Fit for the Road

Misty Bell | April 01, 2011

Losing Weight, Gaining Hope

Trucker sheds 200 pounds, runs marathon

What started in the simplest fashion has led to more than 200 pounds lost and — most recently — a completed marathon for Vaughan Express driver Mike Sammons.

“Basically what I did was that I started counting my calories,” Sammons says. “I … didn’t think I ate that much, but I was drinking 1,800 calories a day just drinking Cokes.”

Sammons made an audition tape for the NBC show The Biggest Loser; he says it was the show’s website that gave him the idea to start writing down what he was eating and drinking daily. His consumption “went down anywhere from 1,600 to 2,000 calories a day,” leading him to lose 58 pounds through diet alone in his first five weeks.

“I told a buddy of mine once I lost 50 pounds I’d start walking,” Sammons says. “And in seven months I lost 100 pounds. In 17 months, I lost 203.”

Once the pounds starting dropping away, Sammons began setting other goals for himself. He decided he wanted to run a 5k, and he did. He ran two half marathons in 2010. And in March he realized a goal many athletes strive for their whole lives: He finished a marathon. “I think I did it in 4 hours, 40 minutes or 4:42,” he says. Next up: A half triathlon in June.

Sammons says his decision to get healthy stemmed from reaching a point of hopelessness. “When you’re 393, you go to climb out of a trailer, and half the time I’d fall out of it,” he says. “It just got to the point where it was real depressing.” He says he even prayed that God would let him go to sleep and not wake up. “Let some kid that has cancer or something live,” he prayed. “I was 46 or 45 at the time, so I’d pretty much lived. I was just asking him to let someone else live. I’d lost hope.”

But, Sammons says, he believes at this time of hopelessness his faith brought him through. He found the information about The Biggest Loser, which included tips for living a healthier lifestyle.

He says the important thing for other drivers to remember is that “anyone can do it.”

“Somehow, somewhere, you’ve got to find some faith,” he says. “The hardest thing in the world is to believe in someone, something or yourself. That’s basically how I had to do it.”

Online Extra

Want to read more about Mike Sammons’ weight loss journey? Visit his website at www.loseweightwithmike.com.



Mythbusting Sleep Apnea: Four Misconceptions

In recent years, much attention has been given to the hours truckers keep — when they are driving, resting, sleeping — and how these hours affect their health.

When it comes to Department of Transportation health qualifications for the job, sleep apnea has become something of a buzzphrase, but it also remains a gray area in many ways. Because of this, some drivers fear a sleep apnea diagnosis could amount to a CDL death sentence.

But is that really true? Below are a few commonly held misconceptions about sleep apnea.

The fuss over sleep apnea is just a money grab by the sleep medicine industry.

Sleep apnea is a very real disorder, and Dr. Barbara Phillips, former Medical Review Board member and current professor in the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, University of Kentucky College of Medicine, says common risk factors include “obesity, male gender, increasing age, heavy snoring, big necks and hypertension, among other things.” Many of these indicators are common for truckers.

“If a driver (or that drivers bed partner) thinks he or she has sleep apnea, it is in the best interest of that driver to seek out a sleep center that is known for evaluating patients promptly, following up with patients and addressing problems quickly (rather than referring the patient back to a primary MD, if any) and not doing unnecessary (generally more than one [test]) testing,” Phillips says. Some sleep laboratories may focus on expansive treatments rather than patients’ wellbeing, but the majority are reputable facilities.

Phillips noted that all opinions expressed were her own and not on behalf of any institute or agency.

Sleep apnea can be “cured” through CPAP alternatives.

According to American Sleep Association Executive Director Ed Grandi, the only potential way to “cure” sleep apnea is through weight loss — if it’s caused by being overweight — or through a surgery that puts a hole in the base of the patient’s throat, called a tracheotomy.

Tracheotomy is not an option for all sleep apnea patients and brings its own set of difficulties, including care for the surgery wound — not a good option for truckers.

Grandi says drivers should be “very careful” when looking at treatment options other than ones approved by the FDA, largely because there’s no scientific proof these will work. “I know that for men and women in the trucking industry, the margins aren’t very big, and they’re worried that they may have a problem and that they need to deal with the problem,” Grandi says. Even CPAP is only a way of managing the problem, not a cure. Still, Grandi says, why not go for the treatment option you can use while you sleep?

“To me, it seems like a no-brainer,” he says.

The new CSA program says you lose your CDL if you are overweight, a factor in some sleep apnea cases.

This is simply not true. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has printed and distributed fliers for drivers that clearly state “CSA does not restrict who can be a CMV driver based on body mass index (BMI), weight or neck size.”

Many drivers fear that neck size or BMI could also be used to determine who is required to be tested for sleep apnea in the future, but this is currently not the case.

You can get fired for having sleep apnea.

In general, if your company has more than 15 employees, it cannot fire you simply for having sleep apnea because sleep apnea is considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Peter Berg, Project Coordinator of Technical Assistance DBTAC Great Lakes ADA Center, says a disability is defined under the ADA as “a physical or mental [limitation] that substantially impairs a life activity. Sleep is considered a life activity.”

The issue of sleep apnea and trucking comes down to whether someone is qualified to perform a job “with or without reasonable accommodation,” Berg says.

Berg says if you think your ADA rights have been violated, “first, file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 180 days” or with a state employment agency, where the individual may have up to 360 days to file. This must be done before the individual can take private legal action.

EEOC, (800) 669-4000, www.eeoc.gov

Regional ADA Centers, (800) 949-4232,

www.adata.org

Truckers News thanks Truckers for a Cause AWAKE Group Co-Coordinator Bob Stanton for his assistance in gathering information for this article.

Be sure to visit www.fit4theroad.com for more information on weight loss, healthy recipes, information on health products and more.

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