I was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension over three years ago, toward the end of a cold December. It was only a couple of days after my diagnosis that a giant winter storm hit the town that I live in. Prior to this, winter storms had always signified something special to me.
I was born during a winter storm so severe that the highways were closed. This meant that other members of my family couldn’t “meet” me until several days later, when the storm had passed and the roads were clear.
It was also during a winter storm that I met my partner, Spencer. A mutual friend of ours took me on a terrifying night drive through the city to a bar, knowing that Spencer would be there that night. He was secretly trying to get us to meet, hoping we would hit it off. I remember the bar door violently blew open as I walked through, while the snow cascaded all around me like a snow globe. It was at that moment I saw Spencer.
Because of this, snow storms began to signify something precious to me – so much so that I used to wear a snowflake necklace from Tiffany’s. Snow became my lucky symbol, but that was about to change.
The first few weeks following my diagnosis are a haze, but moments from the snowstorm remain etched in my memory. At this point, I spoke, ate, and slept very little. I remember staring blankly at a TV, not registering anything. Heavy snow blanketed the surrounding landscape. Eventually, an ice storm came and coated everything like a shiny hard candy.
The storm continued for hours, causing heavy coats of ice to build up on trees, roads, and electrical wires. Eventually, the electrical wires fell, causing thousands of people (including myself) to be without power. I found out only a few days earlier that I required supplementary oxygen 24/7. Suddenly I needed a large machine to help me breathe, and when the power went out, so did the soft hum of my oxygen machine.
Of course, I panicked. Although I had a few emergency oxygen tanks to use, it would not be enough to get me through the power outage. The storm reminded me of how I needed oxygen to breathe, and how I needed a machine to live. At 25, I was tethered to my oxygen cord and was trapped inside a house without power during the lowest point of my life. I felt completely miserable, and the magic of winter storms quickly started to feel more like a cruel joke.
The oxygen company had to drop off a giant liquid oxygen system. The “emergency” oxygen tanks I had would not be enough to last through the night, let alone several days. The company wasn’t sure how long we would be without power, so they brought the biggest system they had.
It would be a few days until full power was restored. Because of the cold and long winter, the trees in our backyard remained encased in thick ice, leading to the destruction of many branches. That following spring, all of the trees in the backyard survived the storm but one. The ones that survived continued to grow despite losing dozens of large branches. It was as if they were more determined to do well because of what the harsh winter put them through.
The tree that did not survive was a little blossom tree. This tree was my favorite, and every May my mother and I would anticipate its short but vibrant bloom of pink flowers. It was dead. There was not one bud or bloom. It has remained standing dead in my yard for the past three years because my dad kept insisting that it would come back.
However, I went into my backyard last week and couldn’t believe my eyes. The blossom tree had one single branch covered with big pink flowers that had bloomed. After 3 years, the tree had managed to have flowers – even if it was only contained to one branch. (The rest of the tree looks black, as if it was a sad twig that someone had stuck in the ground.)
This small but mighty blossom tree has become a souvenir of the storm surrounding my diagnosis. It is a gentle reminder that growth and beauty can come out of tragedy. It is a memento of healing and triumph. While admiring the single branch covered with blooms like jewels, I am reminded of why snowstorms mean so much to me. It took over three years, but I finally understood the significance of the storm surrounding my diagnosis. Perhaps it was a sign of healing, guiding me toward the path of hope.
Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.