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Help please re: girlfriend - utterly distraught

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notsure31 +0 points · over 2 years ago Original Poster

My girlfriend is 42kg, 5'5, and 21 years old. She's never been diagnosed with sleep apnea however very rarely complains of difficulty breathing at night, but no heavily noticeable incidents. She doesn't snore at all, ever, or awake me in any way. She has frequent migraines which come and go. She's been to a neurologist before and no underlying neurological disorder was found.

This week for the first time a few nights ago she said that she awoke in the middle of the night but could not move, and saw white light everywhere. This seemed to force her back to sleep shortly after. Two nights ago this happened again. Yesterday she complained of stomach pain as if acid was trying to come up. She seemed to have some minor acid reflux symptoms for the first time beginning 2 months ago (burping occasionally) but yesterday the stomach pain was particularly bad. She didn't have this before 2 months ago. Last night just as we were about to sleep she suddenly awoke with a heavy cough and what seemed to be slight difficulty breathing, she drank some water and she fell asleep after that, all seemed to be fine.

This morning, I was awoken by gasping noises. I looked at my gf and saw her appearing to be gasping desperately for air. Long pauses of 10-20 seconds, followed by multiple short wheezes attempting to gain oxygen. I tried to wake her up in many ways. First I spoke loudly to her with no response, then I tapped her on the face, rocked her, shook her, nothing woke her up. I dialled 911, ambulance arrived. Ambulance officers attempted to wake her to no avail. This is now at about 20 minutes, she's still following the same pattern of gasping for air after not breathing for 10-20 second intervals. She's unable to wake up. She goes in the ambulance, to the hospital, admitted to ER. There the doctor is also unable to wake her, same symptoms. Her pulse was about 90.

According to the ECG that they immediately ran, her heart was fine. They did reflex tests on her foot and she seemed to be responsive. Blood pressure was 135/80 or so. In fact according to the doctor she should have been conscious then and there, however she could not be awoken. After a while the gasping stopped, and she just seemed to be in a deep sleep, unable to be awoken, unable to respond to anything other than reflex tests.

After a further 10-20 minutes, she awoke. Last thought she had she was asleep in bed. She said she felt very dizzy and was surprised by where she was. Everything was spinning completely for her she said. She complained of a very strong squeezing feeling in her heart/chest, and a pain in her stomach, in addition to nausea. She did not vomit, but made the reflexive vomiting motions, just omitting mostly what appeared to be saliva. ER doctors were in a rush so just prescribed vertigo medication, acid reflux medication, and something else to assist with nausea. They recommended she consult with a gastroenterologist for possible GERD. I mentioned about the difficulty breathing in sleep sometimes, and thus they also recommended a pulmonologist. To them she appeared more or less normal at that time and suitable for discharge. She felt very, very tired at time of discharge.

I took her immediately to a gastroenterologist where acid-reflux, anti-vertigo and heartburn medication was prescribed, similar to the ER doctor. She made a referral for an abdominal ultrasound which I will schedule later.

Now, here is where I'm utterly perplexed. I did a lot of extensive "Dr Googling" (as one probably never should) after this incident and am confused. Everything I can find about sleep apnea seems to indicate that people can easily be woken from their episodes where they can't breath. Furthermore, my girlfriend didn't mention any memory of not being able to breath, only a pain in her chest and stomach. I asked her if she had pain in her jaw or arms (for possible heart attack symptoms that the ECG did not pick up) however she said she didn't.

I also cannot find any evidence of GERD, or GERD + sleep apnea combined, leading to a scenario where a person absolutely cannot be woken up whilst they appear to be having difficulty breathing. All my research on google doesn't show this single scenario anywhere, in fact the closest thing this points to that I can find is a heart attack. Yet the doctors did not seem concerned about a heart attack, and the ECG seemed to be normal. Her blood test results were normal.

I'm utterly worried what will happen when I'm not with her as I'll be travelling tomorrow. What if I didn't call the ambulance? Would she have died? Was it a heart attack? Will this happen again soon? Is it just GERD or sleep apnea, or is it something else cardiovascular related? If so why didn't the ECG pick up on this?

I'll be scheduling the abdominal ultrasound and pulmonologist visit soon so will hear their thoughts, however until then I'd just love to hear from the community if they can relate to any of these symptoms, particularly being completely unable to be woken up by a third person such as a partner or family member for about an hour or so whilst appearing to have difficulty breathing. Also having no recollection of any of it? (ie: a partner saw it all and relayed these facts to you). Also why doesn't she snore at all if she has sleep apnea?

I'm completely confused here and am after any advice as the doctors always seemed to be in a hurry or attribute the white flashes etc. to anxiety.

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sleeptech +0 points · over 2 years ago Sleep Enthusiast

You need to find a good doctor who will listen to you.

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