SOUTHAVEN, MS (WMC-TV) - Obstructive sleep apnea is a relatively common sleep disorder that affects some 50 million Americans.
December 26, 2004 was the day All Pro and NFL Hall of Famer Reggie White died suddenly at the age of 43 from obstructive sleep apnea. It happens when a person suddenly stops breathing while sleeping. Now, six years later, his widow Sara has formed a partnership with Opus Medical to help bring attention to the disorder.
Derek Denman is president and CEO of Reggie White Medical Enterprises. He met Sara several years ago at a conference, befriended her, and thought she could make a big impact in terms of creating awareness.
"She didn't want anything," Denman said. "I said, 'I want you to be a partner. I want you to be rooted and committed,' and she said, 'Lets do it.'"
Thus a partnership was formed, which aims to prevent deaths like the one suffered by the football star.
"He died in his sleep," company COO Michael Camp said. "He was diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea. He had gone through the sleep study, had the C-pap machine, but just wasn't comfortable using it."
In addition to the new sleep lab, which will house eight beds, the facility also has a rehabilitation center that will address health issues related to sleep apnea.
"A large number of patients with OSA have obesity and diabetes, all which can be addressed through the cardio pulmonary rehab facility," Camp said.
Sara White will be in Southaven next month for the grand opening of the clinic named for her late husband. Clinic officials say increased the awareness and preventive measures can go a long way in helping to save a life.