Life as a Caregiver - a Column by Colleen Steele

Colleen was born and raised in New Jersey, and received a Bachelor of Arts in English from Immaculata University in 1994. She lives in Washington state with her husband and two sons. Her oldest child was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension when he was 8. At 14, he received a heart and double-lung transplant. Colleen’s love for writing, experience advocating for her son, and determination to spread PH awareness inspired her to become a columnist and forums moderator for Pulmonary Hypertension News in 2019. In her column, “Life as a Caregiver,” Colleen is open and honest about caring for her son, his PH experiences, and life post-transplant. It is her ambition to educate and inspire others facing similar challenges.

Helpful Tips I Learned While Raising a Child With PH

Parents sometimes joke that they wish their child came with an instruction manual. If there were a manual for kids, I would’ve had to toss out my son Cullen’s manual when he was 8. That was the year he was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension (PH). The PH diagnosis made…

A Mother Shares How Her Son Didn’t Let PH Box Him In

Dr. Sean Wyman, a respected advocate and loved member of the pulmonary hypertension community (PH), passed away in 2018 after a 15-year battle with the rare disease. You can still feel Sean’s compassion and hear his voice through his efforts to educate and encourage others by sharing his PH…

Perfect Caregivers Are Not Real

The Walt Disney character Mary Poppins is practically perfect in every way. The film of the same name, based on a series of children’s books, is a lovely fictional story about a hired nanny who meticulously cares for two children. Many admire and respect her, and she has a…

A Caregiver’s Journey Home

Some say that you can never go home again. I find that such a sad notion, and I recently convinced myself it isn’t true. I traveled to the other side of the country to pay a long overdue visit to my parents and several friends and family members I haven’t…

My Son Shares Words of Wisdom on His 7-year Transplant Anniversary

“The surgery went well, with no complications, and the new heart and lungs are functioning beautifully.” Aug. 7 marks the seven-year anniversary of posting that miraculous update to my son Cullen’s CaringBridge journal. Living without pulmonary hypertension (PH) has undoubtedly changed his life for the better, but Cullen, 21,…

Turning the Tables on Caregiving

I will turn 50 in October, and I have ignored worsening symptoms alerting me to a possible health concern for many years. I finally decided it was time to face what I was avoiding and schedule a doctor-recommended upper GI endoscopy and colonoscopy. As the anesthesiologist was preparing…

Love Can Make a Broken Heart Feel Strong

I have read that the heart is the hardest working muscle. If you’ve ever seen an echocardiogram of a heart laboring against pulmonary hypertension (PH), you’ll agree. But anyone who doesn’t give the heart credit for being the strongest muscle has never met a grieving mother. In an email…

From PH Mom to Registered Nurse: A Story of Love and Determination

Nurses are remarkable people. My respect for them has grown significantly throughout my son’s pulmonary hypertension (PH) and transplant journey. Their job requires important skills, intelligence, patience, persuasiveness, compassion, energy, emotional control, a strong stomach — the list is endless. And I can’t think of a more suitable person to…

Treating PH Like the Bully It Is

Since my son Cullen’s diagnosis in 2008, I have imagined pulmonary hypertension (PH) as a toxic person rather than a disease. Like the Grim Reaper, PH is an intimidating figure that wears a hood covering its face with looming darkness. The image never reacts or responds, but provides…