Daniel Belinsky was tired for years. The 55-year-old dad and grandpa always had obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). “It was so bad that people used to hit me in my sleep,” he recalled “and that was 31 years ago.”
On top of not being able to sleep, he’s undergone weight loss surgery and has high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Dan knows the importance of a good night’s sleep, not only to feel refreshed, but to help manage his chronic health conditions.
“I want to live longer,” he said “but how can I when my heart is fighting to breathe? My father had a heart attack in his early fifties and he too had sleep apnea. I don’t want that to be me.”
OSA occurs when the airway collapses during sleep and blocks the flow of oxygen to the brain. When that happens, the brain senses the lack of oxygen, so you wake up, take a breath and fall back to sleep. This repeating cycle causes poor, interrupted sleep.
Because of OSA for years Dan has been trying to improve his sleep with CPAP (a continuous positive airway pressure machine or (CPAP) that he wore at night when sleeping). But the hardworking wastewater shift operator from Avenel, NJ struggled with the device.
“It just didn’t work for me. The face mask, the pressure, the tubing. I just couldn’t use it.”
An appointment with Deborah’s bariatric surgery team connected him with both a Deborah Heart and Lung Center cardiologist and a life-changing appointment with Deborah’s sleep medicine team.
“The hospital has an amazing reputation,” he said. “Both my mom and dad came here, but when I made an appointment for a sleep study and met Dr. Khan [pulmonologist Zeeshan Khan, DO, Director of Deborah’s Institute of Sleep Medicine] my life was changed.”
Dr. Khan soon realized that Dan was one of the 40% of patients with obstructive sleep apnea who can’t tolerate CPAP.
“It’s estimated there are probably 12 million Americans that have problems using CPAP.” After reviewing Dan’s sleep study and meeting with him, Dr. Khan recommended that Dan get Inspire, a small, FDA-approved implanted device that works inside the body with a patient’s natural breathing process to stop sleep apnea. Mild stimulation opens the airway during sleep, allowing oxygen to flow naturally. A patient uses a small handheld remote to turn Inspire on and off when they sleep and wake up.
Without hesitation, Dan was willing to give it a try, so in March of 2021, an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist implanted the device during a same-day procedure. Dan has been following up with Dr. Khan ever since. He couldn’t be more pleased with the results.
“It has changed my life,” Dan said. “I love this device. There are no more hoses or machines. It is so simple to use. I feel better than I ever have.”
The Inspire device is similar in size to a pacemaker (it is implanted on the other side of the chest in case a patient needs a cardiac device). In addition to the control unit, a small cuff is placed around the hypoglossal nerve, which controls the movement of the tongue. Once turned on, the device synchs with a patient’s nighttime breathing pattern and delivers a gentle nudge to move the tongue forward, opening the airway for normal breathing.
“Inspire is only prescribed for patients who can’t tolerate CPAP,” added Dr. Khan. “CPAP is still considered the gold standard for obstructive sleep apnea. But for patients like Dan, who are suffering from lack of sleep and has tried CPAP, Inspire offers another option. I am very satisfied with his progress. You can tell when he walks in for an appointment his general appearance is greatly improved, he looks well rested and happier, and his sleep study results document how open his airway is at night.
“Dan is one of the lucky ones who actually knows he has sleep apnea. Many others find out coincidentally some other way, through a medical problem, cardiac episode, or an almost car accident. Being able to help him is so gratifying.”
Dan is thrilled with his new sleep device. “It’s comfortable, very simple, and has given me great results. The device has a pause button, so if I have to get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom or get a drink of water, it is no problem.
“I was fighting to breathe during sleep. Now I am awake during the day. I love the device. I love the team. I love my doctors. I couldn’t be happier with Deborah.”
Deborah sleep medicine services are offered in our Browns Mills and Lawrenceville offices. We diagnose and treat a variety of sleep disorders such as insomnia, narcolepsy, snoring and sleep apnea. Schedule an appointment today.
Deborah Heart and Lung Center in Browns Mills, NJ is an 89-bed teaching hospital that specializes in the prevention, diagnosis, research, and treatment of heart, lung, and vascular diseases. Founded in 1922, Deborah has been a regional and nationally recognized leader throughout its 100-year history, during which time it has healed 2.3 million patients from every corner of the United States and 87 countries in the world. From performing the first open heart surgeries (adult and pediatric) in New Jersey, to running one of the highest volume left-ventricular assist device (LVAD) implant programs in the region, Deborah has stood at the forefront of medical innovation, all while never wavering from its founding mission “there is no price on life.” Deborah is consistently recognized as a leader in patient care from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, ranked among the top hospitals in New Jersey for patient satisfaction; holds a top-tier Society of Thoracic Surgeons rating which places Deborah among the best cardiac surgery programs in the country; and is designated a national Top Teaching Hospital by The Leapfrog Group. Deborah is an Alliance member of the Cleveland Clinic Heart, Vascular & Thoracic Institute.
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