“A.W.A.K.E. Angels” reconnect evacuated sleep apnea patients with their therapy

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AWAKE Angels hurricane harvey irma CAP CPAP Assistance Program

Grassroots effort unites sleep apnea patients with CPAP in hurricane-torn Texas

In September, the American Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA) was able to mobilize a network of volunteers to help deliver CPAP machines and equipment to victims of Hurricane Harvey.

This grassroots effort involved a coalition of individuals, sleep health professionals, and ASAA team members to see its way to fruition.

During times of chaos, it’s these efforts made by citizens in conjunction with first responders and nonprofits that can make the difference for those most desperate for care and comfort.

If you need to replace CPAP lost in the hurricane: 
Call or fax 888.293.3650, send an email to [email protected], visit the CAP page at www.sleepapnea.org, or reach us via surface mail at: ASAA, 524 Craig Ave, Tracy, MN 56175. 
Application form and information: https://www.tfaforms.com/4621033
Note: For existing CAP Program recipients, we already have prescriptions on file.

Why does CPAP matter during a disaster?

Harvey Geostationary VIS IR 2017Tens of thousands of people use CPAP in the state of Texas. As you probably know from reading posts in this blog, CPAP is not an optional therapy for many.

Untreated obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a risk factor for many chronic illnesses and conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, mental illness, and diabetes.

When people with OSA are experiencing major stress, such as evacuation from a storm or the loss of their home, it’s doubly important that they have their therapy available to help them get adequate sleep at night.

To further frustrate matters, the Reggie White Foundation, a Houston-based nonprofit which provides free PAP therapy for people in the area, was also flooded out by the storm.

It made sense for our CPAP Assistance Program (CAP) to step in to reconnect those who need their therapy with the equipment and supplies they might not be able to find, or which could be in very limited supply, at shelters or mobile emergency units.

Laura A. Linley, past president of the American Association of Sleep Technologists (AAST), recently said of this grassroots hurricane relief effort, of which the AAST was a vocal and digital supporter,

“This is goosebumps amazing… so proud to be part of this community!”

Here’s how it happened.

CPAP Relief timeline

Deciding to mobilize

Harvey rainfall potentialBy August 25, meteorologists determined the incoming tropical storm known as Harvey was expected to become a severe hurricane striking the state of Texas.

The staff at the ASAA brought up the possibility of a Katrina-like disaster. Discussion turned to the loss of CPAP for sleep apnea patients.

Maybe the ASAA could help those patients. Did we have it in us to coordinate an effort?

It became clear that, logistically, CAP and our A.W.A.K.E. support group communities would be our go-to organizations for establishing a hurricane relief effort.

By August 25, Chief Patient Officer Adam Amdur asked CAP and A.W.A.K.E. program coordinator Val Danielson to prepare CPAP machines and supplies to ship to Houston. Amdur gave the go-ahead to waive the usual CAP program fee.

However, the cost of shipping equipment became a concern.

Getting the word out

AWAKE Angels ResMed boxes in truck Tracy MN Delivery 5 e1507065017825It was suggested that members of the ASAA reach out to find a truck driver in the region who might be able to help. With the CAP warehouse situated in Tracy, MN, they hoped to find a trucker in the upper Midwest already hauling cargo to Texas. Maybe they would be able to add this emergency inventory of ResMed CPAP machines and supplies to the load.

Several calls also went out through the ASAA website, blog, and social media channels dedicated to these key service programs asking for donations, volunteers, and equipment to help serve the needs of sleep apnea patients in the Houston area who might be without their CPAP equipment.

AWAKE Angels KatiIn addition, the AAST joined the “phone tree,” with their president, Rita Brooks, offering to send out requests for help and contacts through their email lists and memberships, leading to offers to donate equipment or otherwise lend support.

Finally, community leader and advocate for patients Theresa Shumard found a trucker interested in volunteering for the delivery through a social media friend, Kati Edwards (pictured, left), of Niagara Falls, NY.

“We were so excited at this point,” Theresa said, “because we knew it was going to happen.”

Finding a convoy

AWAKE Angels hurricane harvey irma CAP CPAP Assistance ProgramOn September 3, Theresa announced in ongoing communications with the AAST that truck driver Kent Vickery (pictured, left) of Sioux City, IA (employed by Kottke Trucking Company in Buffalo Lake, MN) had volunteered to run the equipment from Minnesota to Texas.

The Kottke Trucking Company donated the gasoline so Kent could drive to Houston. On his way to Minnesota, he stopped at other donation points to fill his entire truck with items for evacuees.

AWAKE Angels Kottke truck tracy mn delivery 2 e1507071232466Kent arrived in Tracy on September 13. With the help of Val (pictured, right) and her assistant Megan Gramstad (pictured, left), he gathered 17 boxes encasing 100 PAP machines, 100 masks, and filters and cushions to deliver to prearranged stops in Texas.



Connecting the dots locally

AWAKE Angels DrSimmonsMeanwhile, Val connected with Houston-area A.W.A.K.E. member and sleep physician Jerald H. Simmons MD (pictured, left), and his partner Gerard J. Meskill MD, of Comprehensive Sleep Medicine Associates. They agreed to distribute half of the CPAPs and supplies that were en route to Texas.

When Kent arrived in Magnolia, TX (north of Houston), he met with A.W.A.K.E. Angel Linda Coker at a nearby truck stop.

AWAKE Angels Linda CokerLinda (pictured, left), a friend of Theresa’s in the local area, had offered to volunteer to deliver the equipment to their distribution points once Kent arrived in the region.

“Linda is the kind of person that no matter what is needed, she steps up to volunteer, donate, roll up her sleeves or whatever the case may be,” Theresa said.


Delivering support

AWAKE ANGELS beans kathi tom houston 720On September 18, Linda delivered half the CAP program shipment to Drs. Simmons and Meskell per arrangement.

When she experienced car trouble the next day, she asked friends Tom and Sandi Beans (pictured, left) for help.

Linda still needed to deliver the other half. The remaining CPAP cargo had been promised to a Cypress, TX clinic, the Houston Sleep Center (pictured, lower left) owned by Dr. Todd Swick. She and the Beans literally loaded the CPAPs into the Beans’ personal vehicle to complete the job.AWAKE Angels dr swick lab cypress tx 9 18 17 720

The last delivery occurred on September 19, 2017.

It takes a huge effort, relying on phone calls, texts, and social media, as well as the big hearts, spontaneous compassion, and the willingness of perfect strangers to unite for the common good, to make something like this happen.

We thank each and every one of these A.W.A.K.E. Angels for their part in this hurricane relief effort. We truly could not do any of this without their energy, vision, and support.

Your organization was kind enough to provide me with a CPAP after I lost mine in Hurricane Harvey. Very gratefully yours, Carla S., Houston, TX

How you can help us help others

The ASAA is dedicated to helping all that we can. This relief will be available through the recovery of Hurricane Harvey or while supplies last.

For those who wish to help support our efforts, we encourage you to contribute in two ways:

  1. We are currently accepting donations of gently used PAP devices that include CPAP, AutoPAP or Bi-level. Machines with under 6,000 hours that come from smoke-free homes will be accepted.
  2. You can also make monetary donations at https://donate.sleephealth.org/fundraise?fcid=1076104