I respect Kathy Shaidle’s war against creeping Sharia and Islamofascism and her war in support of free speech. However, I’m not a fan of her war against homosexual equality, which she prosecutes by stigmatizing homosexuals at every possible opportunity. She is very much against punishing thought crimes and speech crimes, but has no qualm about punishing in every way possible the BEING crime of homosexuality, which she has equated, via past linkage that I didn’t bother to keep, to being on a par with being a murderer. By this standard, regardless of how virtuously you lead your life, if you commit the being crime of homosexuality, you are just as bad as a murderer.
Also, no one, under that withering and all-encompassing barrage of condemnation, ever decides to cast their ethics and morals aside since they might as well be hanged for a sheep as NOTHING AT ALL. So the hope-killing, soul-killing, conscience-killing condemnation is not what is responsible for any moral and ethical lapses in the homosexual community at all, according to this line of reasoning — it is the intrinsically bad badness of the bad homosexuals.
So, the evidence Ms. Shaidle offers up today of the intrinsic badness of homosexuality is the sudden and unexplained death of 33-year-old Stephen Gately of the Irish boy band, Boyzone. Gately smoked some marijuana, then fell asleep on a couch and never woke up. He and his civil-union-husband had gone to a nightclub that evening and returned with a man they picked up. Apparently Gately was too sleepy for a three-some, so the two other men let him sleep and continued with the evening’s plan of sex.
Since one of the standard jokes of sitcoms is the straight man’s dream of three-somes, I don’t see straight people really being able to condemn the three-way angle of this story. Ditto the drugs.
Here’s the thing.
Healthy 33-year-olds who have undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea really can take a normal amount of a sedating drug — alcohol, prescription drugs, marijuana, or whatever — and die of the combination of length of an apneic episode complicated by the sedating action of the drug making it impossible for the brain to send a strong enough signal, or a signal that the body can respond to, in order for the body to wake up and open the collapsed airway. There is a feedback mechanism the brain monitors between the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood and when the oxygen gets too low, the brain stops sending the signal to breathe. This is how the brain knows how to allow the body to die.
I almost died this way from one Percocet that I took for some of the worst pain of my life and before falling asleep on the couch. If I hadn’t had six cups of coffee that day, I might have died. I woke up gasping and diaphoretic with a thready pulse I could barely feel and I barfed my guts out — these are all symptoms of cardiac distress. I had to call 911 and I spent three days in the hospital taking heart tests and getting an angiogram, just in case you need that as a measure of “almost died.”
Here’s another thing. I do not think there are currently any post-mortem tests to determine in an autopsy whether someone died of obstructive sleep apnea — although I bet the results of Gately’s autopsy of pulmonary edema would be consistent with trying to breathe against the vacuum of a collapsed airway for several minutes, if the medical examiner thought about it.
And a reminder — Billy Mays died in his sleep for no apparent reason with a normal amount of sedating prescription drugs in his system that autopsy results and pill counts showed he was taking as prescribed. I said at the time I thought sleep apnea took him, too. I still do.
Update, 10/17/09: I don’t think I made it clear how sudden death due to obstructive sleep apnea works — Gately’s husband did not neglect him:
- An apparently healthy person, let’s call him Stephen, with undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea, gets extremely tired due to travel, work or play.
- Stephen takes a normal amount of any kind of sedating chemical: wine or alcohol, prescribed painkillers or anxiety medication, or a recreational drug like marijuana.
- Stephen feels overwhelmingly sleepy and falls asleep.
- During sleep, Stephen’s airway collapses repeatedly due to the undiagnosed sleep apnea and the amount of oxygen in Stephen’s bloodstream falls.
- The reduced blood oxygen levels make Stephen progressively weaker and the sedating effect of the drug he has taken, even though it is a normal dose, reduces the ability of his brain to send the signals to his body to wake up and open his airway. It is not long before the feedback to the brain between the oxygen and cardon dioxide levels get so out of whack that the brain stops sending the signal to breathe.
- Showing absolutely no sign of distress at all, Stephen dies.
Now, at the beginning of this sequence, Stephen is only sleepy. In fact, this can happen without drugs being involved at all — that’s how my friend Patrick died last year, four months after I told him he really needed a sleep study that he never got. Absolutely nothing is out of the ordinary. Stephen is not in any distress at all. Absolutely the ONLY way to be able to predict that his life is in danger under these circumstances is to KNOW that he has obstructive sleep apnea and must NEVER fall asleep without using his CPAP machine.
So what I’m really telling you if that if you know you snore and you wake up and don’t feel energetic and refreshed in the morning after a full night’s sleep, or you have frequent day-time sleepiness, and you don’t see a sleep specialist to see if obstructive sleep apnea is causing those problems, you could wake up dead. Or, if you have a loved one whose breathing during sleep is a sequence of silences (apneas) and snores, or raspy breathing (hypopneas) and normal breathing, you stand a good chance of waking up one morning next to their dead body.
Update, 10/18/09: Welcome, gentle readers from Little Miss Attila! Joy — rest is the basis of activity — everything depends on good sleep!