Lake County man shares successful treatment for sleep apnea

November 14, 2023 | by NorthShore – Edward-Elmhurst Health

For over two decades, Greg Rockingham, 64, of Lake County, balanced a busy life as an educator and a musician while struggling to get a restful nights sleep due to sleep apnea.

"My sleep wasn't good, and my schedule wasn't very good for sleeping," says Rockingham.

For 25 years, his schedule was packed. During the day he worked as an educator, and at night he performed as a musician drumming in a jazz trio.

"I would get home at three or four in the morning, leave a few hours later to teach, come home, change clothes and go play for the evening," he explains. When he was able to sleep, he would either wake up because he would stop breathing, or his wife would wake him up because he was snoring.

Rockingham tried many different treatments for sleep apnea, including a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine, but nothing worked. “My sleep was getting worse and I was feeling horrible,” he says.

Then he saw a commercial for Inspire® therapy.

Unlike other treatments for sleep apnea, Inspire is an FDA-approved device that works inside the body by opening the airways while you sleep. The device can be placed in an outpatient procedure and is operated via a remote. It continuously monitors breathing patterns during sleep and delivers mild stimulation to key airway muscles, which keeps the airway open.

Rockingham did some research and decided he wanted to give Inspire a try. He met with Jonathan Pomerantz, MD, a specialist offering ear, nose and throat (ENT) services and treatment options at NorthShore University HealthSystem, part of NorthShore – Edward-Elmhurst Health.

Dr. Pomeranz was the first physician in Illinois to perform the procedure placing the Inspire device.

“Nationwide, Inspire has an 80% success rate and fewer than 1% of people with the device experience any complications,” he says. “It’s a great option for patients with moderate to severe sleep apnea who can’t tolerate a CPAP machine.”

Dr. Pomerantz ran several tests and confirmed that Rockingham was a good candidate for Inspire.

In May 2020, Rockingham was scheduled for an outpatient surgery that began at 6 a.m. He was home by noon. He experienced some soreness and bruising, but nothing severe. “That's all worth it for a lifetime of proper rest,” he says.

After roughly 90 days of healing, he saw Mari Viola-Saltzman, DO, a sleep medicine specialist offering services and treatment options in neurology at NorthShore. “She activated the device and explained how to operate it,” he says.

In the three years that Rockingham has had Inspire, the device has continued to work well with no decline in performance. “It's convenient and I haven’t had any issues with it,” he says. “I'm able to breathe, my wife doesn't complain about snoring and I can sleep through the night.”

Rockingham encourages others struggling like he did to look into Inspire therapy and says that if he were given the choice 100 more times, he’d choose it every time.

“My life is much better because I'm getting better sleep,” he says. “Just getting a good night's sleep makes everything a bit easier, and I'm able to do that since I've gotten Inspire.”

Dr. Pomerantz and Dr. Viola-Saltzman were approved as an official Inspire Care Team of Excellence (by the Inspire Medical Systems Excellence Committee). Their Care Team of Excellence award is one of 12 out of 1,100 programs in the country and the first in Illinois. Dr. Viola-Saltzman has also earned a “Physician of Excellence” honor.

At Edward-Elmhurst Health’s sleep centers, we’re here to help you enjoy peaceful, uninterrupted sleep. Learn more.

Learn more about neurosciences at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

Need a doctor? With hundreds of board-certified physicians to choose from, you’re likely to find the perfect doctor for you close by. Find a doctor at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

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