been running for decades.  In Jeopardy, you make your picks round by round and certain games are designated as Daily Double games where you can wager as many of your points as you want.  The final game is also Final Jeopardy with wagers and picks made in secret, only revealed after the final game starts.  This year, I was glad that the NCAA Tournament was back, but it just didn’t feel normal  Following the lead of Ted, a friend I’d met on the internet who is a cancer researcher, I ran my NCAA pools in 2021--but not for money.  No fee to enter and no prize money. Ted, whose complicated NCAA pool was written up in the Wall Street Journal several years ago, set up his 2021 pool  this way and I followed him.  In part, he was worried about how the rules of any pool might be impacted by games being cancelled by Covid.  (One game was.)  Instead, the pools were played for pride. Like my friend Ted, I encouraged people to donate any entry fee they might have paid to charity instead.  Usually, about 100 people sign up for bracket pool.  This year, it was only 28 people with just 8 who played in Jeopardy, down from the typical 50.

As good as some of the games were--and yes, I did miss the epic game Saturday night between UCLA and Gonzaga (it was after my new bedtime!)--I just never got into the tournament this year.  It was hard to get back into the games after not watching any basketball throughout the season.  What’s more, in 2021, the NCAA switched the schedule for its storied tournament.  In years past, the first games of the first two weekends were always played on Thursday and Friday.  The elimination games--when teams made it to the Sweet Sixteen or the Elite Eight--always happened on Saturday and Sunday.  This year, the first games for the first two weekends were moved to Saturday and Sunday with the elimination games moved to Monday and Tuesday. I cannot speak for others, but for me, it changed the whole rhythm of the tournament.  In normal times,  on the first Thursday and Friday, the games usually came at you non-stop--and usually when you were at work.  You’d steal away from your job for a few minutes to watch the final moments from one buzzerbeater to the next.  Also in normal times, the Thursday and Friday games would build to the Saturday and Sunday games.  Having Saturday and Sunday build to Monday and Tuesday just didn’t feel right to me.  Moved to Saturday and Sunday, I just didn‘t get hooked by the first games so didn’t find myself invested when it came to the weekend’s second games that followed on Monday and Tuesday.  

Like most of America, I am ready for life to return to normal--and I find this time to be especially confusing.  Just over a week ago, on Monday, March 29th, the CDC director warned of “impending doom” because new Covid cases continue to climb while more states continue to open up and eliminate mask requirements.  I’ve read that by mid-May, we’ll have reached the point where every adult who wants a vaccine will be able to get one.  Will that be fast enough?  For now, it’s a race between vaccines and variants.  Who knew the coronavirus would be so smart?

This April has also seen the start of the baseball season. (And yes, the Phillies are 4-0.)  Baseball reminds me of the variants.  Behind home plate at any baseball game, you can find scouts who watch and chart every pitch thrown to every batter.  The idea is to find every hitter’s weakness--and then exploit it.  Imagine if that happened to you in your workplace.  Like a cup of coffee before you start writing a report?  OK--we’ll break the coffee machine.  Like to write down an outline on a piece of paper?  OK--we’ll take away your pen and paper.  Like to take a walk after writing your first draft?  OK--we’ll lock you in your office.

In the long run,  I am betting on the vaccines.  They’re really incredible, but still, more than one year into this mess, I am constantly surprised by how little I know--and how wrong my thinking has been about where we’re headed and what might be next. Once a successful vaccine was developed, tested and proven effective, I thought returning to normal would be smoother, easier and quicker.  Now, I don’t know what to think.  I’m trying to get back to life as normal, but I am just not there.

I’ll get back to you again in 28 days.


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What did NOT happen? 

A. Two weeks ago, an unusual battery in a remote control switch went dead.  I ordered a replacement battery from Target and paid $10 to have it delivered that day.  I also decided to order some Easter candy for Sara as a surprise.  I hid it in a Target bag, but on Easter Sunday morning, I could not find where I had hidden the bag with Sara’s candy;

B. Betsy is the coach of our town’s Girls JV volleyball team.  They’re 7-1 and playing in the quarterfinals for the county championship;

C. As part of my photo scanning project, I came across photos from 1991 of my mother pushing Ted on a bicycle while she was smoking a cigarette. He was wearing a helmet;

D. On an Easter weekend Zoom, granddaughter Turner told us that her favorite color is red;

E. In a day-after-Easter photo, granddaughter Marin wore a Phillies t-shirt.

Want the answer?

Answer #110. 28 Days

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Want more?

Here’s the previous quiz in the series: Quiz #109. “Do You Want it to Look Like the Picture?”

Here’s the first quiz in the series: Quiz #1. Stella and Social Distancing, March 13, 2020

Here is an archive of all the quizzes.

The quiz is explained here: Steve’s Stay-at-Home Coronavirus Quiz.

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