Here's the scenario:
It's now December 19th at about 11:00 p.m.... a typical winter evening. It's supposed to get down to around 25 degrees tonight, but no snow at least... which means no shoveling in the morning. That's a good thing.
You are proud of yourself - you've been using CPAP as a member of the secret society of "hoseheads"... you've tinkered with your own machine.... you may have even fiddled with changing your pressure... and you may have gone so far as to use CPAP data-analyzing software to help you tweak your settings.
Ah, very nice. Now that you've joined this exclusive group of educated, intelligent and daring souls, you feel as though you have mastered this CPAP monstrosity - and you're reduced your apnea events to a great degree by your own efforts. Excellent... you congratulate yourself on being so "self-sufficient" - able to handle just about any problem that comes your way... and you settle in for a nice, relaxing and restful night's sleep with your CPAP on in your warm bed with your electric blanket
You gently fall asleep and enter bliss...
...out of the blue...
...at 3:05 a.m. in the morning...
THE ELECTRICAL POWER GOES OUT.
Hmm... okay, now what?
Okay, I guess since it happened at 3:05 a.m., you can do without your CPAP machine until it's time to wake up around 6:00... so, you sheepishly take the now-quiet octopus-style mask off your head and try, quite unsuccessfully, to get some degree of sleep without your CPAP giving you that life-sustaining air pressure. You keep waking up every 5 minutes after a bunch of "snortles", snores & gasps... and you realize that it's a lost cause - you can't get any real sleep until the power comes back on and your air-pushing friend whizzes back to life.
Your alarm clock goes off at 6:00 (it had a battery backup) and you realize that you didn't get any sleep since 3:05, and the power is still out. The temperature in the house has slid from 70 degrees down to about 62 and you feel a cold chill as you remove the covers.
You get up, go outside, look around, the sun is not yet out, and you realize that all the city lights are OFF. The sky is clear, and you can see a lot more stars than normal. Ah, so this is what living in the country is like! Very pretty. Maybe this won't be so bad.
You begin your morning routine in the dark, using a D-cell flashlight as you shower, shave and comb your hair, hoping that the folks in the office don't notice the 3 nicks you now have on your face because you had to use a razor blade instead of your usual electric shaver. At least you had hot water for your shower - that felt good. As you leave, you pass by the thermostat and notice that the house temperature had now dropped to 60. "At least I can get warm in the office" you think to yourself.
You get into the car and begin driving to work, 5 miles away. Upon arrival, there's no power at your office either, and your fellow employees are standing around in the office, huddled around a single penlight that the receptionist pulled out of her purse to provide some degree of illumination in the interior office. The boss comes in and you all wait around hoping that the power will return any minute now. 9:30 a.m., no power yet and the temperature in the office is at 60 degrees. Everyone wishes they had a hot cup of coffee. 10:30, no power yet, and everyone zips up their winter coats tightly.
Your co-worker goes out to his car and listens to his car radio - the local radio stations are off the air, but he gets a faint signal from a city two states away. Two people are discussing the "cascading grid failure" that took down all electrical power east of the Mississippi river and some areas in the west. Explosions were reported, but no one knew for certain whether it was a terrorist attack or simply some transformers or substations exploding as a result of the cascading grid failure. The coworker comes back into the office and reports what he heard. The boss makes a command decision and tells everyone to go home but stay near the phone so he can call everyone - just in case the power comes back on in the office today. He thought surely this would get sorted out in a few hours - everyone should just meet back at the office at 8:00 tomorrow, because the power would surely be back on by then.
You drive back home... and make a soothing cup of coffee using the tea kettle and gas stove, slowing pouring the boiling water over the coffee grounds basket that you removed from your good old Black & Decker coffee maker. Hey, at least you can have a hot cup of coffee, this won't be so bad, right? The temp has dropped to 58 degrees in the living room.
The day wears on with no power. No power by 9:00 pm either, and your house temp is now 55. You start to think about your CPAP. "Oh, no... I need that machine to get a good night's sleep" you think to yourself, "Why oh why didn't I get that 12-volt connector and a deep cycle battery!"
You go to bed around midnight... wrapping yourself in two blankets, and cover those with the sleeping bag you used for your camping trip this summer.... the night wears on... no power... you look at your bedroom clock and it's starting to go dim, since it's been on battery backup since 3:05 am yesterday, and it's now reading 4:34 a.m. and you've not gotten a wink of sleep because you keep chortling as your Sleep Apnea dutifully wakes you up every 5-10 minutes.
In the morning, the temperature in the living room has gone down to 51 degrees - your outside thermometer reads 22. You pull out your handheld radio to figure out what's going on, but you realize that it takes 4 AA batteries and all you have is 3 AAA batteries. You kick yourself again for your poor planning.
A neighbor knocks on your door. You answer it and realize that he looks pretty disheveled, but bundled in a heavy duty parka - He asks if everyone is okay in the house, and asks if you need to come over to his house - he has a wood fireplace and a supply of firewood, and it's keeping his living room at a nice comfy 72 degrees.
You decide that it's a good idea and thank him for his offer. He reports to you that he's been listening to his radio and officials are saying that it may be days or weeks before they can bring the entire electrical grid back up again. "This is not good at all", your neighbor comments, "I don't know what we're going to do, we only have enough firewood for two or maybe three nights..."
You ask him if he has any source of electrical power like a generator. He says he doesn't. You are dead tired and kick yourself yet once again for not providing some alternative power for your life-giving CPAP machine. How are you going to get a good night's sleep if the power stays off for a week?
This is going to get real old, real fast.
- end of scenario -
The Question for YOU is: Do you have an alternative to power your CPAP machine should the electricity go off for a day? How about if it goes down for a week? Or Two weeks? What if there's a series of terrorist attacks upon our electrical grid and officials say it will take months to repair all the damage? WHAT THEN?
I open this up for discussion... what are your thoughts? Have you provided for some degree of alternative electrical energy for your CPAP machine? If so, what have you done specifically? If you can power your machine for a day or so without grid power, what could you do to make yourself less at-risk for a more sustained power outage for say - a week or two, or even a month or two, something that would make the Northeast Blackout of 2003 look like a Sunday picnic?
What are your thoughts?
Apnea Board Administrator