Patient Success Story: Roger Galvin

Roger Galvin and his wife Nancy learned the risks of sleep disorders after Roger suffered a stroke

Roger Galvin, seated with his wife Nancy in their St. Michaels home, learned the risk factors associated with sleep apnea after his stroke. 

For Roger Galvin, the wake-up call came after a stroke he suffered in July, 2011.

The St. Michaels resident remembers being in his house on a Sunday morning, and then not much else until finding himself in a room at UM Shore Medical Center at Easton four days later. His wife Nancy had found him after he collapsed in their home and called 911.

“I couldn’t remember anything — it took me a couple weeks to remember my wife’s name,” Galvin says. 

After his discharge from the hospital, Galvin received a surprising recommendation from his doctor at the Stroke Center at UM Shore Medical Center at Easton — to get a sleep study at UM Shore Regional Sleep Disorders Center.

Galvin knew he snored heavily, but didn’t realize it was more than just an annoyance – one that more than a few times had him sleeping on the couch, the Galvins note with a laugh. Snoring, however, is often a clue to the serious problem of obstructive sleep apnea, where an individual stops breathing for stretches at a time, often more than ten seconds, during sleep.

“It’s been well documented that sleep apnea and desaturation (decrease in oxygen sent to the blood stream) are associated with strokes, sudden, death, heart attacks, seizures and other issues,” says Terry Detrich, MD, medical director of the Stroke Center who referred Galvin to the Sleep Disorders Center. 

Following the recommendation, Galvin qualified first for home sleep testing, using noninvasive equipment he could operate himself in his own bed. This test —known as pulse oximetry, or “pulse-ox” — determines the oxygen level being delivered to the peripheral tissues such as the finger, earlobe, or nose.

Based on the pulse-ox readings, Galvin went in for an overnight study at the Sleep Disorders Center location at UM Shore Medical Center at Dorchester. 

During that study, Galvin admits he was a little put off by wearing a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) mask, in addition to the noninvasive sensors used to take readings such as the amount of oxygen going into a patient’s lungs and, as a result, how much is getting into the bloodstream. 

Galvin remembers thinking, “How in the world can I sleep with all that gear plugged in?”

He did get to sleep and when the results were analyzed, Sleep Center staff told him the readings were among the worst they’d seen. 

He eventually was prescribed using a CPAP at home to overcome his sleep apnea. Galvin said when it came time to select his own CPAP mask, he was pleased with the choices and found a smaller model that would work for him. He’s been a regular user of his CPAP since September 2014. 

“I’m happy to have him back,” Nancy Galvin says.

Roger Galvin says the change is noticeable every day. With a full night’s rest, the 68-year-old says he doesn’t even need the naps he once took every afternoon after working in his garden.

Galvin’s road to recovery continues from his stroke and his sleep disorder. The retired attorney who once read two or three books a week is steadily regaining his ability to read and retain information, which had been diminished by the stroke. Galvin attends the monthly Mid-Shore Stroke Support Group in Easton, where he values sharing his experience with those of other stroke patients.

A lesson he learned along the way is the importance of sleep. 

“Anyone who feels that he or she isn’t 100 percent during the day should consider the possibility of a sleep problem, and have it checked out,” he says.