June 30, 2019: Chianti Wine Tasting

Sunday. GT2 Day Twenty Two. Montecatini Terme, Italy.

If you read yesterday’s update, you will know that my day started with being up all night worrying about what to do today. At three o’clock this morning my CPAP blew a capacitor or something and gave up the ghost. So for the first time since February, 2005, I have no CPAP to allow me to sleep. Nearly fifteen years! And we are in a small town in Tuscany. This is unexplainably bad. This is a nightmare scenario that we knew could potentially happen someday. And here it is. Now what do we do?

Dominica’s alarm went off about five thirty and so she learned of the news then and went into rather a panic, as you can imagine.

She contacted everyone and did research, but mostly discovered the same things that I had through the night. That there is essentially nothing that can be done.

My first order of business was to get blankets and try to sleep now that Dominica is awake. When she was asleep, I would have a full panic attack anytime I began to drift off so I could not even attempt to see if sleep was possible. Now that she is awake and can be in the same room to make sure that I keep snoring or breathing, I am more relaxed. So I bundled up with blankets (in the dark last night all I had was a tiny sheet that didn’t even cover me making sleeping so much harder) and tried sleeping.

If my watch and snoring are to be believed, it appears that I got about ninety minutes of sleep and thirty of that being deep sleep. Enough to survive on, if necessary. And I didn’t die or have any obvious lack of breathing moments. I am managing my position carefully, and I have learned over the years how my head can be held in my hands to increase the air flow. So I am far better at sleeping with this condition than I was fifteen years ago, at least. And I have lost some weight, which helps a lot.

Dominica actually woke me up, so I might have slept more, to let me know that our hostess, Barbara, had been contacted and that she was coming up sometime soon to get me to take to the hospital.

Barbara, our host, came to the apartment around ten thirty and explained that she had run around town, talked to a local nurse, and had the local healthcare looking into what could be done for us. She got the nurse on the phone so that I could talk to her. But she did not have any positive news. She is going to continue to search for us, but she said that they really don’t sell CPAPs in Italy because they are free from the national health service so stores have no reason to carry them. She is going to try, but she is sure that our best hope is to look up stores and be ready to buy one when we get to Paris in a few days.

After that it was time to run out to Chianti to take the girls wine touring. It was only like a one hour drive or less from our apartment to Chianti. Dominica and I have never been to that region before, so this was cool for us, too.

We got lucky and found a really awesome winery to start off with. It was five Euros per person and we got to taste four wines each, plus olive oil, and balsamic vinager. We had the enoteca to ourselves for the whole thing. It was a gorgeous setting and really fun. Dominica and I loved the wines. The teenagers, not so much. They kind of liked some, but were not thrilled. Their palletes are very basic, still. But it was fun, a really good experience and one that was at the top of Emily’s to do list.

From there we drove on to another wintery that turned out to be a central showcase enoteca for a winery group that operates all over Italy. This was a higher end, and more expensive experience, but far more complete. We got a table in a really fancy restaurant and we got five wines each to try. The girls did a samply of two proseccos (champagne by another name), two whites, and one rose. They quickly learned what I had warned them just an hour previous, that they would not like champagne. Dominica and I did two peninsular reds, then three amazing and super unique Sardinian reds. It was a great wine tasting.

While we were there we got a lead on a way to get a CPAP from Barbara. So we had to call it quits at that point, although we had to anyway because Emily had had as much wine as she could take by that point.

We drove to Pistoia where, supposedly, there is a pharmacy that can get a CPAP for me. But we got there and discovered that they did not know what a CPAP was and had no idea how to order one. They tried very hard to be helpful, but in the end there was nothing that they could do. It seems that CPAPs are not regularly used in Italy as a solution and there is realistically no way to get one. We’ve been trying every avenue that we can think of all day and this is going nowhere.

Dominica really wanted me to talk to the clinic again that I spoke to this morning when Barbara was here, but the phone number for them was back at the apartment. So we drove back there and I called them. This time they were super rude and unhelpful and told me that there was absolutely nothing that they could do, not even tell me the name of what a CPAP is called in Italy. Super helpful this morning, useless this evening.

We skipped going out for dinner tonight. The girls are done with Italian food, it is not their thing. Dominica is a little tired of it herself, but not because she doesn’t like it but because of the complications caused by her onion allergy as everything in Italy has onions in it. So instead we are going to the grocery store tonight to just buy whatever we want to eat.

We looked up on Google and there was a EuroSpin not that far from us. We had actually driven past it earlier today. So we went there, but they were closed for inventory. Loads of other people were going there too, so apparently it was “the” place for Sunday night grocery shopping. We searched for a while and found a small super market across town to try. We drove there and it was a mad house. Presumably what happens when the one big grocery store in town is closed unexpectedly and everyone needs food. So this small super market was so packed that there was a waiting line to get into their parking lot and the streets around it were full of cars.

We shopped for maybe forty five minutes. Then came back to the apartment to cook. In reality, doing this got us the most unique Italian meals that the girls have had all week. Emily had some Italian “tomato pie with potato topping” and Madeline had Italian “pigs and fruit in blankets”, while Dominica and I split a penne salad in pesto and tomato, and some spinach and cheese pasta. This is way more “how Italians eat” day to day than restaurants would lead you to believe. The girls got chips and cookies and brownies and cheesecake and other stuff, too. Lots of snacks. More authentic, more educational, and quite a bit cheaper.

That was our night. It was almost nine by the time that we were done eating. The girls went in their room to chat with friends. I worked on SGL updates. Dominica read, then took a shower.

Luciana found Staxle on the Steam Summer Sale and let me know about it. She has been waiting months for it, so I just got it for her.

That was our day. Crazy and insane and absolutely nothing that we had planned. Since we missed going to Firenze today, the attempt will be made again tomorrow.

So as to the CPAP and sleep situation, here is where we are:

I slept successfully for an hour and a half this morning with Dominica watching me. I snored some, but not all of the time, and never stopped breathing. This is a very good sign. It does not mean that I do not need a CPAP, but it does mean that I might be able to get by without one in a pinch. In 2012 I was able to travel Europe without one, because I had lost so much weight. So, in theory, I might be able to “get by.”

There is no reasonable chance that we are going to find a CPAP in Italy. I had to talk Dominica down from an all out fruitless hunt for one that never ends. We aren’t going to find one. The nurse this morning, the pharmacy this afternoon both made that clear, as has online searches. No one sells them, no one else in this situation has found one. If I am going to find one, and that is unlikely, it will be in Paris and nowhere else. It’s that simple. No way around it. None can be shipped because we don’t have a stable address to ship to, nor a place to send them.

The pharmacy sold me the nasal strips that are commonly used here in Italy for snoring. They are absolutely not a solution to my issue, but I do have dramatic issues with the volume of air that goes through my nose when I sleep on top of my other sleep apnea issues and we know that fixing that does improve the other, so the thought is that if we eliminate that point of problems, or make it less, that at least I will improve the otherall situation. Better than nothing. So that is something we have not tried before and will be testing tonight.

I have to avoid total exhaustion, or I will pass out and that’s when I will suffocate. Attempting to rest and sleep as much as possible each night that we travel is the best possible scenario at this point. It is what it is, trying to pretend that there is another option will make us stressed and just make things worse. The situation is bad, we need to mitigate, not pretend that reality isn’t what it is.

When we get to Paris, I will make an attempt to find a CPAP there. That’s the only possible place. But the assumption is that I have to get one once I am back in New York.

As for tomorrow: we are going to play that by ear. If I am able to sleep tonight and we are not terrified for tomorrow night, then I am going to go with Dominica, Emily, and Madeline to Firenze for the day. It is Monday so the museums that are expensive and that I did not want to do are closed. We will go in in the morning by train from Montecatini station, which Dominica and I used seven years ago, and do the hop on, hop off tourist bus. And that might be all that we do. It will still be super hot tomorrow, but we should be able to manage it. On the bus it is not that bad. There are not any sites in Firenze that anyone is really interested in stopping at specifically.

In the afternoon we have our pasta making class scheduled. So that takes three hours from three thirty to six thirty. So that, plus the bus tour of the city, is all that we are going to be able to handle for the day. And that is if things go well.

If sleep tonight goes really badly, well we will deal with that triage in the morning. I might just hang back after the girls go to Firenze to hit a clinic in town since they will be open tomorrow, and to seek out an electrical supply shop. Worst case scenario I need to find a way to get back to New York early.

Tomorrow is our last day in Tuscany. We sleep here again tomorrow night (or I lay here without sleeping, as has been the case thus far) and then we turn in the car in Firenze in two days, and take the train from Firenze to Milan, then from Milan to Luzerne. Spend the afternoon in Luzerne, then take the train on to Paris. So tomorrow we sleep in Tuscany, the day after we sleep in Paris.

I am posting a little early tonight because I am done for the day and heading off to bed. Fingers crossed that I will actually get some sleep. Three hours would be enough to make all of the difference. I am very thankful for my Huomi AmazFit Stratos that tracks what is going on with my sleep so that I know that I actually slept or not and how it was and when. That takes a lot of the guesswork out of this. So yes, for those keeping tabs on the time zone, I am posting before ten o’clock. It has been a while since I was feeling this tired. And a really long time since I was this worried. But it is what it is. Time for bed.