In my own voice: Kristy Baker turns to the Emerson Sleep Disorders Center to help her toddler

By Kristy Baker

It’s difficult to imagine your child spending a night in a sleep lab. But when concern about Zachary Baker’s snoring turned into worry that the toddler had obstructive sleep apnea, Travis and Kristy Baker wasted no time. Neither did the staff at the Emerson Sleep Disorders Center, who got them in quickly. Ms. Baker, who slept in the room with her three-year-old, has nothing but praise for how Scot Cassarino, a sleep technician, made the experience so easy. The Baker family, who live in Burlington, were all impressed.
We knew that Zachary snored, but we didn’t think anything of it. He is our first child, so we had nothing to compare him to. Then he went from his crib to a bed, and he started moving all the time, turning and flipping from his pillow to the foot of the bed. But he slept through the night, and he was very energetic and happy during the day.
Just before Zachary turned three, I noticed when he fell asleep in his seat that his snoring got a little louder. Also, he would sometimes skip a breath, then breathe in really deeply. I took a video of it and showed his pediatrician. She examined his throat and saw that his tonsils were huge; they were practically touching each other.
She referred Zachary to an ear, nose and throat [ENT] specialist who suspected sleep apnea but didn’t want to perform a tonsillectomy unless it was necessary. He was surprised that Zachary wasn’t falling asleep during the day, and he wanted Zachary to have a sleep study performed.
He suggested we go to Emerson, rather than a Boston hospital, where we might have to wait for months to get an appointment. I was pregnant at the time, my school season — I’m a kindergarten teacher — was beginning soon, and Zachary was going to start preschool soon. We called Emerson, and the sleep lab had an opening in a few weeks. They also mentioned there had been a cancellation; could we come that night? We had three hours to get ready, but we wanted to get the sleep study over with. I’d never been to Emerson, but when we got there, we knew it was the right choice.
I told Zachary we were going on an adventure: he’d put on pajamas, we would sleep at the hospital, they would put some wires on him, and we would pretend he was turning into a robot. Mom and Dad were going with him; I had a bed in the room with Zachary, and my husband, Travis, slept in a nearby room.
Scot, the technician, was so nice; he took the time to get to know Zachary, and we saw that he knew how to get into the head of a toddler. He had to place a lot of wires on Zachary, but Scot explained everything, gave Zachary toys, and they were laughing together. It was the best experience we could have had.
Zachary slept through the night, but he tossed and turned. Because the wires kept falling off, Scot came in and out of the room to re-attach them. He showed me the data they were collecting, which I appreciated.
Soon after the sleep study, Zachary began preschool, and we observed the sleep apnea symptoms everyone had expected to see. He was so stimulated by school that, a few times, he fell asleep in the afternoon, and I couldn’t wake him up. The ENT specialist described the results of the sleep study. Zachary had severe sleep apnea: 17 episodes per hour.
Since he would be increasingly affected as he got older, Zachary had surgery to remove his tonsils and adenoids. After his surgery, we returned to the Emerson sleep lab to make sure his sleep apnea had resolved. But we already saw a big difference in him. He sleeps through the night, hardly moves and barely snores.
Again, the night at the sleep lab went very well. I would definitely recommend Emerson to anyone. We felt so welcome, and Zachary received such individualized care.