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New FDA-approved device tested at Saint Luke's helps patients with central sleep apnea

Posted at 5:02 PM, Oct 31, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-31 18:02:22-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- When it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, adults should get about eight hours.

But for years, Shawn Johnston was only getting about an hour and a half of sleep each night.

“I was sleeping and then I woke up and I just couldn't breathe,” Johnston said.

For ten years, Johnston struggled with his central sleep apnea.

“At some point, there would be time I would wake up and struggle with just trying to remember where I'm at,” Johnston said. “When it even got worse, I'd even forget my name and sometimes and my kids' names when they came around, and so that was really really bothersome.”

With this disorder, Saint Luke’s Cardiologist Andrew Kao said sometimes at night, the brain forgets to tell the body to breathe.

“Every time someone wakes up, in his case maybe 50 times an hour there's a shot of adrenalin that the body produces that says, ‘Hey you need to breathe,’” Dr. Kao said. “Every day, that's like playing Russian Roulette.”

Johnston was slowly losing his memory, and the disorder impacted his work and family. He said that was his turning point when he knew that something needed to change.

“When you look at something that you love and you saw come into this world and you struggle, even for a second and you just can't remember their name, it's heartbreaking,” Johnston said.

To change that, there was a new implantable device called the Remede System, used to help the body breathe.

“Now for the first time, we have a way of treating that and that's really really exciting,” Dr. Kao said.

Saint Luke’s was the leading clinical trial site across the country when the device was being tested.

“This particular device showed that it decreased the number of stoppage of breaths by more than 50 percent in most of our patients,” Dr. Kao said.

After surgery to implant the device, Johnston now remembers the feeling of getting a good night's sleep.

“When it got turned on for the first time, I felt like that was the first time I slept in ten years,” Johnston said. “I feel like I just have a normal life.”

Since the clinical trial began, Saint Luke’s Hospital states it has helped about 14 patients who suffer from central sleep apnea.