by Tracey Lynch
Let me tell you a little story about how a well meaning but ill worded comment from a day care teacher has lead us on a path of discovery. This is the story of how we’ve learnt that something we thought cute and innocuous has become the bane of our poor Perfect Little Princess (PLP)’s life.
Whilst collecting our PLP from day care 2 months ago a well meaning teacher said to me, “you need to have PLP assessed. She’s not right. Her brain goes too fast. She needs to calm down.” Panic set in and I envisaged a long journey with a Ritalin bottle firmly in grasp as the teacher told me that she believes PLP has ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder, sometimes referred to as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
I left in a daze, making a few tearful phone calls including one to our GP who said “Don’t be daft, come and see me and I’ll check her out”. The GP’s diagnosis was along the lines of ‘PLP is beyond perfect, I think she just needs to see a psychologist because she’s a naughty little girl’. Of course hubby and I questioned her years of knowledge and multiple degrees hanging on the wall, partly because I’ve done a semester or two at Google University and partly because every meme I’ve ever seen about a 3 year old has conditioned me to believe that her behaviour is befitting of her age. Tantrums, restlessness, night terrors, sleep talking, sleep walking, barely sleeping, attitude, forgetting that she has been toilet trained for almost a year and having frequent ‘accidents’, babbling and making incoherent sentences, waking up tired, fussy and finicky with foods, the whole gamut of ‘standard’ 3 year old behaviours – MULTIPLIED BY 10!
Nevertheless we ‘humoured’ the GP and off we trotted to a lovely Child Psychologist, who after 2 sessions believed that PLP was not suffering from any acronym that she can put her finger on but instead believed our time and money would be better spend with a paediatricians office, who specialises in problematic child behaviour.
After securing the earliest appointment with said paediatrician and feeling glum at having to wait 4 months see said guru, I discussed the problem with a colleague (well, I discussed it with anyone who’d listen really, but who wants the truth to get in the way of a good story?). My colleague suggested seeing a sleep specialist his daughter had seen 10 years ago, who could perhaps just give us a script for ‘melatonin that will reset PLP’. In the very least we’d all get some sleep!
So third medical professional lucky, we were hoping!
I phoned to make an appointment to see Dr Jim Papadopoulos, Sleep Specialist. Whilst on hold, tears begin to well in my eyes; the on hold recording had just described PLP to a tee! By the time the receptionist answered the phone I was sobbing! I’m sure she thought I was bonkers but was much too polite to say so! After running through a questionnaire with the receptionist I was given an appointment for the following week. Wow! A medical professional who can see you in a week, well I’ve never…!
Imagine my delight when only two days later I received a call to say a sleep study had become available for the following night and that after Dr Papadopoulos had read through my answers to the questionnaire he would like to offer the spot to PLP!
So on Saturday afternoon PLP and I bundled our PJ’s and pillows into the car and off we went for a “special sleep over” at St George Private Hospital. PLP was excited due to the promise of a milkshake and doughnut date the following day if she behaved; yes bribery works on all levels in our home…!
We arrived at the hospital, checked in and were herded up to a special sleep ward. Each room was equipped with video monitoring, a myriad of specialised machines and microphones. Dr Papadopoulos kindly graced us with his presence at around 6:30pm, yes, on a Saturday night when most other specialists are kicking back at country clubs reaping what they sew, Dr Papadopoulos was popping in to reassure both PLP and I that we were going to be in the hands of the very experienced Nurse Henry for the evening.
Nurse Henry was a very welcoming chap who made quick work of attaching a seemingly endless number of electrodes, probes, bibs, bobs and thingy-ma-jigs to a very patient PLP who amazingly, sat still and didn’t flinch at all!
After 20 minutes of being wired up, Nurse Henry left PLP and I to go to sleep…..… at 7pm! Good-freakin-Lord, PLP hasn’t gone to sleep before 8pm in 2 years, this is not going to happen!!!
At this point, Mummy was craving fermented grape juice as she was certain sleep would not be had in this private little enclave nor by the entire ward! I laid there on the uncomfortable way–too-narrow-for-my-considerable-girth sofa bed waiting for sleep to wash over us both. Amazingly, PLP was asleep in mere moments – what the actual f**k?! My mind started racing. She’s blown a hole in my story! The specialist is going to think I have Munchausen’s! PLP has made a right of liar out of me and gone to sleep instantly!
But then, in the quiet, it began… the symphonic range of PLP’s snore broke the silence. This is what we were in there for, not to prove that PLP has 89 reasons to get out bed before she actually goes to sleep each night.
The night went rather smoothly, with only 2 visits from Nurse Henry to reattach errant wires during the night. At 5am we were woken, unwired, offered a bowl of cereal and unceremoniously booted from the hospital, so the room can be turned over for the next user.
Two weeks later, we visited Dr Papadopoulos, who gave us some utterly disturbing news. Our Perfect Little Princess is suffering from OBSTRUCTIVE SLEEP APNOEA. The presentation of his findings was distressing to say the least. The facts, figures, graphs and video evidence from that one night of sleep showed amongst many things, that PLP’s sleep quality was ‘fragmented by frequent arousals, 19.7 per hour’ and ‘sleep efficiency was only 58.8%’.
From birth our beautiful PLP has snored. “She gets it from Daddy”, I would often quip. “She purrs like a kitten”, I would marvel as I watched her sleep. At bedtime, we would “wait for her to start snoring” before commando rolling off the bed and sneaking out of her room. Well, eff me, it ain’t cute!
We may have taken the scenic route, but I think we’ve found the cause for so many of PLP’s behaviours. I mean, think about it, if I, as a 40 year old grown woman, don’t have a full eight hours for just one night, then I am literally a monster all day! This poor poppet hasn’t had a proper night’s sleep in 1213 and counting days!
Where do we go from here? Well, thank goodness, PLP won’t end up with a CPAP mask to sleep with every night like an adult would. Instead a tonsillectomy coupled with an adenoidectomy are the next steps. PLP is booked in at the end of the month for surgery, when, we are told by anyone who knows the story, that we’ll have a different child after the operation…! So it’s a case of watch this space in regards to behavioural changes.
If you’re keen on reading more, this is a really interesting story from the Sunday Night program on channel 7 featuring Dr Papadopoulos.
Wish me luck!