Confessions of a Young Adult PH PatientHi everyone, my name is Shannon O’Donnell and I am twenty years old, and I have primary pulmonary hypertension. I am on IV Remodulin, Revatio, blood thinners, high blood pressure medication, and oxygen at night. I was diagnosed when I was six years old. I was told that I wouldn’t live pass a year without a double lung transplant and now it’s been fourteen years since then. And now, I’m doing great, I’m off the transplant list, and talking to my doctor about getting off IV Remodulin and going to the oral form of it.
My story begins on May 31st, 2001, I was six years old and had no idea what was going on due to being a young child not really understanding why I’m different from my friends. My doctor wanted to admit me right away but my parents took me home in order to graduate from kindergarten with my friends, my parents wanted good things to remember of me before we started treatment. A few days later, I graduated kindergarten and had huge party with my family. The next day, we went back to Boston children’s started this rollercoaster called fighting PH. I started out on nitrous oxide then that stopped working and I had no choice but to go on Flolan, which was only approved for adults since there were no medicines approved for children at the time. That’s what I remember of the start of this uphill battle.
In second grade, I went on a Make-A-Wish to Orlando; my wish was to go to SeaWorld and swim with the dolphins and feed Shamu (a killer whale or an orca whichever species name you prefer.) I got to Disney too, and see my family mom’s side as well. Then six years later I was put on IV Remodulin due my school system threatening to take away my rights to education due having to be on ice packs 24/7 unless I switched to medicine that did not involve being on ice. Then being on the cad pump got in the way of being a teenager and I switched to the crono-5 pump. About three days after going on the pump, it decided to go off in the middle of class. I raised my hand and calmly told my teacher I had to go the nurses office and my headmaster (principal) saw me asked me to hand over my phone (he thought the pump was a phone.) I flipped over my pump and he escorted me to the nurse when saw he look of fear on my face. Then a year later came prom, and I had no idea what to do with my pump, so my sewing teacher transformed a spandex skourt into a spandex skourt with a pump pocket. I still use it till use it today whenever I wear a skirt or a dress. Then a year later came senior year. Senior year ah the worries of college acceptance letters, SATs, and graduating. Not for me. I was in and out of the hospital and was barely passing all my classes. Well, I graduated and moved on to a community college where teachers don’t understand zero below temperatures aren't good for PH patients to be waiting for a crowded train.
I was told I couldn’t go to school full time or do sports. Now I go to college part time at a local community college, and take karate at a local dojo. I volunteer at The Hole In The Wall Gang Camp founded by Paul Newman (I was a camper there as well.) I also teach karate to mentally challenged children, and teach second grade religious education at my church. Life at diagnosis was hard because you can’t tell a six year old not to run around. I don’t really remember much expect that. Back then, I coped with everything by playing my dolls, coloring, reading, listening to music, and playing video games. Today, I still cope by drawing, reading, listening to music, playing video games, and watching TV and watching movies. If I have learned anything from watching many Disney movies is that even if you’re different you will always have good friends by your side no matter where you go.
The advice I would have given myself when I was younger is that you got to hold your head up high and smile because you are the greatest star. My advice to anyone that reads this is that "Your imperfections make you beautiful; they make you who you are.” –Demi Lovato.