CPAP on a Budget

My diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea came in October 2020, after our family’s FSA account was maxed out following my wife’s foot surgery and our oldest boy’s wisdom teeth extraction. Even with those major medical expenses, we were nowhere close to meeting our insurance deductible. To say the least, I was not in a financial position to layout nearly a grand for a CPAP machine, so I started looking for a budget-friendly solution.

Searches on Amazon and a number of CPAP-specific retail and resell outlets for reconditioned CPAPs started out encouraging, but soon it was apparent I would have to spend at least a couple of hundred if not a few hundred dollars to buy even a used, serviced, reputable machine. For not terribly much more, I could buy a brand new one.

Facebook Marketplace showed a number of inexpensive, used models, but I just couldn’t bring myself to purchase a used machine from an individual I don’t know. Eww!

Fortunately for me, if not so much for him, my older brother was diagnosed with OSA about 10 years ago. And two years ago, he upgraded to a new CPAP machine but kept the original stored in its case, in a closet and offered it to me for free. My brother is a bit of a clean freak, so I knew anything that came from him would be clean and in good working order. As long as it passed muster with my doctor, it could see me through the end of the year until our FSA cycle reset and I could order a new one.

2011 ResMed S8 Escape II with EPR and
optional humidifier.

I took the nearly 10-year-old ResMed Escape II (with the optional humidifier) to my appointment with my sleep doctor. He plugged it in, pressed buttons in secret succession, listened to the motor, tested the pressure and finally deemed it suitable for use.

After determining I was a “nose breather” and not a “mouth breather” — though some of my friends would say otherwise — he next paired it with a nasal mask, in particular the ResMed N20. I always thought I had a noble schnoz, but he pulled out a medium mask and assured me it would fit, and it did. He set the machine to 10 cmH2O (CPAP pressure settings are measured in centimeters of water pressure), showed me how to operate it and sent me on my way with a follow-up appointment set for mid-January.

An hour with the manual and a few minutes of setup had me ready for my first night under pressure. More on that in another post…

Being strapped for cash doesn’t mean you have to delay your CPAP treatment. Ask around, especially among your friends and family. Many people who start CPAP therapy either don’t follow through with it long-term, or if they do, they tend to update their machines every few years. Finding a good, used machine from a trustworthy person isn’t that hard, and it will at least tide you over until you can save up for a new one, but start with a new mask and hose, do not dip into the friend pool for those. Eww! – by Matt Lindler (a.k.a. CPAP Matt)

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