By Kathy Walsh

HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. (CBS4) – A woman from Highlands Ranch is scheduled to get a device implanted to help her breathe at night.

Diane Shea has tried other ways of correcting obstructive sleep apnea, but a freak baseball injury has made those too painful.

Five years ago, Shea was at a Colorado Rockies game. She left abruptly after catching a foul ball in her face.

Diane Shea (credit: CBS)

Diane Shea (credit: CBS)

Diane Shea (credit: CBS)

Diane Shea (credit: CBS)

“I’m watching the game and I didn’t ever see it coming. I didn’t have time to duck,” Shea told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.

It was a Todd Helton foul ball. On June 18, 2011, the speeding ball smacked Shea in the eye. She needed stitches and had broken bones below her eye.

“And it left me with some nerve damage and some nerve problems in my face that started happening years later,” said Shea.

Shea said she often feels sharp pain in her right cheek at the top of her gums. That pain has created new issues for an old problem.

“I do not get good sleep and it’s gotten worse over the last five years,” she explained.

Shea has severe obstructive sleep apnea. She can’t tolerate a C-PAP mask. A custom mouthpiece is now uncomfortable.

Diane Shea is interviewed by CBS4's Kathy Walsh (credit: CBS)

Diane Shea is interviewed by CBS4’s Kathy Walsh (credit: CBS)

“It fits up here and it rubs right against the area that is sore,” she said.

But Shea is hoping she’s found a way to finally sleep. It’s called Inspire. It’s a sort of tongue pacemaker. It’s implanted in the chest and sends signals to the tongue to move it out of the airway.

“It actually gives you a little zzzzp,” she said.

Dr. Matt Robertson will do the 90-minute surgery at Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins.

“It’ll be a life-changer for me,” said Shea.

She’s hoping for new energy to keep up with her grandkids and maybe hit a Rockies game, thanks to a good night’s sleep.

It takes about a month before the doctor actually activates and calibrates the Inspire device. Shea will turn it on at night with a hand help remote and turn it off in the morning.


Kathy Walsh is CBS4’s Weekend Anchor and Health Specialist. She has been with CBS4 for more than 30 years. She is always open to story ideas. Follow Kathy on Twitter @WalshCBS4.