Kirsten Braley: My PH Story
In October 2017, I acquired some accessories that I hadn’t planned on: a portable oxygen concentrator, a handicap placard, and a medical id bracelet. Officially, November is Pulmonary Hypertension Awareness Month, but for me October 2017 was that month.
Since April I had been feeling short of breath doing everyday tasks that used to be easy. I talked to
my doctor about it and she had me start taking iron for mild anemia. By July I noticed that if I wanted to walk any distance greater than a block I would stop to ask myself if I could do it. I talked to my doctor again and she started me on an inhaler for asthma.
For a month I thought I was misusing the inhaler because it did nothing for my breathing. So, I decided that I must have let myself get shamefully out of shape and I was determined to do an exercise video every day to build up my stamina. Nothing was helping me to catch my breath and by September I couldn’t carry a load of laundry upstairs without becoming winded.
In October, I upgraded my cellphone to a Samsung Galaxy S8. The new phone has an app that includes a pulseox tracker. I started tracking the percent of oxygen in my blood on the phone and my numbers were disturbing (low 70s to low 90s depending on activity). I thought maybe the app was garbage and asked two healthy friends to try it and they both got 100s.
Finally, I was concerned enough to make my doctor listen to me armed with the data from my phone. I wound up in the hospital for 5 days where I was ultimately diagnosed with pulmonary arterial hypertension. Basically, my heart has trouble pumping blood to my lungs due to high blood pressure
in the arteries in my lungs. With medication and the care of exceptional doctors, I will manage my
My specialists are still trying to determine the exact cause of my pulmonary hypertension. Narrowing down the cause will help the doctors determine how best to treat me. So far, it looks like I have an underlying lung disease that led to my pulmonary hypertension.
I am so blessed to have a fantastic husband, generous friends/family, and a remarkable church family who are already walking this journey with me. One of my extraordinary friends, Harold Laudien, decided to combine his passion for endurance sports with raising awareness and money for pulmonary hypertension. Harold not only embraced the motto, “Let Me Be Your Lungs” through racing, but also through assisting me with everyday tasks at work like emptying my garbage can and retrieving mail (both things are too difficult for me to do without becoming short of breath).
To learn more about my PH journey, my friend Harold’s efforts as a Team PH athlete, or to make a donation visit his athlete profile here.