Breathing Easy: Matt Dodge’s Journey to Overcoming Sleep Apnea

Matt Dodge, a 52-year-old insurance business owner from Mason City, vividly recalls the days when his snoring was so thunderous his wife humorously remarked, “You could suck the ceiling fan into your mouth each night.” Little did they know that this seemingly harmless snoring was a symptom of a more serious issue – sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes breathing to be interrupted during sleep. It is commonly caused by a constriction in the throat when muscles relax so much that they block the airway passage.  When breathing is interrupted, oxygen levels in the blood drop, which puts pressure on the cardiovascular system, raises blood pressure and causes chronic fatigue, increasing blood glucose levels.  Recent studies have also linked sleep apnea to liver disease.  Patients with sleep apnea are also more likely to experience complications from surgery, anesthesia, and certain medications.

In this article we will discuss Matt’s journey with sleep apnea, the challenges he faced with traditional treatments, and the transformative impact of a minimally invasive surgery that brought back peace to his nights.

The Struggle with Sleep Apnea:

At the age of 40, Matt’s journey with sleep apnea began with a diagnostic endoscopy. The results explained the pervasive fatigue and incessant “hangovers” he experienced each morning. Sleep apnea had silently crept into his life, disrupting the restorative nature of sleep, and impacting his functionality and effectiveness during the day as well.

The CPAP Challenge:

After Matt received the sleep apnea diagnosis, he was prescribed a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine, a common treatment for sleep apnea that delivers a continuous flow of air into the patient’s air passages to keep them open.

Matt found the CPAP uncomfortable to use and because he often travels for work, the extra bulk of the machine proved to be a hindrance. Eventually he stopped using it altogether.

The Oral Appliance Setback:

In search of a more adaptable solution, Matt turned to an oral appliance prescribed for sleep apnea. Despite its initial efficacy, his journey took an unexpected turn when their dog decided to turn the appliance into a chew toy, destroying not one but two of them. Faced with the financial burden of replacement and the challenges they posed, Matt discontinued the treatment.

Discovering a Minimally Invasive Solution:

As Matt’s relentless snoring threatened to push him and his wife into separate bedrooms, he stumbled upon information about a minimally invasive surgery involving upper airway stimulation that is designed to help individuals struggling with sleep apnea. The innovative surgery involved the implantation of a device that senses breathing patterns and delivers gentle stimulation to the hypoglossal nerve, controlling tongue and airway muscle movement to keep it open during sleep.

The Life-Changing Surgery:

In 2017, Matt underwent the upper airway stimulation surgery performed by Timothy Dettmer, MD, a board-certified ENT physician at the Mason City Clinic. Describing the experience, Matt reflects, “It was probably one of the easiest surgeries I have ever had and recovered from.” The implanted device is controlled by a handheld sleep remote, giving Matt the power to manage his therapy before bedtime and upon waking. The ability to adjust stimulation strength and even pause the therapy if necessary provided a level of control that was missing in previous treatments.

The Transformation:

For Matt, the results of the surgery were nothing short of “life-changing.” With the implant activated, his nights are peaceful, and the once-debilitating snoring has disappeared. Matt wakes up feeling rested and ready to face the day. The ability to concentrate and multi-task has been restored, and his overall outlook on life has undergone a profound shift.

If you or a loved one are living with untreated sleep apnea and want to be evaluated for a minimally invasive procedure, please call 641.494.5380 to schedule a consultation with a board certified ENT physician today.

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