Clive Bradley has battled with Narcolepsy for the better half of his life, although he didn’t have a name for it until recently.
Clive started doing triathlons when he was in high school, experiencing fatigue that he assumed was normal for athletes. In the summer of 2020, his wife noticed something was wrong, as he slept every day after work and began losing muscle tone when he laughed. Clive began seeing his family doctor about the unusual amounts of fatigue, and occasional full body paralysis (he would later find out that this was, in fact, a cataplectic attack).
After 2 years of no answers and negative test results from his family doctor and specialist, Clive felt hopeless and unsure where to turn. On more than one occasion, his family doctor attributed his symptoms to normal fatigue and refused a referral to a neurologist. Additionally, the results from the sleep clinic were recorded incorrectly and his family doctor would not refer him a second time.
Clive’s symptoms were progressing exponentially in the winter of 2022, while training for IRONMAN Canada. While swimming lanes in March, he had a cataplectic attack in the middle of the pool. Alert and aware of the danger, he could do nothing but experience the horror of sinking. Negative and positive emotions also trigger his cataplexy, so his panic only paralyzed him more.
Thankfully, a lifeguard noticed a minute later and jumped in to save him. This event sparked real urgency for his doctors to figure out what was going on. Three months later, after a second multiple sleep latency test (MSLT) and polysomnography (PSG), he tested positive for Narcolepsy Type 1, also known as Narcolepsy with Cataplexy.
His treatment has been effective in preventing cataplexy. Though being treated for excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS), there are still points throughout the day where he must fight to stay awake.
Managing Narcolepsy is not easy. Although there are effective treatments, they are not perfect, and for some people, they do not work at all. Clive’s life has to be extremely structured so he can tend to his responsibilities well. IRONMAN Canada consists of a 3.9km swim, 190km bike, and 42.2 km run. The training for such an event takes up the majority of a healthy person’s free time for at least a year.
For Clive, each day is a fight to stay awake. Training with Narcolepsy, he has to be extremely diligent with his time outside of work, making sure that he can let his brain rest to prevent falling asleep while he is swimming, biking or running.
As one may guess, this means he does not have much time to invest in friends and family. He is grateful for the love and support he has received from them while training.
Waiting years for answers and seeing many doctors who missed the diagnosis inspired Clive to utilize his IRONMAN training and race day to raise money and bring awareness to Narcolepsy. Clive’s fundraising will go towards Wake Up Narcolepsy’s efforts to raise awareness, provide support and advance research surrounding the still highly misunderstood sleep disorder.
If you would like to support this cause, please consider making a donation using the button at the top of the page.
Click here to follow along with Clive’s training journey