Pulmonary Hypertension: The Courage to Fight

pulmonary hypertension struggle
I thought this was the end.
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Walking briskly down the street on my way to work, though feeling dizziness and a pounding heartbeat creep rapidly into my body, but composing myself, I walk on vibrantly to the nearest seat that I could find. Taking deep breaths and reaching out for my handbag, I take a few sips of water from my water bottle, as soon as I settle on the shoppers’ seats in the busy mall filled with people rushing to their workplaces. So many questions begin to flood my mind, concerned at the incomprehensible experience I have just had.

 “What could be wrong with me?” I wondered, constantly searching the time every minute, anxious at how fast it was flying by. Avoiding an unpleasant situation with my boss, as soon as I enter the office, I recalled, as I settled on my desk, to how lucky I was to have made it on time. Taking a few deep breathes and sips of water again; I got myself ready for the long day ahead.

Grateful for the uncomplicated day of work, I pack my bag and prepare to leave the office. Heading to the public taxi rank, fortunate to find transport, I alighted into the front seat of the vehicle, and soon swerved out of the parking lot heading to my neighbourhood. Arriving home, all that I needed was a long hot bath, supper and some rest. Unprepared for the unpleasant experience, a few minutes later as I relaxed in the bathtub, I quickly sprung to my feet and out of the tub. Wrapping my body in a bath towel, I could feel the breathlessness and rapid heartbeat cringe in gradually as each second passed. Springing out of the bathroom, I hurried to my room and opened every window wide, gasping for air as I popped my head out through a window. Traumatised, I had not expected another occurrence again, especially not so soon!

“This is it! I have to see a doctor tomorrow,” I quietly contemplated.

Going to bed, I never anticipated a more vicious attack. Screaming my brother’s name in desperation, seated up, with my head suspended in the air as if trying not to drown, and clenching my feet on the bed on both sides, I could feel the air gradually decline from my lungs as if suffocated in the boot of a vehicle. Feeling the sound of my heart pound so fast as if going to come right out through my mouth, with dizziness and nausea threatening to put me into a state of unconsciousness, I fought as hard as I could to keep breathing and yelling my brother’s name. Staring at him with eyes wide opened, still in the same position, I saw the fear in his eyes as he fled out to find transport.

Reaching hospital and rushed to the emergency room, after an injection, nebulization and oxygen therapy, I felt better, but being a regular asthmatic patient in the hospital, the doctors needed to conduct more tests, and signed my admission papers.

The doctor’s words echoed in the air like the sound of a ghost, which had come to haunt my sanity. Each word sounded so unreal and wafted off with the wind wishing that I would never ever have to hear it again. But, the words echoed from the doctors’ lips as they attended to me in the hospital ward.

 “The results show that she has pulmonary hypertension,” the doctor told his colleague as I watched him scribble the information on my patient file. Though, I had no clue what the conversation was about, but I could tell from their grave tones that something was seriously wrong with me. Quickly searching through the Google net in my mobile phone as soon as they had moved on to attend to the next patient, I searched for the meaning of “pulmonary hypertension.” Trying hard to digest every word, I read about the illness, I could not believe my eyes!

 Lying on the hospital bed with oxygen throngs connected to my nose enabling me to breathe, I thought my life was soon ending, but I was wrong!

Starting medication, I gradually recovered from needing oxygen therapy, but two months later, I was back in the hospital ward breathless, with swollen feet, legs, abdomen and puffed face. Conducting more tests, doctors discovered another diagnosis, “Cor pulmonale;”  a right-sided heart failure caused by my lung condition. I could not believe it!

“How will I survive this time?” I thought as I contemplated on the test results.

Depressed, all dreams for my life stopped. I thought this was the end. Feeling as if death would be so much easier than living through this hell, my prayers of life turned into prayers of death. Wheelchair bound and bedridden, utilizing any part of my body became almost impossible that every time I tried, my breathing became heavier and my heart pounded harder, dependent on people to feed me, bath me, dress me up, and change my diapers.

I knew that as long as I was still alive, I just I had to keep on fighting on. Finally, discharged at much better state three months later, I thought the torture was all over. Little did I know that this was only the beginning of more battles to come!

Back in hospital, less than a month later, the long cycle of hospitalization began. Struggling to survive a minimum of a day to a maximum of a month, without needing oxygen therapy; each day spent home, I existed in fear of when the next attack might strike.          

Placing all my goals on hold, I had no choice, for I could no longer pursue them. Banned from doing strenuous activities due to the weakness of my heart and lungs, reality seemed to threaten every possibility of getting a chance to pursue my dreams again. Friends, family and even acquaintances kept on praying for me, and their prayers inspired me to fight on.

Failure to afford a home oxygen concentrator, gave me no choice but to accept hospital as my home away from home. All I had to lean on was prayer.

Spending a substantial part of my day contemplating on my past, which I had not been able to understand, began to make sense. I contemplated back on that difficult childhood in which, every day, I battled with lung issues, unable to comprehend why I had weak and sensitive lungs. The questions I had to deal with, from those around me, without answers for them, flashed back into my mind. I lived each day with unanswered questions.

“Why is it a strenuous task for me to walk a distance, perform simple house chores, and sleep peacefully throughout the night without becoming breathless? Why I need to carry a bottle of drinking water everywhere I go? Why I feel exhausted or speak slowly when speaking in a crowd? Why I avoid laughing aloud, instead just give a single crackle no matter how amused I am? Why I have a phobia of being in confined areas or closed rooms, but rather prefer having a seat by a window or door? Why I struggled to sleep with my door or windows close?’

Today, knowing my condition has lifted the load of unanswered questions off my shoulders, and I feel much better equipped to alter my lifestyle and make better decisions in what I do, and eat. However, I have missed my goals for the year 2016, but being alive is worth far more than any goal that I could ever have hoped to achieve. I am grateful to all those prayers kept me going, and to my doctors, as well as the entire hospital staff’s support during the substantial part of my year spent under their care. I am also thankful for their assistance in getting me a home oxygen concentrator that will keep me comfortable in the strike of breathlessness. Most importantly, I am thankful to God who has guided and given me strength through the affliction.

Living each day with pulmonary hypertension is not easy, with all the alterations in my life, attending monthly hospital appointments, and taking medication for the rest of my life, but I find courage in knowing that that every battle can be overcome with hope and faith. I have accepted myself and acceptance has proven to be the first step to healing and finding a purpose to enjoy life again.


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