Image description: An animation of small waves washing up on the sand behind a driftwood log. Deception Pass, Washington state.
When I developed sleep apnea suddenly in 2020 during a series of major dental work, I had no idea that getting diagnosis and treatment would become a many-months-long saga. I’m returning to, and sharing, some updates I wrote for friends and family along the way to help break down the stigma around sleep apnea and CPAP devices.
In my now months-long quest to get a sleep apnea diagnosis and treatment, I think I’ve found the human avatar of the concept of bureaucracy. It’s as deeply impressive as it is infuriating.
Almost two sleepless weeks ago, I received my diagnosis and talked to the sleep doctor, who told me her employee would send over the prescription to the CPAP company (my insurance only covers one), Apria, right away.
The sleep doctor told me to expect a call from Apria, and if they didn’t call within a week, to call the sleep doctor’s office again and they would request again that Apria call me.Dubious at this ridiculously indirect path, but given no other option (or a direct phone number), I waited. And waited.
After a week, I called the sleep doctor back last Monday and talked with C., the employee who actually handles sending prescriptions to CPAP companies.Turns out she’d been on vacation last week and the prescription was never sent.
So C. said she’d send the scrip that day and ask Apria to expedite it, and that I should get a call within a few days.
Thursday afternoon arrived. I still hadn’t gotten a call from Apria. The sleep doc’s office closes at 3:00 p.m., so I called at 2:45. No answer.
I called again on Friday morning at 9:00 a.m. and talked again with C., who was appalled that no one had called me. She gave me the direct line to P. at Apria, but also told me that it was possible that Apria had indeed called me and I hadn’t realized it, since apparently Apria calls from an 800 number. And never leaves voicemails.
I spent the rest of the day in the dentist’s chair and then rushed out to stand beside my car in the parking garage to call P. at Apria before close of business.
I reached P. with little trouble and she was very nice. Very, very, very nice.
Since I had forgotten to check my phone history, I wasn’t sure whether she’d actually tried to call me, so I didn’t bring that up and neither did she. (Spoiler: She’d never bothered to call me.)
It was the end of the day on a Friday, and P. was apparently bored. She rambled to me about everything except the information I needed.
I managed to force next steps out of her: She wanted me to go take a quiz about potential masks, then she’d send me some paperwork to sign, then she’d ship the CPAP and mask out. Fine.
The details are where things went askew.
Me: “So how do the mask test results get from me-taking-the-quiz to you? Are they sent to you automatically somehow?”
Her: “Oh, no, you’ll get them right away.”
Me: “But how do YOU get them?”
Her: “Well, you put in your email, the same email you gave us.”
Me: “So that will send the results to you?”
Her: “No no, that will send the results to you, so you won’t have to wait!”
I managed not to crawl through the phone and shake her. And eventually managed to get her to tell me that I needed to call and tell her the results. (I’m supposed to pick one mask from the list generated by this online quiz and if I don’t like that one then I have to go through a telehealth appointment with a respiratory therapist. As opposed to just…having a telehealth appointment with a respiratory therapist in the first place.)
I told her I’d call first thing on Monday with the quiz results and my mask choice, then tried to figure out how long it would take to get the actual CPAP.Me: “So what happens after I call you with the test result?”
Her: “[Outlines the steps I listed above]. Then we’ll Fedex the CPAP and mask to you.”
Me: “And about how long does that take?” (meaning Fedex)
Her: “Well, [outlines the steps AGAIN, making no mention whatsoever of Fedex] so that shouldn’t take too long at all!”
So sometime between, say, Tuesday and the heat death of the universe, I should be able to sleep again.
If I stroke out in my sleep due to untreated apnea like that Supreme Court judge did, then know that it’s partially this doorknob of an employee’s fault.