30 Days of PH: Teach Me to Breathe

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by BioNews Staff |

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A photo illustration for our
A young woman in a blue summer dress holds a piece of colorful children's art that says "I am big." She's standing in a stairway, smiling broadly.

Carla Jean was diagnosed with pulmonary arterial hypertension at age 25. (Photo courtesy of Carla Jean)

Day 4 of 30

This is Carla Jean’s story:

In July 2020, I started feeling slightly out of breath when doing simple tasks. I attributed this to pandemic lockdown fatigue, a lack of fitness, and my body simply growing accustomed to wearing a mask and following COVID-19 restrictions whenever I left the house.

Whenever I exercised, I would feel lightheaded and dizzy, and in some instances, I actually fainted. I felt terribly out of breath, like I wasn’t getting any air into my lungs. I would suffer awful headaches afterward. I grew wary of doing any type of physical activity.

Four fainting incidents later, I went to my local general practitioner, who referred me to a cardiologist. At 25 years old, I was the youngest patient in the waiting room by four decades. A trip to the pulmonologist and an angiogram later, they discovered that I have pulmonary arterial hypertension. I was beyond shocked when the doctors diagnosed me after three long weeks of tests, scans, and appointments.

The realization that my life would never be the same rocked me. I felt like my life hadn’t even started yet. I am very career-driven, and I absolutely love my job and the school where I work, so the possibility of being physically unable to continue working was heartbreaking. I thought I would have to give it all up, and not be able to see my class finish the year.

We teach our children all of the basic, fundamental knowledge they need, but we also try to teach them values, such as healthy living and the importance of taking care of yourself. How do I explain my condition to a class of 10-year-olds? How do I demonstrate the importance of being healthy when I can’t even make it up a flight of stairs in front of them? Or join them for a quick game of soccer on the field during a break?

However, after getting on my treatment plan and working closely with my doctors, I realized that my diagnosis is not a death sentence. I know my limits and take things slow and steady, which isn’t always possible at a school. But I make do with supportive colleagues and understanding kiddies in my class.

It is not a death sentence, but rather an opportunity to take things slowly, to live in the moment, and to go at your own pace.

Pulmonary Hypertension News’ 30 Days of PH campaign will publish one story per day for PH Awareness Month in November. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more stories like this, using the hashtag #30DaysofPH, or read the full series.

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