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‘My child stopped breathing for 59 seconds’

Worried mother says it is imperative parents closely observe their children even when they are asleep

Gulf News

Abu Dhabi – She had always been a loving mother to her firstborn child. One night, when he was four years old, Carol noticed that he had stopped breathing for 40 seconds during his sleep.

“I didn’t know what to do. I cannot even hold my breath for half a minute, yet my son was repeatedly not breathing. I was terrified,” Carol told Gulf News.

The Filipina homemaker, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, rushed her son to sleep experts the very next day.

“I knew that my son snored since he was a baby. At the time, I was cabin crew, and my son slept with my aged mother while I was away on flights around the world. But the fact that he stopped breathing was so scary,” Carol recounted.

Experts at the centre sent home a sleep technologist, and Carol’s son’s breathing was monitored while he slept.

“The technologist fitted little sensors on him to observe the breathing. Soon I got a call, asking me to come in. It turned out that my son once stopped breathing in his sleep for 59 seconds!” Carol said.

Her son was just shy of five years at the time, but he was nine kilograms overweight.

“The doctors told me that his tonsil and adenoid were big. They said a diet was unavoidable and that my son had to lose the weight,” Carol said.

So the mother put her son on a strict diet rich in fibre and vegetable and fruit, while cutting backs on carbohydrates, sugar and even gluten. Every month since June, his progress is also checked by a sleep expert.

In addition, the family was advised to start with certain therapies. In the first phase, the patient had to use a lip trainer to allow him to breath more through the nose during sleep. After this, doctors prescribed the use of another silicone device that pushes the tongue up to open the airways during sleep. Carol said her son often spits it out at night, but that his breathing is noticeably better when he uses it.

Based on his progress, the treatment may be changed again. In the meantime, the now-five-year-old boy has lost a few kilograms already.

“The scariest thing is that we never knew this was happening to my son, least of all him. He used to sleep in the next room and whenever I think about it, I am afraid,” Carol said.

The patient now co-sleeps with his parents so that Carol can observe him and tend to him if needed.

“I would tell all parents, especially mothers, to closely observe their children, even when they are asleep. You never know when they might need our help,” she said.