Getting shocked: a possible cure for sleep apnea
Tim Meulemans & Courtny Gerrish
Courtny Gerrish reportsPhoto: Video by tmj4.com
MILWAUKEE- A Milwaukee man signed up to be shocked -- every time he snores. It's a possible new cure for sleep apnea developed at the Medical College of Wisconsin.
For the Gutzman family, by day, it's all fun and games, but night time can be a bit more stressful.
"Going to bed at night was always an adventure," says Dan Gutzman, father of two.
But Dan blames himself. He snores, a lot. In fact, he snores so loudly, it affects his family's life. He's tried lots of cures. However, nothing has worked. So now, he's willing to try just about anything.
"I'm a little bit apprehensive because of the surgery," explains Dan.
The surgery Dan received was to install a probe in his tongue. The probe will zap him every time he snores. Many people find Dan crazy for signing up for the procedure, including his wife, Mindy. However Dan felt he had to do something.
Dan first noticed his snoring when he was fourteen. It followed him into the army, all the way to Kuwait.
"I was in a Bradley, with 5 other guys and they made me sleep outside," remembers Dan.
And after eight years of marriage and many, many sleepless nights, Mindy is an expert on the sound.
"Not a freight train, because it's not consistent. It's one of those, like you just get settled, and you're just about to fall asleep and then he starts snoring again. And you're like awwww, I was so close to falling asleep," says Mindy.
As husband and wife, they can joke about it, but snoring is serious. Especially when it's as severe as Dan's'. Snoring can cause sleep apnea. That's when you actually stop breathing in your sleep. It can lead to diabetes, cardiac disease and strokes. Dan knew he needed to get checked out.
"I made it halfway through the sleep study and they said, 'Alright, were done. We've got enough data.' They said I stopped breathing a couple of times every minute," says Dan.
Dan got fitted with a cpap mask, a common treatment for sleep apnea, one that works many, but not for him.
"I can't wear the mask at night. I just can't do it," he says.
The mask falls of Dan in his sleep because he moves around too much.
Another option for Dan was reconstructive surgery. However, Dan felt that was too drastic. He thought he was out of options until he heard about a new medical study being done at the Medical College of Wisconsin. A medical study, that sounds very sci-fi.
"It's a hypoglossal nerve stimulator," explains Dr. B. Tucker Woodson.
Dr. Woodson heads the study. Dan is 1 of 100 people in the entire U.S. in the trial.
Here's how the implant works. The patient has an electronic probe grafted to the nerves in the underside of their tongue and another placed in their lung. Both are connected to a battery in the patient's chest. When the airway closes and they start to snore an electric charge shocks the nerves, stimulating the muscles in the tongue and opening the airway.....
"When people are normally sleeping, they shouldn't feel this at all," says Dr. Woodson. "It's actually very physiologic. This is the way the body actually holds the airway open."
Early results for the testing show promise and a cure for Dan's snoring and sleep apnea.
"I can't imagine what a full night's sleep, noiseless is like. It's got to be amazing," says Mindy.
And that good night's sleep makes the gamble worth it for Dan.
"Somebody's got to test this thing out. It might as well be me," Dan says.
Dan had the probe implanted in January. Now that Dan has healed, the sensor and probe were activated Tuesday night. TODAY'S TMJ4 will check in with Dan and Mindy in a couple of months to see how well the probe works.