After His Surgery for Sleep Apnea, Russell Can Dream Again

July 4, 2018
Russell Sleep Apnea

Before his sleep apnea diagnosis, Russell stayed awake at work by drinking 8 cups of coffee a day. “Now, my wife says that I look years younger,” says Russell, who has started experiencing dreams again.

For several years leading up to his sleep apnea diagnosis, Russell felt more and more worn out at the end of every day.

“I told my wife that I must be getting older. But eventually it got so bad that I no longer seemed to have a reserve.” Russell binge-slept on weekends to compensate, but by Tuesday or Wednesday the following week his exhaustion returned.

During a normal work day, Russell drank about 8 cups of coffee to stay awake. He had tricks to keep himself alert during meetings, like digging his thumbnail into other fingers. But nothing seemed to work. On a good day he felt tired, on a bad day he was so exhausted he could barely keep his eyes open. Russell’s short-term memory became poor and he was more irritable as the months and years passed.

In June of 2016, Russell was referred to a sleep clinic in his hometown of Ottawa. He agreed to take part in a sleep study, and within about 3 hours the medical team knew exactly what was going on. “The nurse told me that I was being disturbed more than 60 times per hour. Because of that I wasn’t really sleeping. I was diagnosed with a severe case of sleep apnea,” Russell said.

Russell tried a CPAP (pronounced see-pap) machine, which requires the patient to wear a full mask that pumps oxygen while they sleep. “I struggled and after 3 weeks I abandoned it,” he told us. “I found the sensation of forced air very uncomfortable and the machine was loud. I was sleeping even less!”

Russell met with two Ottawa-based surgeons to assess his options. He decided to go ahead with a form of facial reconstruction surgery called jaw advancement – where the surgeon essentially detaches and brings forward the front of the patient’s face to open up the nasal cavity and breathing passages. However, the Ottawa surgeon’s wait time was 2 years. Russell couldn’t wait that long, so he was referred to Dr. Marco Caminiti, Division Head of Oral Surgery at Humber River Hospital in Toronto.

Dr. Marco Caminiti

Dr. Marco Caminiti, Division Head of Oral Surgery at Humber River Hospital

“From the beginning I knew I was in great hands,” Russell said. “Dr. Caminiti’s calm, professional and compassionate manner were obvious and after assessing me, he agreed to do the surgery.”

Russell went to the new Humber River Hospital for the first time the day before his surgery in November 2017. “I was so impressed with the modern, new facility and competent staff. It really put my mind at ease. From the layout and flow of the hospital, to the modern food court, the TV and information screens, I knew my wife would be fine during my operation.” It was a long but successful surgery, lasting nearly 4 hours. After staying another 4 hours in recovery, Russell was moved to his single patient room for a two-night stay.

He and his wife drove back home in Ottawa later that week. Russell’s recovery has gone extremely well, and he says he owes it all to Dr. Caminiti. “In every encounter with Dr. Caminiti, he makes you feel as if you’re his only patient. I can’t thank him enough.”

The results of Russell’s surgery were immediate and forever life-changing.

Within two weeks, Russell started dreaming again. “With my sleep apnea, I essentially wasn’t sleeping,” he said. “With no REM cycle, I couldn’t dream and I forgot what it felt like. I remember the first one I had after my surgery. I woke up and I was so happy! It was an emotional experience.”

And the healthy sleep has benefits both inside and outside. “My wife says that I look years younger! We started seeing the difference a few weeks after my surgery,” Russell shared. “It’s so obvious now when we look at old photos. On top of that, my thinking is clear and my memory has improved. I’m also a lot less irritable.”

Overall, Russell is much happier. “I’m so glad I ended up in Dr. Caminiti’s excellent care,” he said. “We will always be grateful for his outstanding dedication and care for his patients, and of course our gratitude includes the excellent staff and services at Humber River Hospital. I could not have had better care or a better outcome.”