Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension

Last updated: May 2023

I was diagnosed at age 48 with pulmonary arterial hypertension. I had been waking up in the middle of the night with what I thought were some sort of panic attacks for well over a month. I felt the need to get immediately up from my bed and found myself out of breath and confused about why I was out of breath.

Maybe it's menopause

I didn't know what to make of how panicked I was feeling. I never had experienced panic attacks, but this overwhelming feeling of having to get immediately up and a sudden feeling of terror that something was wrong was starting to happen to me every night, so much so that I dreaded laying down at night. Part of me thought maybe this is the beginning of menopause because I was getting to that age.

A bit of my background: I owned a fitness center for 13 years and taught step aerobics. I never ever missed a day of work at my federal government daytime job in over 20 years. So to say I was never sick is absolutely correct.

Weight gain and swelling

Within the same month as my nighttime problem, I started to gain weight. I once again didn't know what was going on with my body. I even went two full days of not eating a single bit of food only to watch myself gain three pounds during those two days. I couldn't get my shoes on my feet I got so big. I couldn't get my jeans over my lower legs. I was freaking out and embarrassed of myself.

I went during my lunch break and bought a pair of shoes two sizes bigger than my normal size. I got some pants three sizes my normal size and tried my best to hide what was going on with my weight. Every time I took a step it felt like I was lifting weights to move my legs. I've always heard that menopause causes weight gain so I was picturing myself ballooning up to an obese person.

My family intervened

My husband of 28 years told me he had to talk to me and for me to please not get mad at him. He preceded to ask when I was planning on going to the doctor or hospital because something was apparently wrong with me. "You are swelling up, and that's not normal," he said. I didn't know what to say to him, but I did tell him that it was probably just menopause and wasn't going to go to a doctor just to be told to lose weight.

Two days later my mother, who doesn't live in my town, came walking through my front door staring down directly at my feet. "My god, you are swelled, get your purse and shoes because you're going to the emergency room now," my mom said. So I do what my mom said, and the next thing I know I'm being transported from my little town hospital to Vanderbilt Hospital in Tennessee.

I'm not ready to die

Everything happened so fast, but within four days my body weight was back down to normal. I was told to get my end-of-life documents together. I was shocked and scared. I had a two-year-old grandson, and I wanted to see him grow up. I wasn't scared of dying because I am saved, but I wasn't ready for my family to be without me.

My poor husband was more upset than I was. My daughter couldn't stop crying, and I was in the middle of trying to wrap my head around what are end-of-life documents.

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