Blogs > Sleeping with CPAP

Assistant News Editor Lee Dryden was diagnosed with sleep apnea and uses a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine to assist with breathing while sleeping. From a layman’s point of view, he will discuss the benefits, issues, challenges and frustrations of sleeping while wearing a mask.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A lethal mix

 The dangers of untreated sleep apnea - and the accompanying daytime sleepiness - have been well documented.
 Add a semi-truck of many tons into the mix and a tragedy is inevitable.
 Truck driver Shawn Johnson, a husband and father of 8, was killed instantly this past summer on Interstate 85 in South Carolina when he was struck head-on by an 18-wheeler who overcorrected after swerving off the road, according to a report from WCNC NewsChannel 36, an NBC affiliate in Charlotte, N.C.
 The driver of the 18-wheeler, who died after the crash as did a young lawyer in another vehicle, had suffered from sleep apnea for years, his widow told authorities.
 The WCNC report said fatigue was cited in the coroner's ruling after the crash. It also mentioned a study saying 1 in 4 truckers has sleep apnea, of which many cases are undiagnosed and/or untreated.
 "My first thought was: Why was he allowed to drive?" Shawn Johnson's widow Dana told the station.
 The station reports a medical advisory panel of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recommended that truckers be screened and treated for sleep apnea in 2008 but no action has been taken.
 The website cites thousands of possible deaths or injuries related to crashes involving truck drivers with sleep apnea. Its figures show between 1.9 million and 4 million truck drivers have some form of apnea.
 "It is important for the trucking industry and the American public to understand the prevalence of this condition in the commercial motor vehicle industry and the steps that can be taken to ensure that our highways remain safe for our families," said the site, which provides links to contact government officials.
 There is a petition drive in the United Kingdom to raise awareness of the issue after a young woman was killed and her fiance suffered brain damage after their car was struck by a semi. A charge of causing death by driving was reportedly dropped against the driver after it was discovered he had undiagnosed sleep apnea.
 These examples are extreme and, yes, very morbid but lives could have been saved if these truckers were more rested with CPAP or some other form of therapy. It's amazing that sleep apnea screening isn't required for those at the wheel of enormous rigs.
 Sounds like an issue we need to ask our Congress members about.


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