November is Pulmonary Hypertension (PH) Awareness Month. In honor of PH Awareness Month, I will be sharing patient profiles about special members from the PH community. Please be sure to visit throughout the month of November to read more PH profiles.
Nicole McClelland, who lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas, was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary hypertension (IPAH) shortly before her 22nd birthday.
Nicole, who didn’t have any health issues growing up, suddenly began to pass out when she was 18. Initially, she didn’t think much of it, but then she began to pass out after walking up a flight of stairs. Her parents decided she should see a cardiologist, who was unable to find anything wrong.
Three-and-a-half years passed and Nicole continued to pass out; she finally was able to get a second opinion. She was diagnosed with POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome) and was placed on vasoconstrictors. Despite her new POTS diagnosis and taking medication to help treat it, Nicole continued to feel fired, miserable and was still passing out regularly.
In 2006, Nicole came home from a football game with a horrible migraine, so she went straight to bed. She passed out in the middle of the night while getting up to use the bathroom. Her husband, Josh, tried to wake her up, but she was non-responsive. He called 911 and they instructed him how to preform CPR, which he administered for the next 20 minutes until the ambulance arrived.
The ambulance arrived and Nicole finally came to. They rushed her to the nearest hospital, but they soon sent her to a larger hospital once they realized that something was very wrong. The larger hospital kept Nicole for observation and continued to run tests on her. They eventually did a right heart catheter, which found that Nicole’s pulmonary pressures were more than 100. She was officially diagnosed with IPAH.
Now 33, Nicole says her pressures are estimated to be in the 30s. She contributes her improvement to the medication Flolan (epoprostenol), which she was placed on following her diagnosis. Although she is no longer on Flolan, she believes “… it helped get my pressures under control and it saved my life!”
When Nicole was first diagnosed with IPAH, she admits she was scared. “But,” she says, “I told myself I could live the best life I could possibly have with PH, or I could feel sorry for myself and still have PH. The first option sounded best and I’ve lived by that ever since!”
Because of the seriousness of her condition upon diagnosis, Nicole did not think she would be able to walk up a flight of stairs again. She is now able to walk up the stairs in her house multiple times a day. Told she wouldn’t be able to have children, Nicole and Josh now have a beautiful family. “I was told we couldn’t have children, which was the truth. But God had a different plan for us and allowed us to have a family through adoption,” Nicole says.
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.