International Faces of PH
Ingrid Rivera, Honduras
My name is Ingrid Rivera, and I was born on August 13, 1979. I am 32 years old and was diagnosed with PPH in 2003. I live in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. As many of you know, PH doesn't have many visible symptoms. Since I can remember, I have always loved sports; in school I was on the women's football team, volleyball team and cheerleading squad.
In 2003, the year I was graduating from college, I would wake up every morning and run. One day when I started running, I immediately felt my legs go numb and I was out of breath. I figured I probably had not stretched right, so I tried again. This time, besides the numbness and breathlessness, I felt dizzy and almost passed out. I visited the doctor because every step I took to the second floor of my parents' house would trigger my symptoms.
At my first visit, the doctor said it was just stress since I was in the middle of presenting my college thesis. A week went by, and I went running again and experienced all the same symptoms. I went back to the doctor, and he sent me for an echocardiogram. He later said, "You have a very rare disease called primary pulmonary hypertension." After many lab exams he concluded my PH was primary because he could not find what caused it.
This was all so new to me, and my family could not believe it. We did research, and everything I read was very scary. I visited many doctors after that, who all said it was hopeless, until I went to Duke University Hospital.
From that day on, my life changed completely. We took everything step by step and I experienced several relapses. In 2004 I underwent surgery for an internal hemorrhage caused by the warfarin I was taking. One day after the surgery, a blood clot went into my lungs.
You might ask, how have I made it this far? First of all, God takes care of me. I take my medicine daily, and I changed my life habits one day at a time. I eat healthier now. I try to get eight hours of sleep, and I try to take everything easy. I don't let anger defeat me, I exercise every day and I never stop giving thanks for each day. I cherish life and everything that surrounds it. I love the family I have, and I have become more sensitive to people's health problems and issues. I always say if you suffer from any type of fatal disease, there is HOPE! Never surrender and never give up because we have the best doctors looking for a cure.
I've been married for four years now to the greatest and most supportive husband one can have. I love my life, my parents, my brother, my sister and the 13 dogs my family has. I also find comfort in religion. It is all a matter of attitude. I currently take calcium channel blockers (diltiazem), Viagra® (sildenafil) and Coumadin® (warfarin). I take the first two medications four times a day and Coumadin® just once a day. I have regular checkups and live an almost normal life. It's not 100 percent normal but at least I feel like it is, and that is what matters.
Take it from me, live your life to the fullest and remember that a cure is just around the corner. Good fortune to all of you out there! You have a friend in me.
by Ingrid Rivera, PH patient