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Wednesday of last week was the hottest day of the year so I, of course, managed to catch a chill and spend that night with a very severe fever, followed by on-and-off fevers and chills throughout Thursday. By Friday, I was on the mend and merely feeling completely wrung out. I’m not entirely sure what happened, but I suspect that it had something to do with repeatedly bouncing back and forth between a 42˚C temperature outdoors and the turbo-powered airconditioning in the office, which kept our windowless basement suite at a crisp 18˚C. Do that four or five times in a day and you’ve got an immune system that, as my uncle once famously said, “don’t know whether to shit or go blind.”

While I was suffering from the chills (wrapped up in thermal underwear, track pants and hoodie and huddled beneath a duvet) I found that I simply couldn’t tolerate the CPAP machine; the overpressure felt like someone was driving freezing cold air into my core. For the two nights I was suffering from fever, I just couldn’t wear it without shivering misery. By the time Friday rolled around I was still feeling awful… not feverish anymore but having trouble concentrating, very woozy, and so on. Some of it was my body recovering, of course, but after I took an afternoon nap while virtuously wearing my CPAP mask, I realized that the bulk of my discomfort was merely lack of sleep… or more accurately lack of good quality sleep.

I’ve mentioned more than once on this blog that I didn’t really notice an increase in the quality of my sleep since I started wearing a CPAP mask at night, and I didn’t… but two weeks in I definitely realize there’s a difference. I was dismissive: sure I was willing to wear it for valid medical reasons but it wasn’t actually making me feel any better. Now I’m going to eat a little crow and say that yes, yes it does make me feel better. The improvement in my sleep quality was gradual enough that I didn’t see that dramatic “best night’s sleep I ever had” I was promised, but clearly after only two weeks there’s been a quantifiable change.

So here it is: The damn thing works. I’m into week three, which means that I’ve got to take this trial CPAP unit back to the supplier and get my permament unit — the trial unit has all manner of diagnostic bells and whistles that the permanent unit isn’t going to need. They just want to have about a month’s worth of data before they finalize my prescription rather than the results of a single night in an uncomfortable hospital bed, which makes a certain amount of sense to me.

Here’s the downside: a new CPAP machine costs roughly $1800. OHIP will only take about $700 off that edge, which is ridiculous: this is a medical appliance I need not only for my personal day to day health, but for my long-term survival. Fortunately, my company health plan will reimburse me for an additional $1000, so it’s not that onerous a burden, but I can’t help but think of what a financial crisis that would have been for me even five years ago. What about a senior citizen on a fixed income? What about someone unemployed… or on social assistance?

People ought to be able to receieve a medical diagnosis and cope with it in a timely fashion. From diagnosis to receiving a CPAP machine was seven weeks, which I’ve been told “isn’t so bad”… and the hell of it is that they’re right. When you hear on the news of people dying on waiting lists for organ donation or dialysis, a couple of months delay in a not-immediately-life-threatening situation seems pretty reasonable. You’re inclined to count your blessings, right?

Well, I’m blessed: I’ve got insurance, an excellent family doctor, a competent specialist, a supportive (and rather more to the point financially stable) family, and it all could have been a lot worse. But I can’t help thinking of those people for whom it is worse, and it makes me wonder what the hell is going on with this country’s so-called universal healthcare system that there’s people who can’t get the help they need?

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