Our Journeys

Memorial Story

Susan Huntzinger

As told by her daughter Erica Huntzinger
June 2011

“Grief is the price we pay for love”


My mother had respiratory issues all her life with childhood allergies and asthma, which worsened over time. The first ER visit for lung problems that I can remember was when my mom was about 29 or 30 years old. My mom would have shortness of breath, and usually after supportive measures, she would be sent home. My mom had respiratory failure the first time in 1985 when she was 38 years old; she passed out in a public place where, fortunately, some strangers found her and called for help. She was hospitalized for a few days and sent home. She had respiratory failure the second time and a myocardial infarction in 1995, and hospital tests showed that her heart was enlarged. In 2005 after more than two decades of countless ER visits and hospital stays for respiratory issues, she called me one day and said she was completely fatigued and felt so weak and tired she could not even stand up. This was the tipping point that led to a diagnosis of pulmonary hypertension, something we had never heard of before.

Within moments of looking up pulmonary hypertension on the internet, we figured out that this was extremely serious and that we were in uncharted territory. The diagnosis confirmed what we had felt intuitively for a long time – something other than severe asthma was going on with my mom’s health. The only good thing about the diagnosis was that we now had a name to give to all of the things my mom had been going through. A condition of this gravitas required something different from us as a family. It required us to look at this through a different paradigm, not the paradigm of chronicity that one might have for something like asthma, but the paradigm of life-threatening illness.

My mother faced this challenge much like she faced everything else in her life, with her own unique brand of grit and humor, and she never complained about her illness. She fought through her illness like a champion and lived her life as fully as possible, on her own terms, fulfilling all of her major goals in her life that she had not yet accomplished. In early 2009 she learned during an ER visit that she was experiencing right-sided heart failure and decided she didn’t want to go to the hospital anymore. She had always wanted to pass away at home, and in February while she was sleeping she made her departure. We knew this was what she wanted, and we are happy for her that she is no longer uncomfortable, but we miss her every day. Thank you, Mom, for everything, with love always.




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