Patient story

Bettie Lewis

June in the Ohio River Valley is a terribly uncomfortable time for folks with allergies. I have been here nine years now, and felt my allergies getting worse each year. Finally, this year, 2008, I could stand it no longer. I had been visiting relatives out of state and was having trouble catching my breath after climbing stairs—I had been having a hard time climbing stairs due to arthritis for years but this was a new thing for me. When I got home, I could hardly walk out to my mailbox. I called my PCP and made an appointment. When she asked me what the problem was, I said my allergies were acting up again but seemed to be much worse.

Next thing I knew, a nurse was doing an EKG. The doctor came back in, pulled up a stool and looked serious. She began by showing me the EKG results and asking if I knew the symptoms of a heart attack. Before I could wrap my mind around that, she said she thought I may have ischemia and she wanted me to see a cardiologist. In fact, she had called one and made an appointment for me in two hours.

So, I called my husband and told him we needed to cancel an appointment that afternoon. He is a wonderful, kind and caring man, and insisted on coming to the cardiologist with me. I was sure I had not had a heart attack but nonetheless, I was scared of the unknown. The cardiologist didn't seem concerned and said he thought there may be a blockage or something. They scheduled an echocardiogram and a heart catheterization the next week and went over what might happen if a blockage was found and I needed a stent.

Since I have two brothers who have had stents, I knew it wasn't a difficult procedure, and started paddling my canoe down that famous river in Egypt (De Nile). I contacted all my close friends and relatives and asked for prayers and spent an almost normal week awaiting the tests. As I said, I really wasn't very upset and thought the increasing tiredness was just stress. Also, if there was something seriously wrong, wouldn't I be sick? I felt great as long as I didn't try to get up and walk anywhere.

The echocardiogram went fine, (of course the tech wouldn't tell me anything), blood work was done successfully, a mammogram was gently done and I was ready to go. On the day of the heart catheterization, it took twelve sticks and three nurses to get an IV in. The cardiologist I thought was doing my heart cath had an emergency and another doctor was taking my case. The heart cath was completely painless, but I kept asking what was going on. They said they were doing a right heart cath. Since that was not exactly what I expected, I kept asking why they weren't looking for a blockage and if they were placing a stent. The Dr. doing the cath said they weren't looking for a blockage, they were doing other things. Now I got really scared. I thought for sure they had me mixed up with someone else and demanded they double check my wrist bands with the charts. They assured me they had the right patient and the right orders. I gave up but kept worrying about it.

After the cath, I was in the recovery room and a young woman approached me about being in a study about pulmonary hypertension. What? How did I get from a blockage needing a stent to PH? She seemed surprised that she was the first one to mention this condition to me but didn't go into much detail about the PH. I asked many questions about the study and she assured me it was not a double blind trial and that I would be taking medicine that other patients were already using successfully. So, I agreed to come to her office the next day and have more blood drawn and find out more about the study. Lucky for me I was a good candidate and am now four weeks into the study, taking Tracleer.


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