Medical Services: Institute for Sleep Medicine
For years, extreme fatigue kept Kristine Putt from spending quality time with the one person she fought so hard to bring into this world: her daughter, Lauryn.
Relief finally came when a sleep study found that Kristine suffered from obstructive sleep apnea - a serious condition in which people have trouble breathing during sleep, or even stop breathing for short periods, because their airway is blocked.
Kristine's incredible journey began nearly eight years ago. In her quest to become a mother, the now 30-year-old Bedford woman gained over 150 pounds due to a combination of fertility and anti-depression drugs. When she finally gave birth in 2003, Kristine had aspirations of being a full-time working mom who spent every possible second playing, laughing and sharing special moments with her daughter. Unfortunately, her constant lack of energy and frustration over failed weight-loss attempts shattered those dreams.
Up at 10, nap at 2
"There were days when I would take a nap at 2 p.m. even though I just woke up at 10 a.m. That obviously cut down on the time I should have been spending with Lauryn," Kristine recalled. "I was always just too tired to be the mother I wanted to be, and that really bothered me.
"Working with children and their families for a living, I know how important it is for a child to have an involved parent in his or her life. Having a parent with energy vs. a parent that's always exhausted can make a huge difference to a child."
In July 2006, Kristine, attributing her low energy level to her weight and depression, turned to her family doctor, Jennifer Murnyack-Garner, M.D., for help. Eventually, she was advised to undergo a sleep study at Altoona Regional's Institute for Sleep Medicine to rule out sleep apnea. If sleep apnea is not diagnosed and treated, it can interfere with your quality of life, according to Timothy A. Lucas, M.D., the institute's medical director. Sleep apnea can put people at risk for excessive daytime sleepiness and potentially worsen other problems, such as high blood pressure, depression, irregular heart rhythms, heart failure, coronary artery disease and stroke.
A noninvasive study
"Kristine was a bit apprehensive about coming in for a sleep study, but I told her what I tell all my patients: The monitor hookup, although cumbersome, is not invasive. The sleep study can't hurt you," Dr. Lucas said. "You're just in a strange bed in a strange room being observed by strange people. If you're tired, you'll eventually fall asleep and we'll get the data we need to help you."
To treat Kristine, Dr. Lucas prescribed the use of an auto CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine, which helps people with obstructive sleep apnea breathe more easily during sleep. An auto CPAP machine takes air from the room and increases air pressure in your throat so your airway does not collapse when you breathe in, he said.
Kristine uses her CPAP at home every night. She still recalls how great she felt just two weeks into using the machine.
"My energy level literally skyrocketed. I felt 110 percent better during the day," she said. "I even began waking up before my daughter in the mornings. That was something that rarely ever happened.
'The best gift'
"Being able to play and keep up with Lauryn all day without feeling tired is the best gift anyone has ever given to me. Having the sleep study and finding out what was causing my fatigue has been a blessing. My life has totally changed for the better."
With her new vitality, Kristine became less frustrated and more eat healthfully, and soon watched the weight fall off. Since November 2006, she has lost over 55 pounds. "I know that I still have a long road to go as far as losing the weight, but I know that I am on the right path now, thanks to the tremendous support from my family, friends, physicians and the wonderful staff at the institute.
"I could never repay everyone involved for helping me change my life. These people have made a huge impact in not only my life but Lauryn's as well. Lauryn will remember me as the mom who played with her every single day, not the mom who told her 'I'm too tired' all the time. For that, I am truly thankful."
For more information on Altoona Regional's Institute for Sleep Medicine, call (814) 889-4466.