Rebuilding and Embracing: Christa McNutt
My name is Christa, and in May of 2010, I was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension (IPAH).
On the 19th of May 2010, I had an appointment to see the doctor. There is a free/by income clinic downtown. I didn’t have insurance, so this worked best for me. This was my first visit to establish a relationship. They did a physical, etc. They were checking my pulse and oxygen saturation. When the nurse came back in to see where my pulse was, she looked at my finger and then had me rest for five more minutes. The number read 86. I had no idea what that meant. They seemed to be alarmed enough to do a chest x-ray. The doc came in and never said anything about the x-ray except for I’d be getting the results in the mail. That didn’t sit right with me.
I went to visit one of my best friends and she was kind of concerned. She hopped online and talked with a mutual friend we’ve known for a long time who is a retired RN. After they went back and forth a little, they asked if I was short of breath at any time. I told them I hadn’t noticed except from walking to one end of the mall to the other. I had to go to the bathroom, so I told her when I got back, we’d both pay attention to see if I was short of breath. I was, so our retired RN friend suggested that I go to the Emergency Room.
They ran some tests and then the ER doctor came back with, “Well, I suspect it’s either right heart failure, or pulmonary hypertension.” I remember thinking “High blood pressure? I can eat better and stuff, it’ll be fine!” I had no clue that PH is NOT the same as high blood pressure.
They admitted me to the hospital and ran every test they’re supposed to run when checking for PH except for a right heart catheterization. I was released May 21, 2010. I had a right heart catheterization in August to confirm my PAH diagnosis, and my local pulmonologist referred me to my amazing specialist in Augusta, Georgia. I have been on a combination therapy of Adcirca & Letairis for eight years and I’ve been stable for the last four years. I’m also on Lasix and supplemental oxygen with sleep and exertion.
I googled “pulmonary hypertension” (the WORST thing to do) and all I could focus on was “fatal, incurable, life expectancy, prognosis,” and whatever else scared me. I had lost my long time career (that I loved and miss so much) of being a hairstylist. I lost hope, I lost faith, and I lost who I was before getting sick. I had to grieve the loss of the old me before I could rebuild and embrace the new me.
Luckily, some friends directed me to the PH Association website. I learned so much about my lung disease. I was able to read other people’s stories, people who had been diagnosed 15, 20, even 30 years ago. That restored my hope! It has taken me three or four years to embrace the whole, “I have PH but PH doesn’t have me” mantra.
I got lucky. There are SO many stories out there involving people being misdiagnosed for years before they finally get the right diagnosis of PH.
If it weren’t for my two friends getting me to the ER, and if it weren’t for my doctors suspecting PH right away, I wouldn’t be here today because I was already in heart failure when I was first diagnosed. I try to spread as much awareness as possible because early diagnosis is so important!
I just discovered Team PHenomenal Hope’s page when I saw a retweet in my Twitter timeline. I am thankful for all who have shared their stories on this website, too! I think it is important and inspirational to read other patient stories, and it is easier knowing that someone understands what PH is like. My friends and family are very supportive and I can’t wait for them to check out Team PHenomenal Hope, too!