30 Years of Dormancy: Linda Cantrell
I was born with pulmonary hypertension. Unlike the majority of people with PH, mine didn’t develop over time. When I was a baby my mother noticed that I was losing consciousness and rushed me to the hospital. At Loma Linda Medical Center in California it was discovered that I had malformed bronchioles and arteries that weren’t big enough to support oxygen delivery at normal pressures. It was also discovered that I had a hole in my heart. At a year and a half years old I had surgery to repair the hole and I was diagnosed with primary pulmonary hypertension.
I was born in 1980 when PH was considered a death sentence and there were no medications for it. So there was nothing doctors could do except recommend I have a lung transplant when I got old enough, though they didn’t think I would live that long. A few years later my father turned down the lung transplant option due to the low survival rate in the early 1980’s, something I will always be grateful for.
Believe it or not having PH didn’t affect my childhood that much. Once the hole in my heart was repaired, I stopped passing out and my oxygen levels stayed normal. I didn’t have to use oxygen as a child, and I could play and do everything other kids could. I just became tired easier.
So I grew up, finished school, got a job, got married. PH really took a back burner in my life. No one outside of my friends and family knew that I even had a medical condition. I would get tired going up stairs or walking uphill, but that was about it.
It wasn’t until my early thirties that I noticed anything different. I started running out of breath at work, and my job was not very labor intensive. Just walking about 200 feet from my work area to the break room was making me winded. I saw my cardiologist who performed a right heart catheterization and found my pressures had increased quite a bit from the last time he had performed a test several years prior.
My life changed then. I started using oxygen. I started taking medication for my PH. I had to quit my job. It was a lot to handle. I discovered there was a support group in my home town of Las Vegas for people with PH. I went to a meeting and, for the first time in my life, met other people with my condition. I found out about PHA and was even able to go to the PH conference in Dallas, Texas a few years ago.
I am currently going to UCLA as a possible lung transplant candidate. For me, my father definitely made the right decision passing on the transplant for me as a child, as I went more than 30 years without significant problems. But now the technology has progressed and I, sadly, haven become sicker.
I make do and try to be optimistic. I have a lot of good things in my life. I am very fortunate to be loved by so many people. I have friends and family who are here to support me. I also have made many friends who have PH, from both my local support group and social media. I have my husband, who is my caregiver, and my kitties. And most of all I have God, who is always watching over me.
Linda is a recipient of the Team PHenomenal Hope Unmet Needs Patient Impact Fund. Learn more about how this fund supports PH patients at teamph.org/unmetneeds.