30 Days of PH: Don’t Procrastinate in Seeing a Doctor

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by BNS Staff |

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30 Days of PH | Pulmonary Hypertension News | Reader submission | 30 Days of PH graphic

Photo courtesy of Susi Steppins

Day 13 of 30

This is Susi Steppins’ story:

Hello. My name is Susi Steppins. I knew something was wrong for a long time before I received my diagnosis. In fact, I’d felt for years that something was off.

I would have bad days and then they would disappear, and I would feel fine. But then, they didn’t go away, and I was feeling worse and worse. I had trouble catching my breath, and I was exhausted all the time. My heart would beat hard and/or “funny.”

Then the pandemic began, and the hospitals were reporting their beds were full. I also knew that, in my condition, it wouldn’t be a good idea for me to possibly expose myself to COVID-19 by going to the hospital.

So, I procrastinated — until I couldn’t. My husband pushed me into the emergency room in a wheelchair because I couldn’t breathe enough to walk. I spent a week in the hospital, one of the days in ICU, while the doctors figured it out.

I was diagnosed with PH in June 2020. It turned out I’d had an unknown, severe case of sleep apnea, which had deprived my body of oxygen for so long that it damaged some of my organs. Sleep apnea was the cause of my PH.

I’d always had trouble sleeping at night, but I thought that was the price I was paying for having been a smoker. While I had quit eight years prior, I thought all ex-smokers had sleep problems. Not true! If I had gotten treatment sooner, it’s quite possible I would have been spared some damage.

Now on oxygen 24/7, I take many pills each day. But the good news is that the medicine I’m taking is working very well for me. So well, in fact, that a recent echocardiogram showed a huge improvement.

I will continue to fight to improve my health. There have been many advancements in PH treatment and, with the support of others and the Pulmonary Hypertension News website, I know I will be here to fight the fight for a long time.

Pulmonary Hypertension News’ 30 Days of PH campaign is publishing one story per day from someone who has been affected by the disease for PH Awareness Month in November. Read the full series for more stories like this, and follow us on Facebook and Instagram, using the hashtag #30DaysofPH.