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My adventure replacing a valve

Earlier today, I had an adventure replacing the valve elbow on my CPAP. But to properly tell the story, we must go back, back to the time I first got the CPAP.

I have sleep apnea, and so I was thrilled to get a CPAP machine at last, because its function is to help me breathe at night. (Sleep apnea is when you stop breathing in your sleep.) But when I got it, I looked at the hose with annoyance, and I was like, "This valve elbow thing is a permanent part of the hose. So if the valve fails, I'll have to replace the whole hose. Lovely. What jackass designed this piece of shit?" Because yeah, there was the hose, and this grey plastic nub thing, and then the valve elbow, made of clear plastic. And I did try to see if it maybe unscrewed or something, but no, it just swivels. So I shrugged and went on with life.

A few months later, I got a bunch of replacement supplies, masks and filters and stuff. In amongst these was a replacement valve, which included the pivot. Now my irritation was mixed with confusion. The replacement valve suggested the valve was replaceable, but there was no fucking way to actually replace the fucking thing, short of smashing the old one with a hammer. I tried everything I could to figure out what the secret was, to see if there were secret tabs to pull or push down on to release the original, but the damn thing remained stubbornly solid. I even read through the manual, and there was nothing at all to indicate how to replace the valve. They didn't even have the grey plastic nub identified on the diagram of the mask, with the other parts. I gave up again.

But this last week, I'd been having issues with being jerked out of my sleep for some unknown reason. Earlier today, I looked at the valve again before using the CPAP and saw what seemed to be causing me to jerk awake: the valve was malfunctioning. The new valve's little plastic flap was flush with the plastic around the lip of the thing it was supposed to shut over, but the old one was half open in its resting state. So once more, I set about trying to replace the fucking thing. I read through the manual four times, and there wasn't a single damned word on how to replace the valve elbow. Hell, there wasn't a single word to even indicate that replacing the valve elbow was even POSSIBLE.

I gave up again, and called Norco for help. The guy I needed to talk with wasn't in. But the lady answering the phone said she'd have him call me back. While I waited for him to call, I messed around with the damn thing again, very irritated. Then I glared at the thing and asked myself aloud, "What the hell could he possibly say that would help? There is literally no fucking way to replace this damned valve. They must have sent me a replacement valve for another model or something, because this one is a permanent part of the fucking hose." But then I thought, "No, that can't be right. There HAS to be a solution." I noticed that the swivel on the replacement valve was clear plastic, which made me wonder if the same was true on the original hose's swivel. I looked, and yes, that seemed to be true. So I wondered if I could get it out by breaking the seal between them, like I might do to open a stubborn jar of pickles. Desperate, the phone call still not forthcoming, I put my thumbnail in there to get between the grey plastic and the clear plastic, and...

...

WTF? I thought. This grey plastic... is RUBBER?

I stared at the thing in bewilderment. They had somehow managed to make a kind of rubber that looks, feels, smells, and even for the most part behaves exactly like plastic. I had gone for months thinking the grey thing was plastic because it was hard and unyielding, and looked like plastic.

I tried my thumbnail on the side of the grey nub. No give at all; even pressing my thumbnail on what should have had give like rubber, felt like plastic, behaved like plastic. I tried the space between the grey bit and the clear bit again, and it gave like rubber. I wondered suddenly if that meant the rubber was forming a seal just by being tight around the plastic. And if that meant that I just had to pull the two apart.

No, I thought, it couldn't possibly be that simple, could it? Not after being my nemesis for the past 9 months. Could it??? No, it CAN'T be that simple, that was one of the first damn things I tried!

But I tried it anyway. I grabbed the bottom of the grey nub in one hand, and hooked my finger around the valve elbow with the other, and pulled. I pulled as hard as I could, and kept pulling, waiting. It was slow, it took about 5 whole seconds, but then the two pieces popped apart, and the theory was confirmed. Replacing the valve was then as simple as shoving the new valve back into the rubber seal.

This pissed me off so much that I couldn't sleep for about two hours, I kept raging at the idiots in my mind about it. Because whatever jackasses wrote the instruction manual completely left out any instruction on how to replace the damn valve. They didn't even mention that it was possible. Hell, the rubber nub has NO label at all in the instruction manual. None. Whatsoever. And that was just such a monumentally stupid oversight on their part that I could not fathom how they'd managed to make such a blunder. It took me two whole hours to figure out a theory:

What I figure happened was, the people writing the instruction booklet were using blueprints for the device to write it, and nobody on the writing team had actually seen or touched the finished product. If they had, they would have realized that the rubber nub looks and feels 130% like plastic, and they would have realized that unless they labeled the thing as being rubber, nobody could reasonably be expected to easily figure out that it was actually rubber. They just looked at the specs they'd been given and, seeing that the grey nub was rubber, assumed that the fact it was rubber would be fucking obvious. But if they had actually held the finished product in their hands, they would have known that they NEEDED to label it as rubber, and they would have known that they needed to include instructions as well, just in case the fact that it was rubber did not make the solution obvious.

So yeah, I am going to be writing an angry letter to the company about this bullshit, I guarantee you.

~ ~ ~

What's most annoying, I now realize, is that the guy who helped me learn how to use the damn thing also did not tell me how to replace the valve, and also did not indicate in any way that it could even be replaced. And I was so focused on him and his instructions that it didn't occur to me to ask, and I didn't have that moment of looking at the hose and thinking the valve was a permanent part of the hose, until after I got home.

This was cross-posted from http://fayanora.dreamwidth.org/1257949.html
You can comment either here or there.

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
kengr
Nov. 3rd, 2014 02:22 am (UTC)
I can't figure out which "elbow" and valve you are talking about. If it's the one on the mask, you *really* missed details. If there's one at the machine end of the hose, I'll have to take a closer look.

Tomorrow night I am going to go over my PAP machine (same as yours except for the modem) with you. And yes, it's a PAP, not a CPAP because the pressure isn't constant (that's what the C in CPAP is for).

They may be APAPs but that's not important.

I'm going to take apart all the user changeable parts, with you watching. Bring your mask up, because I'm not sure if it's the same as mine.

From your description, you've apparently missed many of the parts that come apart.

fayanora
Nov. 3rd, 2014 03:12 am (UTC)
The elbow is the part that snaps into the mask, of course. The part with the little flappy plastic valve that opens on the intake and closes when you exhale. Duh.

CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Air Pressure. Because the positive air pressure is continuous, and not that the amount of pressure is "constant." (Of course it isn't constant, the pressure increases when you breathe in and the amount of pressure as a whole goes up when I've been asleep for a while. But there's always positive pressure, so it is continuous positive air pressure.) Where did you get the ridiculous notion that the C stands for "constant"??? Maybe you have a PAP, but I have a CPAP.

My face mask is a full face mask because I cannot breathe through my nose while unconscious. Hell, I have to concentrate to do it when I'm awake, and it takes so much effort to do when I'm awake that I don't often bother to try.
kengr
Nov. 3rd, 2014 03:16 am (UTC)
Well, we'll see how yours resembles mine. But trust my, *everything* on those masks comes apart. Down to some very small pieces.

And again, CPAP has a specific meaning and our machines are not *actually* CPAPs. They just get called that as a "generic" label.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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