Instead of staring, please ask me why I use disabled parking

A little communication goes a long way in furthering understanding

Jen Cueva avatar

by Jen Cueva |

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To the lady who glared at me and muttered under her breath as I pulled into a disabled parking spot:

Why not approach me and ask me why I parked there? I’d gladly explain that I have pulmonary hypertension (PH), a rare and progressive disease that affects my heart and lungs. PH symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain, and swelling, which can make everyday activities like walking challenging.

You see, my disability license plate and placard allow me to park my car near the store entrance for a reason. If you could spare a moment to talk with me instead of gawking, I’d happily share how I use my portable oxygen concentrator to help me breathe and do the things I enjoy. Sometimes, even a short distance requires me to use a wheelchair. But on good days, I can drive myself to the store and feel a sense of independence. Don’t we all yearn for that?

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My constant fatigue is something you wouldn’t notice at first glance. Rest alone can’t ease it, and it hinders me from doing simple tasks most people take for granted. While the exhaustion never subsides, my disability placard allows me to live life to the fullest and make the most of my good days.

If you’d approached me, I could’ve also told you about my chronic pain, which never completely goes away. Often, it leaves me curled up on my couch, seeking relief with the help of a heated blanket. But I’ve learned to cope with it and the muscle spasms that sometimes render me immobile.

Those moments when I can venture out and do something, no matter how small, are significant. From grocery shopping to walking a short distance, even basic activities remind me of life’s beauty. Living with a chronic illness isn’t always easy, but I strive to stay positive. I’ve learned to pace myself, prioritize rest, and enjoy the little things.

Any day, I’d trade my disability placard, PH, and other illnesses for a life without constant shortness of breath and pain. Yes, I may appear fine, even with my oxygen concentrator, but my outward appearance doesn’t reflect the actual state of my health. If only you could spend a week in my shoes and feel what I feel, you would gain a deeper understanding.

So next time, please just ask me why I’m using disabled parking instead of staring and muttering. Communication can go a long way in fostering empathy and compassion.

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, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.


MamaBear007 avatar


This! That placard or license plate make otherwise "easy" day-to-day chores possible, even when the disability or illness isn't apparent!

Jen Cueva avatar

Jen Cueva

Thank you for your support, Mamabear! I sense you related to this one on many levels. Did your son or does he use a placard when he's driving?

I appreciate you reading my column and taking the time to share your thoughts. Take care, my friend.

Joanne Sperando avatar

Joanne Sperando

This is why I keep PHA brochures in my car and a PH magnet on my bumper. Please, please, please....ask me!!!

Jen Cueva avatar

Jen Cueva

Joanne, back when I was first diagnosed, I carried those informational cards and educational resources. Sadly, I often felt like it was a waste of time. I even witnessed some people carelessly discarding the cards and brochures, which was quite rude. At the very least, they could have disposed of them when I wasn't around.

Regardless, I realize I need to get more resources and start again. If just one person learns something, it's definitely worth it. By the way, I think I have some PH stickers somewhere, but I haven't seen them since we moved to San Diego.

You seem well-prepared and eager for people to approach you. Hehe.

Thank you for taking the time to read my column. It's an honor that you were also inspired to share your thoughts. Take care, my PHriend. I hope to see you in the forums again soon.

Linda Di-Giusto avatar

Linda Di-Giusto

I only just got a disability permit parking a few months ago .. because crossing my fingers technique, to find a park close to where I needed to be, wasn't always successful. I use it all the time now and it truly is the biggest relief. I barely get out these days, only to doctors appointments .. but it gives me a little bit of confidence that I CAN actually do it.

Jen Cueva avatar

Jen Cueva

Hi Linda,
Once I began using my placard, I, too found I could be more independent and do a few simple things on my own. Any little bit of helps, especially on days when the PH symptoms are fighting with our bodies.

That extra confidence boost makes us women feel a little better, I relate. I'm grateful you took the time to read my column and inclined to leave your thoughts.

If you haven't yet joined us in the PH News forums, I am a co-moderator and we would love to have you join us. You can click the link below. It's a warm and supportive group sharing our PH experiences.
PH News forums

Thanks again for reading. It means more than you know.


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