Humans are not Perfect

Aurora S., Dumont High School

Humans are not robots, thus humans are not perfect. Some students can breeze thru a test while others have to work hard to achieve the grade they want. The leadership of our society has pushed our youth to essentially be “perfect.” There is more emphasis on testing and less time on learning valuable concepts which can help us students in achieving our goals. An abundance of tests is not the answer for students to reach the next level. More focus on techniques will better prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s jobs. There are numerous types of students, but the education system places them in two groups. Group one experiences the standard curriculum and groups two experiences the special education curriculum. When people hear that a child is in special education, they might think that the child has a mental disability. This is not always the case.

In 4th grade, I was diagnosed with a comprehension learning disability and speech disorder. I was placed into special education for language arts and mathematics. When I first found out about my learning disability, I didn’t know what it meant. I was shocked and concerned. My first thought was: “were my friends going to treat me differently?” I soon realized that my education is more important than any peer pressure. Once I realized that the special education program was going to help me, I cooperated. I began working with the teachers and we came up with a plan that would help me get back into the “regular” classes. The plan included study techniques and memorization skills. I was assigned goals every marking period and I achieved every single one of them. From day number one I set my mind on getting out of the special education program by the end of 8th grade. It was an ambitious goal that I had to work twice as hard for. The teachers gave me the special education placement test at the end of 8th grade. The test revealed I was ready to be taken out of the special education classes and placed into College Prep courses except for Mathematics which I was placed into Algebra I. I was so thrilled and proud of myself for this huge accomplishment, but I knew there were obstacles still in front of me. I will always have my comprehension learning disability and speech disorder, but now I have accepted it and I learned how to deal with it. I don’t allow my disabilities to stop me from reaching my goals. Since I’ve been taken out of the special education program, my academics have grown tremendously. In addition to my academics early in my junior year my guidance counselor recommended me to tutor 2 special education students in the Dumont School District. I have been tutoring them for the past year. With the assistance of my tutoring, their grades have improved by one letter grade in every subject. When I heard this I felt so proud of myself. Knowing what it is like being on the outside looking in, I can share my triumphs with hopes of finding their own.

I will continue to push myself to be the best I can be. This is easier said than done. Since I had to grow up, dealing with my comprehension learning disability and speech disorder, I feel as though I can give back to others struggling with these disabilities as well. Entering my freshman year of college, I would like to study under the Pre-Med track in hopes of helping others understand disabilities. I look back at being placed in special education and most people would consider this to be a setback and I now realize it might have been the best thing that could have ever of happened to me.

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Mother

Eric H., Victor Central School

The crowd roared as our football team got closer to the goal. Just then a phone rang in the crowd. It was my mother’s phone. She rarely received phone calls and wondered who could be calling. She noticed the area code was in Maine where she grew up and still had family. She was nervous as she answered the call. It was not a good sign—a doctor was on the other end of the line.

Her mother was aging and dealing with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). She had been dealing with what she thought was a cold, but as it turned out, it was pneumonia. She was feeling severely ill and was taken to the hospital. Over the next few hours her condition worsened. It was to the point where the doctors needed to know whether to resuscitate should it be necessary. It was close to becoming necessary. That is when my mother was called. My mother was asked to make the decision on whether or not efforts should be made to resuscitate.

My mother had recently had a discussion with her mother about this exact situation. Based on that discussion she knew that her mother would choose—do not resuscitate. My mother asked the doctor questions about what efforts had been done up to this point and whether there was anything noninvasive that could be done to improve her mother’s chances of surviving. The doctor suggested trying CPAP therapy. He explained this would help open the airway to allow a higher level of oxygen into the bloodstream and perhaps give her a chance to survive. However, he thought perhaps her condition had degraded too far for the therapy to work. He did not give my mother much hope in terms of the outcome.

My mother gave the go ahead to try CPAP therapy. Doctors provided ongoing status calls on whether the CPAP therapy was working. Miraculously, there was a stop to the downward spiral and then small hints of improvement.

My mother attributes her mother’s survival to the CPAP therapy. She thought for sure that her mother would not survive based on the doctor’s description of her condition upon entering the hospital and the rapid decline in her ability to breathe. She thanked the doctor for suggesting the use of CPAP. Continued use of CPAP contributed to improvement that allowed her mother to leave the hospital.

After leaving the hospital, her mother continued to use CPAP therapy at night while she slept to improve her ability to get oxygen to the lungs and ultimately to the bloodstream. While she did not like having a mask over her face, she did find that when she woke in the mornings, she was more rested and felt better than she had before using CPAP. She was willing to put up with a small inconvenience for the benefits CPAP provided her.

I will never forget the day my mother received the call from the hospital. We were very fortunate that CPAP therapy was available and that it was recommended by the doctor. It gave us all more time to spend with someone we all loved very much.

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William

Erika C., Calvary Christian Academy

 

  William had long harassed his family by means of his undiagnosed sleep disorder. His wife, in fact, had taken to harassing him back. She had woken him at least three times last night to inform that he had stopped breathing. He wasn’t totally convinced, it seemed to him that he wouldn’t be nearly as tired if she would just let him sleep.
With a yawn he trudged down the stairs in search of a mug of coffee. Finding it he attempted to pour a cup, but spilt it over the counter and his hand. Mumbling about his recent increase in clumsiness he went to get a rag to sop up the mess, however, he had to initiate his hunt twice as he forgot what he was walking to the sink for.
     He started out for the car, but returned moments later in search of his wallet. He began the trek upstairs, puffing as he went. William stomped down the stairs, now in a bad mood, and groused about losing some weight until he was well out of breath.
He finally made it out of the house, into the car, and to work, all on time. He began his assignments among them, scheduling appointments. He then recalled he had a meeting planned for noon today and rushed into his car. He arrived in the conference room with not a moment to spare only to discover it empty. Pulling out his phone he learned that the appointment he was trying to attend was scheduled for noon tomorrow. A closer look revealed he had made the meeting only a few hours before hopping into his car. He drove back to work fed up with his faulty memory. Once he got back to the office he grabbed his phone and called his doctor.
Next week he attended his appointment, on time and on the right date. He described his memory deficiency, weight gain, tiredness, irritability and even the snoring to the physician. The medic checked him over and then looked up William’s nose. He found William had a deviated septum and scheduled him a polysomnography.
William took his sleep study, the results showed his breathing was interrupted 31 times in an hour. He was diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea and scheduled for surgery. His surgery went well, despite its being scheduled over Christmas, William did quite well too. After his surgery he began using a CPAP machine and had another polysomnography. This sleep study showed he had nearly no apnea. He felt good for a while, more rested, clearheaded, happier, and even a little bit smart; but after a few months the grogginess returned.
He went to the doctor again, while taking his stats the medic found his oxygen saturation level was a mere 71%, low enough for the technician to call a crash cart. He was referred for yet another sleep study. When the results came back they showed William had had 54 apneas in an hour!
He took home a CPAP machine; but the mask was so disagreeable William began taking it off in his sleep. He talked to the doctor about it and, after several refinements, it was comfortable enough to remain on his dormant face. With the further adjustments of moisturizing crème for his nose and a lot more water for himself the mask was bearable.
After a few months William found himself waking up refreshed. Tucking his wallet into his back pocket he strode down the stairs to grab a mug of coffee. He stooped with a smile to pat his dog on the head and grab his briefcase before heading off to work.
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Sleep Troubles

Gobrielle F., Elizabethtown College

 

Uhhhhh…

David Williams cracked an eye open to the sun streaming in through the bedroom’s bay window. Another sleepless night. He lay there a moment, experiencing a tide of pain roll from his head down to his feet. The pounding in his ears was reminiscent of the tribal drums with which he was all too familiar. A shooting pain had him clutching his jaw and reaching for the breath strips sitting on the nightstand. The shrill ringing of the telephone on the bedside table shatters the calm of the early morning.

Steep the leaves until the water is a deep, earthen auburn.

The words of the shaman he had met on sabbatical back in 1976 floated across his mind more and more lately. He had met the Onondaga shaman during his last sabbatical in the autumn of 1976. A sabbatical he’d taken for research as well as health reasons. The medicine man had given him a small leather drawstring pouch filled with herbs and leaves. He instructed him to brew the leaves into a tea to cure his “sleep troubles.” He had schooled his face into a grave and serious mask; while masking his skepticism. Of course, back then he had only suffered a couple of sleepless nights a week. Nothing a strong cup of coffee couldn’t alleviate.

Looking back now on the last year, he couldn’t remember a night where he hadn’t woken up in a cold sweat, struggling to get air back into his lungs. Suddenly, that tea is looking better and better. Hell, a little more caffeine couldn’t hurt. Resolved to give it a shot, he rolls the pouch between his hands on his way down to the kitchen. He lays it on the counter as he goes about filling the kettle.

As he sits down at the counter to wait, he examines the pouch more closely. The worn leather was adorned with an intricate beadwork that had him, unconsciously, leaning closer and closer.

PHWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEET!”

The shrieking of the kettle brings him out of his musings. With a quick shake of his head, he gets up and makes his way over to the stove. He pours the steaming water over the leaves; and as they steep, he brings the mug under his nose and inhales deeply; the spicy heady aroma comforting.

He tentatively takes a sip. Then another. And another until the cup is gone. His eyelids feel heavier and his hand drives the mug back down to the counter with enough force to make it rattle.

Wow, that stuff really hits you fast…

Creeping black tendrils skulk across his vision as sleep threatens to overtake him. He trudges into the living room and sinks down into the couch. His last words before slipping into the darkness,

Gotta be tryptophan or somet…

He blinks and finds himself on a desert plain on a path, bordered on each side by cacti. He is disoriented but not frightened as he thinks the tea to be some kind of hallucinogen. After musing a few moments at the strangeness of the dream, he begins to walk. Time itself seems to be moving much more slowly. After only about a quarter mile, David’s breathing becomes labored. Soon after, the heat becomes even more oppressive on his back and each step seems to require more and more effort. As if he was wading through molasses.

Further and further he trudges along the path until in the distance another form is visible. He holds up his arm to block out the offending sun and squints his eyes to make it out. He blinks once again and suddenly it’s right in front of him.

David blinks slowly as the turtle comes to a stop a few yards away. It opens its mouth and speaks, with a voice full of gravitas, reminiscent of James Earl Jones.

-“David, you must listen. You’ve come to me in this world for a reason.

WWha-?

               -We don’t have much time, David. The troubles that you have been having, are not yours alone. I have come to charge you with a task. You have the tools to make it a reality. Our interaction is sowing the seeds in your subconscious, which will remain when you awake. You will create the technology to help others like you, David. A machine capable of restoring sleep to yourself and others. Our time is almost done. Don’t forget what I have told you. Go now.

David jerks back to consciousness with a start.

 

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Ben

Nathan H.,  Southeast Missouri State

It was unavoidable.   Everyone in the last school knew, and now everyone at this new school would know.   He could not go through this again.   Ben hadn’t felt this heaviness in over a year, and now it draped over him like a plastic tarp, threatening to suffocate him.   It was bad enough that he suffocated while he slept, but now he feels the suffocation in his waking hours.   Suffocation from pure embarrassment.

Ben couldn’t possibly spend all of his recess time hiding behind the Tom’s Turbo Treehouse next to the kickball fields.   Sure it was safe.   No one ever came back here during the 2nd grade recess period. “Maybe if the kids don’t have the chance to ask me to Nate’s sleepover, it will come and go without anyone realizing they didn’t invite me”, Ben thought.   Sleepovers were what kids did, and Ben just wanted to feel like a normal kid. But what would the kids at school say about him once they found out he had to wear a bizarre contraption while he slept?

Ben first heard leaves rustling underfoot.   Someone was walking his way.   Ben sat as still as possible, hoping they would walk right past.   Maybe it was just Coach Benson getting supplies for gym class.   Yeah, that was it.   Just Coach Benson.   He will never know I am here.

“Ben, what are you doing behind here?   We want you to pitch for our ball game.   You know you are the best pitcher. ”   It was Nate.   The last person on earth Ben wanted to see.   “Oh, alright”, said Ben.   Ben was hoping that Nate couldn’t read his mind.   Surely Nate would forget that he hadn’t asked Ben to his sleepover.   Nate turned around and Ben knew it was coming.   He might have even flinched a little, because he knew it was all over for him.   “Hey, Ben, you coming to my sleepover on Friday?”, Nate asked.   The question seemed to bounce around his head like a ping pong ball.   Ben thought surely he would faint.   “Uh, I don’t know”, replied Ben.   “Well, you better be there, my mom is baking her famous oatmeal cookies.   Once you taste these cookies, you will dream about them every night!” exclaimed Nate.   Nate threw Ben the baseball, and the game was on.

Ben’s mom heard the front door open and then slam.   Ben was in tears by the time he got into the kitchen.   “Mom, I just had the worst day of my entire life!” shouted Ben.   Before Ben’s mom could even respond, Ben continued.   “Nate invited me to his sleepover and I just can’t go, Mom.   They will tease me forever, just like the others!”, and with that, Ben ran to his bedroom, flopped on the bed and began to cry.”

“Ben”, his mom said, “you have your new machine that helps you breathe; you don’t have to worry about snoring anymore.”   She walked to his nightstand and held up his CPAP machine.   Ben rolled over.   “They will make fun of me wearing that . . . I can’t wear that thing!” Ben mumbled.  “I’ve got an idea, Ben”, said his mom, as she walked out of his room.

All the boys were standing around Ben and staring.   It was time for bed at Nate’s sleepover and Ben had reluctantly taken his CPAP machine out of his backpack.   “Ben, what is that?” asked Johnny.   “Is that a gas mask?”, questioned James. “I think that is a pilot’s mask”, exclaimed Robbie.   Ben braced himself for the teasing as he placed his CPAP mask over his face and turned around.   There was a gasp and the room went silent.   Everyone couldn’t take their eyes off of Ben and this mysterious contraption.   Ben started to explain, but was interrupted by the boys crowding around him, asking to try on his pilot’s mask.   Ben explained to all the boys what his CPAP machine was about and how it helped him breathe at night.

That night was the best night in the world for Ben.   Everyone wanted to sleep by Ben so they could hear the humming of the pilot’s mask.   Ben knew he had the best mom around . . . as she had decorated his CPAP mask so Ben would look like a cool pilot in a fighter jet.  Yeah, this CPAP machine is pretty awesome just like my mom.

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Dad’s loud Snoring

Sarah H.

At the start, it was unnoticeable. The loud, often obnoxious snoring radiating from my parents room that drove mom to spend nights by herself on the couch? Normal, everybody knows that dads snore. Dad coming home from work and collapsing in front of the television, simply because he lacked the energy to do anything else? Normal, he had a hard day at work, of course he’s tired. My once cheery, fun-loving father snapping at me for the hundredth time that day, because his mind is so foggy with exhaustion that he hardly knows what he’s saying? Normal, he probably just needs some space.

Yet the fact was, our family had not been “normal”, in a very long time. For years, my father (and as a result our entire family), suffered symptoms from what we just thought was exhaustion. He was middle aged and had gained a few pounds since high school, so his lack of energy was attributed to growing old and gaining weight. Little did we know that those are the two most common factors associated with a potentially serious sleep disorder known as Sleep Apnea.

Finally, my mother was able to persuade him to see a doctor about his symptoms. Although I’m sure she was concerned about his health, I also think she just wanted relief from his dreadful snoring. Whatever the motivation, my father finally saw a physician and was formally diagnosed with Sleep Apnea. We found that though Sleep Apnea is quite common, it is definitely not normal. Due to his Sleep Apnea, my father would regularly stop breathing while he slept, and these temporary cessations of breath could last for a few seconds to even a few minutes!

Luckily, the disorder is treatable. My dad was fitted with a CPAP machine, a device that pushed a continual stream of airway pressure into his nasal cavity. The effects of this treatment were almost immediate. My dad was no longer sluggish or irritable during the day, and the bone-crushing exhaustion he was used to gradually faded away. Finally, after years of suffering, my dad started getting the good night of rest that he deserved. CPAP has definitely allows him to be able to live a more fulfilling life, and I only wish that others could find this same relief. This industry could change the health of so many Americans, but many do not even know what Sleep Apnea is. By raising awareness of the devastating effects of this disorder, we will be improving the quality of life for so many people and giving them the opportunity of treatment. There are many debilitating disorders in America, but Sleep Apnea should not be one of them.

 

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The Amazing Julie Bean.

Caroline R., Cape May County Technical High School

This is a story about The Amazing Julie Bean. Her last name isn’t Bean and no one seems to know how she got the name, but for as long as I have known her, people have called her Julie Bean. I added the amazing part because she’s…..well, she’s amazing.

We met in kindergarten when my family relocated half way through the school year. I was all alone and in need of a friend. Any friend. Unfortunately, it didn’t start well. I tried to strike up conversation by asking some of my new classmates to borrow a Crayon. I began to get discouraged when the first few classmates ignored my request. I didn’t know her name at the time, but the next person to ask looked like a doll had come to life. She had beautiful long hair, bright blue eyes and the most perfect dress I had ever seen. It was, of course, The Amazing Julie Bean. She smiled when I asked her to borrow a crayon and I began to feel the excitement of being accepted. Then she answered. “No way.” “Not a chance.” “I don’t know you.” I was crushed and did what any kid in my situation would have done. I cried. Somehow I made it to the end of the day only to find my seat on the bus was with Julie Bean.

As luck would have it, we were one of the last stops, so we had plenty of time on our hands. I couldn’t wait to get off the bus when our stop was finally reached. My parents gave me the “first day is always rough” speech and to my dismay, sent me back the next day for more. I hesitantly took my seat next to Julie and before I could get settled, she offered me her Crayons. Not just one. The whole box.

That was thirteen years ago, but I remember it like it happened yesterday. Julie and I became best friends. We were inseparable, doing homework together, sleeping over at each other’s house and somewhere during that time she became Julie Bean.

Julie and I continued growing up together, always relying on each other during tough times and generally enjoying life like you read about in story books. We had shared school, sports and eventually agreed that boys weren’t so bad after all.

When we were in tenth grade we started to talk about going to college together and the possibility that we might be separated for the first time ever. We knew our friendship was stronger than most, so we really weren’t too concerned. Then tragedy struck. Julie’s father, a healthy, funny, loving, caring “dad” to us both, died in his sleep.

It was Julie who did her homework on how this could happen. Her research informed her about obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and included facts like: it affects four percent of middle-aged men and that most sufferers remain undiagnosed. She shared her knowledge with us and followed up with information that explains why Julie Bean is and always will be, The Amazing Julie Bean. She shared with us that her father was diagnosed, but rarely used the CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine that sat on his nightstand next to his bed. Her next words were life changing. The Amazing Julie Bean said that the minute she understood OSA, she knew that my father was also a sufferer. She went on to tell us more, but what we remember most is her description of how my father sounded just like hers when she walked by his bedroom door.

My father does indeed have OSA and he too did not usually bother to wear the simple CPAP device that also sat on his nightstand, but because of the Amazing Julie Bean, he has faithfully worn his device ever since.

This past summer I got a job in an ice cream shop on the beach and the owner asked me if I knew anyone else that could be trusted as much as he trusted me. The Amazing Julie Bean and I had as much fun as we ever had. I will always remember her as the kid who finally shared her Crayons, but more importantly as The Amazing Julie Bean.

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CPAP: Dad Sleeps like a Baby

Brooklyn J., Payson High School

My alarm buzzes me awake; it’s 5:30 and it’s time to get to school. I rub my eyes and drag myself out of bed. It’s too early. I stumble pass my parents room on my way to the kitchen. I can hear my dad snoring louder than ever. “How do I not hear that when I’m sleeping?” I ask myself.

I reach the kitchen and start pouring cold cereal into a bowl. The couch in the family room creaks pulling me from my daze. I’m not sure what made that noise. I walk to the couch to find my Mom sleeping on the couch, again. She’s been sleeping on the couch since last week. Why was she sleeping out here? Were Mom and Dad fighting? My brain flashed back to last night when I overheard Mom yelling at Dad, “I refuse to sleep in the same room as you until you get this figured out!”

The following days consisted of my Dad going to a lot of late night “doctor appointments,” or that’s what he said. He seemed fine to me, just a little more irritated than usual and very tired, probably because he and Mom were at odds. My Mom continued to sleep on the couch. I started to worry. My parents couldn’t be getting a divorce, could they? The worries engulfed my everyday routine as mom continued to sleep in the living room, and as Dad never seemed to engage in any family conversations.

During our quiet Sunday dinner, I couldn’t take it anymore and asked, “Are you guys fighting? Are you going to get a divorce?” My Mom gave me a shocked look. Dad looked up from his plate. After a long, very awkward silence my Mom finally speaks up. “No, why would you even think that?” I explain to her everything I’ve noticed in the past few weeks. When I’m done talking the two are silent, again, for a long time. Dad finally breaks the ice by laughing, hysterically. I am mad now and very confused. My parents are getting a divorce and they’re laughing about it? “Honey,” my Dad starts when he’s calmed down, “we’re not fighting. I was diagnosed with sleep apnea after taking multiple sleeping tests.” It took a second to let the information settle in my brain. Oh boy, let me tell you how dumb I felt! But I still didn’t know what sleep apnea was. I started asking my parents questions. What was a Sunday dinner turned into a sleep apnea fact finding and Q&A session.

Sleep apnea mostly affects older, overweight men. I love my dad with all my heart, but he matched this description to one degree or another. He’d probably debate a few descriptions, but he still matches the profile. My Dad died a little inside every time he went to bed. Sleep apnea causes you to stop breathing while you are sleeping. When Dad went to sleep, the muscles in the back of his throat relaxed, which holds up the soft palate and some throat tissue, which creates what I like to call the “air tunnel.” When all that tissue relaxes they close up the air tunnel, so now dad can’t breathe. Luckily, his body realized he wasn’t breathing so it woke him up with a gag or a snort. The crazy thing about sleep apnea is you don’t stop breathing once in a night and then continue on in your slumber; it can occur 100 times in a single night. That lack of oxygen can lead to a stroke!

When my Dad was done explaining to me about his condition, he walked out to his car and brought back some weird, boxy machine, which he called a CPAP machine. He told us this would help stop the snoring and allow him to breathe normally throughout the night. I looked over at my Mom and she seemed more relieved than Dad did. He now wears a mask over his nose every night that creates pressure so the muscle won’t relax while dad sleeps. And now he sleeps like a baby and breathes easier.

After Mom and Dad went to sleep that night–in the same bed–I took out my laptop and looked up sleep apnea to learn a little more about it. I checked out the symptoms of sleep apnea: loud snoring, attention problems, irritability, and more. After scrolling through the list a few times, it dawned on me that the website had missed a symptom: Divorce.

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