Pondering a reason, a season, and a lifetime after my PH diagnosis

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by BioNews Staff |

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An illustration for November's Community Spotlight on people living with pulmonary hypertension.
A mother and son stand in front of an airport. The son looks like a teenager, dressed in blue shorts and a blue T-shirt. He has wavy, chin-length hair, and stands about a foot taller than his mother, who's at his left. She holds the handle of a purple and black suitcase.

Kristine Green and her son, Oliver, travel to see her PH specialist in September. (Photos courtesy of Kristine Green)

This is Kristine Green’s story:

Looking out the large window of my ninth-floor hospital room, I suddenly realized things were serious. For some reason, the hospitalizations, countless procedures, ICU stays, code blues, and the Flight for Life that deposited me here hadn’t registered in my mind as serious. Somehow, sitting on the pleather couch that probably folded into a bed and staring at the city skyline cloaked in dusk is what it took for me to start to worry.

Tears overwhelmed me, and I did something I hadn’t done in some time: I prayed. Before I recognized what I was seeing, I felt peace and instantly knew it would be OK. A green aurora borealis star streaked across the sky.

That was 12 years ago. Since then, I’ve endured many medication adjustments. Thankfully, I’m a nitric oxide responder, a positive indicator for the effectiveness of treatment for my idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). I currently take a combination of medications and use supplemental oxygen. I fly to visit my specialist and spend hours negotiating medication costs. This is an easy part of having PAH.

Navigating relationships, however, became tricky. The cliché “a reason, a season, or a lifetime” struck me as true. I could no longer hike, bike, or teach, and as a result, most of my “reason” friends no longer included me in activities. It was a hefty dose of the reality of living my “new normal.”

My “season” friends blessed me with lessons that led to heartache, reflection, and growth.

The “lifetime” folks are a big part of why I am still here today.

A bearded man wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses stands next to his son, a teenager with curly hair. The man is wearing a purple T-shirt and the son a black hoodie. They seem to be at an outdoor fair.

Oliver Green and Kristine’s husband, Nate Green, in September.

Nate, my husband, has been my rock and my caregiver. He was, and continues to be, supportive and loving. Oliver, our son, was 14 months old when I was diagnosed, so he doesn’t remember the healthy me. He’s the first to tell me — often with just a raise of his eyebrows and that look — that my lips are blue. My daughter, Shelley, has been realistic, speaks truth with love, and possesses a talent for making me laugh so hard that everything negative fades away.

I recently traveled to Colorado to see my specialist. When we moved to Montana, I insisted that if I didn’t find a silver lining in going to these appointments, I’d sew one in. Two dear friends — my moon and my sun — were that lining.

Then there are the four-legged angels. Interacting with and loving their unique personalities brings me a sense of purpose. I am rewarded with endless snuggles, tongue smiles, and the nightly happy bunny flop.

A mother, her young daughter, and a teenage boy stand next to a river with bluffs in the background. The kids are holding large inner tubes for floating down the river. The daughter and the boy are wearing life jackets. It's a sunny day.

Green’s daughter, Shelley Ryan, her granddaughter, Lilly Ryan, and her son, Oliver Green, prepare to float the Blackfoot River in Montana in August.

Education was written on the hurdles and the roadblocks. I was directed to the Pulmonary Hypertension Association upon diagnosis. I started participating in online groups, eventually creating a local group with my very first PHriend, Anna. In LiPHe in the Grand Valley, we learned about various medications and other treatments, and oxygen, as we cried, completed fundraising events, laughed, spread awareness, and became friends.

To my fellow PHriends, please know that you are not alone in this! Communities change, and that’s OK.

In recognition of Pulmonary Hypertension Awareness Month in November, the PHCommunity Spotlight campaign features a series of stories highlighting the real-life experiences of people affected by PH, written in their own words. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more stories like this, using the hashtag #PHSpotlight, or read the full series.

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