Michael Woodard was about to give up hope of ever getting a good night’s sleep. So was his wife.
The 49-year-old Guntersville man was diagnosed with sleep apnea more than a decade ago. The condition causes a person to stop breathing briefly while asleep. A sleep study showed Woodard had severe apnea, causing him to stop breathing 80 times every hour while he was lying down.
“Basically with every breath I’d stop breathing,” he said. “I’d have to gasp between each breath.”
Back then, about the only treatment for the condition was a CPAP or continuous positive airway pressure machine, which pushes air into airways to keep them open. The trouble with CPAP is that about half the people who try it do not use it consistently. Many say they can’t tolerate a mask on their face.
When Woodard tried a CPAP, he found the mask on the floor every morning when he woke up. Apparently he was pulling it off while trying to sleep. That left him – and his wife – exhausted. The stress elevated his blood pressure and heart rate.
“I’d wake up with a headache every single day,” he recalls. “I knew I had to do something.”
Woodard’s family doctor referred him to Dr. James Lee Masdon of Masdon ENT & Facial Plastic Surgery, who told him about a new procedure called Inspire. Inspire therapy is a system implanted within the chest. It works inside the body with a patient’s natural breathing process to treat sleep apnea. Mild stimulation keeps the airway open during sleep, allowing oxygen to flow naturally. The patient uses a small handheld remote to turn Inspire on before bed and off upon waking.
Dr. Masdon first treated Woodard for a deviated septum and removed a polyp late last year. When that didn’t improve his sleep issues, a procedure was scheduled in February to implant the new device. It was only the second time Dr. Masdon had implanted it in a patient.
Unlike other surgical options to treat sleep apnea, Inspire therapy does not require removal or alteration of facial or airway anatomy. As a result, the procedure is less invasive with a shorter recovery time. It only requires three small incisions to place the device under the skin of the neck and chest during the outpatient procedure.
Woodard said the recovery was not painful. He had some soreness and tenderness at the insertion site when he rolled over at night. Three months after the procedure, he went back to the Marshall Sleep Disorders Center for a follow up sleep study. It showed improvement and the device was fine-tuned. He had another study in August, six months after the procedure, and the results are phenomenal. It showed his breathing interruptions were down to about 20 per hour.
“Compared to where I was, that’s amazing,” he said.
In addition to waking up refreshed, Woodard has lost inches off his waist. He attributes that to getting more exercise simply because he has the energy for it.
“I’m better rested than I’ve been in the past 15 to 20 years.”
Woodard’s wife Michelle said he still snores some, but she’s not complaining because it is nothing compared to before.
“It’s a lot better than it was,” she said.
Woodard is a sales associate with the Leading Edge Real Estate Group in Guntersville. He and Michelle own True South Boutique in Guntersville. They have a grown son and daughter.
The approximately $40,000 procedure was covered by Woodard’s health insurance. He has no regrets and looks forward to a long life of peaceful nights. So does his wife.
“I think it probably added a number of years to my life,” he said. “For so many years I slept with no rest. Now, my life has been extended and my quality of life is much improved. I’m well pleased, for sure.”