What a Difference a Year Can Make: Kirsten Braley
It’s been one year since I was diagnosed with pulmonary arterial hypertension. I was scheduled to spend the first week of January, 2018 undergoing tests for the lung transplant list. I was incredibly fortunate to be able to cancel those tests because I had responded so well to my medications that I would not have qualified at that time.
One year ago, I had no idea how sick I was. I compare it to whenever I get a new prescription from the eye doctor. Suddenly, I can see the individual leaves on the trees, and I realize my eyesight before had gradually deteriorated to the point where I wasn’t seeing well at all. Before my first appointment with my pulmonary hypertension (PH) specialist, my six-minute walk results were 186 meters, while my oxygen saturation fell to 56 percent. During the appointment, when the doctor asked me how far I could walk, I sincerely told him I could walk as far as I needed. I had adapted my life to fit my PH symptoms, even when that meant stopping every 300 feet to catch my breath.
On September 22, 2018, I walked 2.7 miles (without stopping) for the Pulmonary Hypertension Association’s O2 breathe Walk. I was joined by my Let Me Be Your Lungs partner, Harold Laudien. Harold and his family have been a great support this past year. When I was diagnosed, Harold wanted to challenge himself physically to raise awareness and money for PH.
I don’t think Harold has ever done something halfway. He is someone who commits 100 percent. In December 2017, he signed up to participate in the 2018 Florida Xtreme Triathlon, which is a three-day, coast-to-coast, 300+ mile, triathlon journey across Florida. It didn’t matter that he’d previously only completed a Half IRONMAN.
Harold hired a trainer to help him create a schedule to prepare his body for the Xtreme. Most importantly, Harold adhered to the training schedule even though it meant waking at 4:00 am to fit his training in around his other responsibilities.
Harold and I both find ourselves one year post-PH diagnosis. I can walk 2.7 miles without stopping or having my oxygen saturation drop below 90 percent. Harold completed a full Ironman in September. We’ve both come a long way on our parallel journeys.
November 16 is the first day of the Xtreme Triathlon. Please join me in wishing him well!