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Patient story

Kathleen RichardsonKathleen Richardson

“Kathleen’s Song,” as written by Jodi Palmer

One thing Kathleen Richardson has learned from her struggle with a life-threatening illness is that she needs to keep on singing.

"It’s truly an expression of my love for the Lord," said this 40-year-old mother of three who recently recorded a new Christian music CD called "Could You Love Me Anymore."

"God met me more than halfway when I was desperate," Richardson said. "I doubt. I get depressed. I have hard times trying to deal with pulmonary hypertension, but I know He’s there, and that’s what gets me through."…

Richardson, who lives in Florida with her husband and three young sons, was diagnosed with the illness in June 2001. As it is for many young women, this illness was not easily diagnosed. For Richardson, it took months to finally figure out why she was so short of breath even after losing 30 pounds.

"I had lost all this weight; it seemed like it should be the opposite," she said. "But I’ve always been healthy, so I didn’t worry about it too much in the beginning."

It started when she was pregnant with her third son, Joshua. She began experiencing shortness of breath that got worse when she caught a cold. The breathing problems continued after Joshua’s birth. Kathleen, who is athletic and loves the outdoors, entered a raft race down the Delaware River with a friend, but thought she should see a doctor to check out her lungs before the race.

As is often the case with PH, the doctors initially found nothing significant and could not come up with a diagnosis. …The doctor wrote her a prescription for an inhaler, but she was breast feeding at the time and didn’t use it because it was dangerous for nursing mothers.

She went ahead with the raft trip, but it was a much more demanding and arduous task than she ever anticipated.

"At one point I jumped off and pushed the raft through some rapids," she said. "When I jumped back in the raft, I honestly thought I wouldn’t catch my breath. It was awful."

Soon after that, friends came to visit. During a trip to Sea World, the group walked up some steps, and Kathleen was the only one out of breath on the landing.

"That’s when I realized there was a definite problem," she said.

More trips to doctors, more tests and more persistence on Kathleen’s part finally yielded the frightening diagnosis.

Her husband, Jody, was shocked.

"It just didn’t seem possible," he said. "It still doesn’t. She has always been so healthy and loves the outdoors."

The question "OK, God, now what?" settled in both their hearts. Kathleen had to face the possibility of not being around for her children.

“That was most difficult part of dealing with the diagnosis,” she said. “It was, and still is, such a gut wrenching feeling. “

Her doctor in Florida advised her to find a specialist, so she and her husband found someone in New York, where she grew up and the family spends their summers.

Driving down the road to their lake home in New York that summer, Kathleen told God it was all too much.

"I felt like a boxer who kept getting hit in the ring and couldn’t get up anymore," she said. "I needed Him to pick me up and get me through."

He did.

“I came to the point of realizing that God loves my kids more than I do and that He will provide for them and take care of them whether I was the vessel He used or not,” Kathleen said.

So the Lord gave her tremendous strength, enduring patience and even a song to sing about it all.

"Could You Love Me Any More?" is the title song for her CD recorded at a friend’s studio…

"My mom taught me to play the guitar when I was young in Wappinger Falls, N.Y., and I’ve always loved to sing," Kathleen said. "I started playing more seriously in college as part of the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship and wrote some songs then."

Now, however, there were more important songs to write and much more she needed to sing about.

"I wrote many of the songs on my CD after my diagnosis," she said. "It has helped me so much and now, hopefully, it will help others, too."

She feels this is the path the Lord has given her to reach more people and bring awareness to a disease that threatens her life and the lives of hundreds of thousands worldwide. She is offering her CD as a gift to the public and asking people to send a donation to the Pulmonary Hypertension Association instead of paying for the CD.

...Kathleen Richardson has hope and faith. And her song goes on.

 

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The National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) awarded PHA the Abbey S. Meyers Leadership Award in 2012 for outstanding service to PHA members in advocacy, education and other key areas.