It was 2011 when Schenectady handyman Dave West fell asleep at the wheel, crashing into oncoming traffic. The accident left his heart in a state of atrial fibrillation and six of his ribs cracked. It wasn't until later that he was diagnosed with sleep apnea, which caused the crash. As if getting a good night's sleep wasn't already hard enough, this condition randomly starts and stops your breathing as you sleep. People who suffer from sleep apnea have to wear a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine in order to sleep soundly. Otherwise, like West, they could stop breathing as much as once every second at any given moment (Andrew Waite, The Daily Gazette).

According to Katherine Lee at, there are three different types of sleep apnea:

  • Obstructive: your throat relaxes so much it blocks the airway
  • Central: your brain doesn't send the right signals to the muscles that control breathing
  • Complex: a combination of both

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) affects approximately 20% of US adults, of whom about 90% are undiagnosed. -Kevin J. Finkel, et. al. (

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

As reported by Andrew Waite of The Daily Gazette, West is frustrated by the fact that CPAP machines tend to only last 5 years, after which patients trade theirs out for a new one, resulting in inflated insurance premiums. As a professional handyman, he argues that the last device he had to get replaced could have just as easily been fixed, and that the issue of its faulty humidifier was "nothing fancy". Unfortunately, CPAP machines are controlled by microchips, and manufacturers don't sell individual parts nor reveal how to repair or rebuild them once broken.

Governor Kathy Hochul passed New York's Digital Fair Repair Act last year, with the hopes of decreasing the monopoly manufacturer's have over consumer repairs as well as decrease the waste caused by unnecessary product replacements.

In New York, the law is expected to reduce 655,000 tons of toxic e-waste discarded each year, 85% of which goes straight to the landfill. -Andrew Waite, The Daily Gazette

Hochul's legislation failed to specify manufacturer's regulations for medical devices, large appliances, and farm equipment (Andrew Waite, The Daily Gazette). Sounds to me like both the law and West's CPAP are in need of repair. Hopefully, the law will be amended in time for West to avoid another unnecessary replacement-- I'm sure lower insurance premiums would help him sleep even better at night!

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