Saturday, October 22, 2005

3:00 a.m. Fright

3:00 a.m. this morning. I had slept some—I don’t know how long: 30 minutes or 30 seconds. Abruptly I was awake. Awake and petrified. Something—heavy boxes? luggage? crates? soil? I don’t know what—was coming down on me and smothering me. I tore the oxygen tube from my face and bounded out of bed, wheezing and gasping for breath, almost stepping of Alex who was asleep on the floor.

I remained panicked for sometime. I tried to understand what had—was— happened, but I just could not get my mind into gear. It was as if the entire back of my head was asleep. It seemed that whatever was a threat to my life was still in the room, just waiting to suffocate me.

Wake up! You have to wake up! You have to think! I said to myself over and over. I stumbled into the small WC off my bedroom a few feet from my bed. I splashed cold water on my face and the back of my neck. My mind began to clear, but I was still terrified and still gasping for breath.

Had this been a dream? If so, it was all too real. What was the threat? Why couldn’t I get my breath? My brain began its problem solving process. The questions were forming but no answers came.

It took me more than ninety minutes to feel safe enough to climb back into bead and try to sleep. Even then I avoided hooking up the oxygen generator because my still almost dysfunctional brain made a connection between the pure oxygen flowing into my nostrils and my feeling like I was being smothered.

It has now been about fifteen hours since I awakened in that panic. I still don’t have any answers just questions. I do know this: tonight when I again attempt to sleep, I shall reduce the richness of the oxygen flow from the oxygen generator and pray that such a frightening event will not happen again.


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  2. Why do you reduce the richness of the oxygen?

  3. I hope your state of fright did't come back last night. Any idea what caused the terror yet? I HATE nights like that, and I know how difficult a time you've been having with sleep lately.

  4. Hang in there, Nick! Monday you can get your prescription, and hopefully things can get back to normal.

    And I'm sure you thought of this already, but be extra careful with candles and such while you've got an pure oxygeon wafting around.

  5. Good God, let us know how that worked out. I would have had a fucking stroke.

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  7. Abby: In my fear that I would stop breathing while asleep and not get enough oxygen, I set the machine at 100% oxygen. It can be set at any percentage and I went for all of it. I now suspect that had something to do with my disorientation so I cut the richness of the mixture of oxygen and air back so I was getting less oxygen.

    Punkmom: I’ve done some research on the Internet and now suspect that what happened I caused by giving myself pure oxygen that resulted in what is called “Central Nervous System Oxygen Toxicity.” The symptoms include: include dizziness, nausea, tunnel vision, blindness, unusual fatigue, anxiety, confusion, and a lack of coordination in movement.

    Thomas: Actually, I had not thought of the dangers of flames in the bedroom. My thought processes now vary greatly depending upon how much real sleep I am getting. Thanks for the warning. I look forward to an end of this sleeplessness!

    Southern Fried Girl: A stroke from fright or otherwise I now understand was a real possibility. Besides Central Nervous System Toxicity from too much pure oxygen, I also found an article on oxygen toxicity that included stroke as one of the possible results.

    I suppose what I really have learned is that self-medication, even with something that seems as harmless as oxygen, can be dangerous.

  8. Yes, oxygen is definitely not something to mess around with. We treat it like a medication at the hospital. Also, oddly, people with breathing problems often do WORSE at a higher concentration level. Some people, their problem is actually with blowing air back out, not with bringing it in so bringing in high quantity without a way to release it is detrimental. Incorrect oxygen levels can make you feel like you are suffocating so it's possible your "dream" could have been related to the oxygen. I don't know about your machine since I'm not familiar with it. It just uses room air right? Not pure oxygen? Normally we run pure oxygen at 20 to 40 percent. I have no idea how that figures in with the machine you have but I thought it might give you some kind of baseline of thought. Good luck and if you can't wait, your primary should have someone covering who could give you some numbers until your primary can review.

  9. Thank you, sonson. Your information confirms what I have discovered and adds quite a bit to it.

    I have 2 machines. The CPAP, which forces air into my airway so that it won’t shut from the apnea is the one broken. The other is an oxygen generator, which draws oxygen from the air. It can be set at oxygen purity levels from 0—100%.

    I had not needed to use it for several years. The setting for use with the CPAP was 20%. However, since I was afraid—and very sleep deprived when I set it up—I set it to 100%. I’m sure that’s what caused the nightmare and terror I felt that night. I did feel like I was suffocating and you have provided the answer as to why! I have since reduced the setting back to 20%.