A Positive Attitude: Patti Smardz

June 25,2018

On December 18, 2014, exactly one week before Christmas, I was laying in a hospital bed. I couldn’t breathe. I was dizzy when I walked and exercised. I was so swollen. Doctors had already diagnosed me with systemic lupus erythematosus, asthma, and a long list of other things. Like a lot of other patients, I had tried every single inhaler out there. Nothing was helping. I knew something was wrong. This wasn’t “just asthma.”

I had a right heart catheterization that day. Shortly after, while still groggy from anesthesia, my doctor called and told me I had pulmonary hypertension (PH), and that I needed some medications immediately because my pressures were very high. I had no clue what that meant. I thought she was talking about high blood pressure and that medication would help. Then she very patiently explained to me what PH was and told me it was serious.

I was scared. I cried. What about my husband and my two adopted boys (who were 10 and 12 at the time)? My mom and dad? My fur-baby? My friends? How would they get by without me? I’m only 46 years old.

I was released from the hospital that day, and the first thing I did was go on the internet to find out all about PH. I wanted to find out all I could. I kept reading that prior to new medications, life expectancy was only around two to three years. Those numbers became implanted in my brain.

I began treatment with supplemental oxygen and oxygen at night. I tried a couple of medications and noticed I had started to feel better. I could walk a little farther. I could get through cooking a dinner. Laundry has always been a household chore that was tough for me, and I was able to do it with a little more ease. I started going to my local support group, and it helped to know I wasn’t alone in this battle. I’ve made some great PHriends.

I didn’t let PH define me. I wasn’t going to let this diagnosis affect the positive attitude, happiness, and zest for life I’ve always had. I just needed to take one day at a time. After all, that’s all we can do, right? Don’t get me wrong, I have my good days and bad days, but who doesn’t? My husband and boys help me tremendously with the household chores I have difficulty with. I’m thankful for waking up every morning. I’m thankful for medications that help me. And I’m always hoping for a cure!

You know in the “Forrest Gump” movie when Forrest says, “Mama always says, ‘Life is like a box of chocolates, ya never know what you’re gonna get.’”? Well, I believe it’s true, and my sweet mama told me to always have things to look forward to, like the PH conference coming up soon. I’m very excited to meet new people and get new information about PH. I’m also looking forward to meeting my #LetMeBeYourLungs athlete.

I am enjoying life’s little things and am focusing on more of what I can do with this disease instead of what I can’t do. I may not be as strong physically anymore and may not do the things I used to do easily, but I’m breathing, and I will never take that for granted for the rest of my life.

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