Florida Woman Leads Efforts For Sleep Apnea Awareness And Education, And May Have Saved A Naples Man’s Life

Mary Schaff speaks during an event with Dr. Nancy Foldvary-Schaefer of the Cleveland Clinic
Naples area resident Mary Schaff speaks during an event with Dr. Nancy Foldvary-Schaefer of the Cleveland Clinic.

NAPLES, FL  – During Sleep Awareness Week (March 14-20) and World Sleep Day (March 19), you may expect to hear the question “How are you sleeping?” It’s a basic question with a seemingly simple answer, but the answer could help to reveal some very serious health concerns. Naples area resident Mary Schaff knows this firsthand. Following the untimely death of her husband John in 2015, for which sleep apnea was identified as a contributing cause, Schaff has made it her mission to shed light on this serious yet highly-treatable condition.

In her advocacy, Schaff has developed a relationship with sleep expert Dr. Nancy Foldvary-Schaefer, DO, MS, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Cleveland Clinic, and was involved in the development of the mobile app “Sleep by Cleveland Clinic.”  She has created the website www.oursleepapneastory.com and a Facebook page Our Sleep Apnea Story to help educate those interested in learning more about the effects of obstructive sleep apnea.

“My goal is to help generate conversations that bring awareness to this potentially life-threatening condition – conversations within families and with friends and physicians,” said Schaff. “It’s as simple as starting with ‘How are you sleeping?’ With early detection and proper treatment, people can go on to live full lives with sleep apnea.”

One in three American adults suffers from obstructive sleep apnea, however an estimated 90 percent of people with sleep apnea go undiagnosed. Obstructive sleep apnea is defined as the involuntary cessation of breathing during sleep when the soft tissue of the palate collapses and falls against the back of the throat, effectively blocking the airway.


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Naples resident Jim Millett credits hearing Schaff’s story for saving his life.  During a reception at a private club in Naples, Millet over heard Mary talking about how she lost her husband and what the symptoms for sleep apnea include.

As Schaff was speaking, Millett quickly realized that he suffered from most of the symptoms that she had mentioned.

“That evening I spoke to my wife about Mrs. Schaff’s conversation and her loss,” said Millett. “My wife was quick to remind me that she had mentioned many times my snoring and occasional gasping for breath. That following morning is when I called to schedule a doctor’s appointment and begin the process.”

Millett’s visit to the doctor resulted in a scheduled sleep test and the ultimate diagnosis of severe sleep apnea. He was prescribed a CPAP machine.

“The CPAP has changed my life, I sleep at least 6 hours straight whereas before I was awake every 15 minutes or so. I now feel energized and rested every morning,” said Millett. “I feel that hearing Mrs. Schaff’s conversation that day was no coincidence. I’m grateful that she’s able to speak of her loss and bring awareness to others. I too often hear friends and fellow co-workers complain of the same symptoms that I suffered from and now encourage them to make an appointment ASAP.”

For more information on sleep apnea and Mary’s mission, visit: https://www.oursleepapneastory.com

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