This podcast series, created and produced by phaware, is being offered as a regular guest feature on Pulmonary Hypertension News to bring the voices and life experiences of PH patients, family members, caregivers, healthcare specialists, and others to our readers. You may listen to the podcast directly, or read it via the transcript that runs below.
Like many pulmonary hypertension patients, Michelle Figueras’ journey to a confirmed diagnosis took several years. She began experiencing unusual symptoms in her late 20s. For years, Michelle was treated for high blood pressure, anxiety, and allergies, before a trip to the ER in 2013 finally confirmed a PH diagnosis thanks to a right heart catheterization.
My name is Michelle Figueras and I’m from Upland, California.
I was in and out of the hospital for about five years. I was having leg swelling, high blood pressure, shortness of breath, and then it was mental. I was in heart failure in 2013 when they actually diagnosed me. When I found out I had pulmonary hypertension I was terrified because I Googled all the information and nothing sounded good. But, after I got treatment, I was really relieved because my life has changed completely on medication.
The first time I met another patient with PH was actually at a support group, and that was life-changing because they introduced me to other people who were on the same medications, and kind of understood what I was going through, and I still latch onto that friend until now.
I advocate for myself. I educate my doctors, first of all. Some of my doctors had no idea what. They told me, “I’ve got to go back to the books on this one. I can treat you, but I still have to learn myself.”
So, I first educated my physicians, and then I got very involved in the support group, their fundraisers, and charity walks, and just volunteering my time to help other people. I feel like a lot of people might have this and they just don’t know.
There’s a lot of people that complain about shortness of breath, and asthma, and things like that, and a lot of times it can be PH. Nobody’s going to take the time to do a diagnostic test, especially if you look healthy, like I do. It’s terrifying because I think had I looked sick, doctors would’ve found this a lot sooner. I was a little sad that they didn’t find it sooner because I was already in heart failure.
I’m not limited, but I used to have a hard time getting upstairs without my heart racing and being short of breath. Now, I can work out five days a week, and I’m pretty unlimited. So, I’m very thankful.
Before diagnosis, I just had a hard time doing things like dancing. I can remember being at a wedding and after two minutes of dancing I was exhausted. And I couldn’t understand why. Here I am young, should be able to party, and I had to sit down after one song. And, my aunts who are 30, 40 years older than I am are sitting there dancing all night, and it was, you know. Now I can do that limitless.
The message I would give to newly diagnosed patients is don’t give up hope and really get connected with your support group. Get connected with me, or somebody, anybody who has this [disease] and use them as a resource, because you have to advocate for yourself.
My name is Michelle and I’m aware that I am rare.
EVERYBODY HAS A STORY. WHAT’S YOURS?
phaware wants to share your pulmonary hypertension story with their engaged global audience. Whether you are a patient, caregiver, or medical professional, they are enlisting PH community members from across the globe. Visit www.phaware.global/podcast to share your story and to be considered for a future episode.And learn more about pulmonary hypertension at www.phaware.global. #phaware #phawarepod
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.