Friday, 19 June 2015

PHighter Friday: Kayla

Hi my name is Kayla and I am 22 years old.  I am not your average young adult, I have overcome a lot of health issues during my life.  I was born with a lot of health problems including being born with a Giant Omphalocele, (all your organs outside of your body in a jelly sack) hole in my heart, (fixed when I was seven), club foot, scoliosis, and I was tube fed until 5 years old.  I also didn't get to go home from the hospital until I was about 3 months old.  During my childhood I was in and out of the hospital.  After middle school, I had a seven year gap of non-serious health issues.  Until the summer of 2014, when my world was turned upside down. 

I remember it was a hot summer day and I was walking in the mall with my mom and I was walking very slowly and trying to catch my breath.  I thought I was tired from the heat and maybe hungry.  So we made it to the food court, sat down, and got something to eat.  After that I felt better and could walk back to the car.  The next morning I was gasping for air while I was asleep.  I have never experienced that before.  My mom immediately called the doctor and got an appointment that morning to check out what was wrong with me.  When I got to the doctors I was still having a hard time breathing, but I was still talking and alert.  They decided to check my o2 sats and I was in the 60s.  They immediately called the ambulance and rushed me to the ER.  The ER thought I had an asthma attack, but I never had one of those before.  I do have asthma but it's only reactive when I have a bad cold.  So they gave me tons of breathing treatments and it helped a little, but not enough.  The doctor decided to admit me to the hospital.  He told me he wouldn't let me go until he found the answer.  It took a week to do all the tests to determine what was going on.  The last test to confirm their diagnosis was the right heart cath.  That was very scary being awake on the operating table.  I held it together barely.  When the heart cath was done the doctors told me I had Pulmonary Hypertension.  I was confused, scared, and speechless.  I had no clue what PH was.  The doctor explained in detail and still I didn't understand it.  All I remember was it is not curable and I would have to live with it for the rest of my life.  In the past I was use to having health issues and having the doctors solve them the best they could.  But I never thought I would have to deal with a rare and non-curable disease for life.  On top of that I had to be on oxygen 24/7 because of my low oxygen stats and I'm still on oxygen today.  

All of this was new territory for me.  I was in denial for awhile and kept asking my parents why is this
happening to me.  They kept explaining it to me and they were really supportive.  Eventually maybe about a couple of months later I adapted with my new way of life.  I have always been a positive person and I knew I could get through this tough time because I have done it my whole life.  The o2 and the meds were what was saving my life.  I was in a new semester in college when I was diagnosed and had to get back to it.  I went back a week after coming home from the hospital.  I had to drop 2 out of 3 classes because I would have been too overwhelmed.  My parents helped out and bought me a portable oxygen concentrator, so it would be easier to go to school and get around.  I even bedazzled my concentrator, to make it more fashionable!  I got through that semester and during that time I knew I wanted to spread awareness about PH.

I never heard of this disease before until I got diagnosed with it.  So I knew I needed to do my part and raise money to help find a cure.  That's when I decided to start my own fundraising jewelry line called PHantastic Jewelry.  I always have been into fashion and love being crafty.  I created my own website ( to share my story about being diagnosed with PH and to sell my handmade jewelry for awareness.  The net proceeds go to the PHA to help find a cure.  I knew for myself to cope with this "new normal", I had to give back somehow and turn it into a positive.  I enjoy making the jewelry and spreading awareness about PH at local craft fairs and open markets.  Also at these events I get to meet a lot of great people and hear their stories of their own health battles. 

I feel good that when I share my story people are comfortable to share their's.  Some people may wonder how can someone on o2 be doing so much.  Well, since I was born my family, friends, and God have been my support system and my parents taught me an important lesson early on to never give up.  There is always a "silver lining" in hard times.  I strive to do my best and achieve the goals I want in life.  This past year in a half has been intense, but I learned so much.  With being diagnosed I actually have had more energy and developed an exercise routine with the help of Pulmonary Rehab.  I just finished another semester in college and I took 3 classes.  First time having that many classes since being diagnosed.  I feel so good that I am back at where I wanted to be.  I am so appreciative because I am stable with PH at this time and I can focus on school, enjoying being with my family and friends, and working on my fundraising jewelry business.

For the first time in awhile I feel like I can slow down and "stop and smell the roses" instead of being in survival mode.  I hope sharing my story will help others that are having a tough time that it is important to remember take it day by day.  And your life will change a lot being diagnosed with PH, but really try to have a positive outlook.  It truly helps in this situation!  Also allow yourself time to adapt to your new way of life.

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