Former Augusta mayor now gets a sound sleep thanks to advanced treatment at AU Health

man in front of jeep
Bob Young has been dealing with sleep apnea for 20 years, but the Inspire procedure has changed his life.

Bob Young is known around Augusta for having served as the city’s mayor from 1999 to 2005. For longtime residents, he is also known as a former news anchor at WJBF-TV.

After he left the mayor’s office, Young served at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, then tried his hand at novel writing (eight published so far) and has supported veterans’ causes as a veteran of the Vietnam War.

What most people don’t know about Young is that he has suffered from sleep apnea — which causes him to feel exhausted during the day due to being unable to breathe correctly at night — since around the time he started his term as mayor.

At that time, Young saw Dr. Amy Blanchard (now director of the Sleep Center at Augusta University Health) and took a sleep study, where it was determined that he had sleep apnea. The treatment for that condition for many years has been a CPAP machine that assists patients with their breathing during the night.

“It was a big, bulky thing,” Young recalls about his CPAP. “If you traveled, it was really something to carry with you. I kind of adapted to using the mask. Probably more nights than not, I didn’t wear the mask because it was so uncomfortable.”

After many years of rough nights sleeping, Young went to the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center for another sleep study and received a more advanced CPAP, which adjusted itself based on how he slept.

“I used it more religiously,” Young said, but he still had trouble finding the right mask, and it still wasn’t entirely comfortable or ideal.

Then last year, Young came across an ad on Facebook for Inspire, a pacemaker-like implant surgically placed in one’s body to allow the airway to stay open and assist breathing sleep.

“It’s not a difficult procedure to do, but there are a lot of steps to do it,” said otolaryngology specialist Dr. Camilo Reyes Gelves. “One surgery, but three incisions: One in the neck, one in the upper chest and one in the lower chest by the ribcage.”

Young met with Reyes and took another sleep study, before he was approved for the Inspire procedure.

However, Young would have to wait a little longer before surgery: “I got a call the day before the surgery saying they canceled elective surgeries [due to COVID-19].”

politician in front of sign
Bob Young served as mayor of Augusta for six years.

Once elective surgeries were allowed again, Young underwent the procedure.

“I’ve had [the Inspire stimulator device] since April and they activated it in late May.”

When Young lies down for the night, he uses a remote control of sorts to switch on the device, which pushes his tongue forward when he sleeps, opening up his passageway. Within the first couple of nights using it, he saw an improvement.

“It took a little getting used to, using the Inspire, because you can feel it move your tongue around to open up your airway,” he said. “It’s just second nature now. I’ve been getting great nights’ sleep.”

Young pointed out that the device sends information remotely so that technicians can adjust it based on how he is responding to it.

“I would recommend to anyone using a CPAP machine to look into the Inspire treatment,” Young said. “I think they would find it convenient, helpful and useful, as opposed to what they’re doing or not doing now.”

The Inspire stimulator is an option for patients 22 and older who have been diagnosed with moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea, are unable to use or get consistent benefits from a CPAP, are not significantly overweight and can pass an airway anatomy exam.

If you think the Inspire procedure might help you or a loved one, please call 706-721-0793 or email.

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Henry Hanks
Written by
Henry Hanks

Henry Hanks is Senior News & Communications Coordinator at Augusta University. Contact him to schedule an interview on this topic or with one of our experts at 706-522-3023 or hehanks@augusta.edu.

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Henry Hanks Written by Henry Hanks

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