Episode 026 — Meet Gen X Stroke Survivor Kristen Dingman

'Your life shrinks to this small circle. My goal was to walk to the end of the driveway and back…that was my big stretch goal.' -- Kristen Dingman #stroke #goals #sleepapnea Click To Tweet

I met Kristen Dingman now lives northeast of Seattle in the small town of Arlington, WA. I  met Kristen back in the mid-90s when we opened CompUSA store 667 in Boise, ID. She had the unenviable task of keeping the front-end employees in line. Eventually our careers moved on, we lost touch, we reconnected on Facebook as you eventually do with all sorts of former colleagues.

'The brain is a slow healing thing and you have to have patience' -- Kristen Dingman #stroke #sleepapnea Click To Tweet

Then last summer, I had my stroke. And Kristen reached out to me to offer her support because she had had her own stroke the year before. And while our strokes are different, as all strokes are, there is a lot in common in our stories.

'I'm happier than I've ever been…I think the stroke was a good thing now if that makes sense (it's kind of morbid) but it got me to where I should have been years ago.' -- Kristen Dingman #stroke #sleepapnea Click To Tweet

Kristen’s story is one of sleep apnea, high blood pressure, smoking cessation, anxiety, PTSD, a supportive husband (David), and a family that knows when to insist on medical assistance.

'The weeks that I was stubborn and wasn't gonna do what they told me to do are the weeks I didn't do so well on my recovery. It dawned on me half way through.' -- Kristen Dingman #stroke #sleepapnea Click To Tweet

One thing that we touch on here which does not get talked about enough is that the FAST signs of stroke (face, arms, speech, and time to call 911) indicate that someone is having a stroke, but the lack of these signs does not mean someone isn’t having a stroke. Kristen’s stroke did not have these classic signs. It was characterized by intense headache, disorientation, inability to concentrate, vision field cuts, and a spiking blood pressure.

Sleep Apnea

When I was young, my mom said, 'I quit putting you down for naps cause if I forgot to wake you up, you'd sleep through to the next day.' And I was 3 years old. -- Kristen Dingman #stroke #sleepapnea Click To Tweet

Bill wearing electrodes for a sleep study

Sleep Apnea is a condition where folks stop breathing throughout the night. After my stroke, I was sent for a sleep study where they attached all sorts of electrodes to my head and watched while I slept over night.

Sleep apnea is diagnosed if you stop breathing 5 times an hour. It’s severe at 30 times an hour. My score? 59 times an hour. That means every minute of the night I stopped breathing and my brain woke up a bit to start breathing again. I’ve likely been sleep deprived for decades. Kristen’s score was even more severe.

Today, I sleep with a CPAP machine. Basically, a silicon hose wraps around my face under my nose and attaches to a hose on my head. It blows air directly into my nose to keep my airway open while I sleep. I get much more restful sleep now and don’t wake up nearly as groggy as I used to. And I don’t snore anymore. That means my girlfriend sleeps better, too.

Untreated sleep apnea leads to stroke, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and general exhaustion. And many of those conditions also lead to stroke. It’s a big deal and getting it dealt with can change multiple people’s lives.

nose pillow sCPAP mask on Bill

'The stories you hear is it's gonna rock your world and I'll tell you it's like a light switch one day and all of a sudden, I'm like, 'Oh, my goodness!' ' -- Kristen Dingman #stroke #sleepapnea Click To Tweet

Hack of the Week

Here are 5 tips to adapting to your first CPAP/BiPAP machine:

  1. If you take the mask off while sleeping, put it back on as soon as you realize it’s off.
  2. Use it while you’re awake to help your body get used to it.
  3. Put socks on your hands to make it harder to take off while you sleep.
  4. Put medical tape on the mask to adhere it to your face so you can’t take it off in your sleep.
  5. If it’s not working, talk to your doctor about a different style of mask. The can right a prescription for a refit and insurance will usually pay for it.
'They traced my apnea back to childhood. -- Kristen Dingman #stroke #sleepapnea Click To Tweet

Where do we go from here?

  • What does Kristen’s story make you think about? Let us know in the comments below.
  • Do you or your partner snore? Do you have trouble feeling rested? Do you always have super vivid dreams? Tell your doctor and see if a sleep study makes sense.
  • If you’d like to reach out to Kristen, you can email her here.
  • Share this episode with a friend, colleague, or relative by sending them this link:
  • Don’t get best…get better.
'Doctors really are not that bad. A blood draw is not the end of the world.' -- Kristen Dingman #stroke #sleepapnea Click To Tweet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *