Nicole Stafford - Breathing Easy Since 2011
Nicole was one of the original members of the Western PA Young Adult PHriends Support group. As anyone who knew her can attest, she lit up every room she entered with her fire for life. After diagnosis, Nicole dedicated her life to raising awareness and funds for this disease and was awarded the “Pulmonary Hypertension Association Outstanding Citizen of the Year Award” in 2016, a few short months before her death on December 6th. One of her greatest accomplishments was the Nicole PHriends Golf Outing held each year in the efforts to raise funds for PH. Nicole inspired so many people with her efforts, she was a true warrior and fought until the very end.
A little over a week after the complicaiton-free birth of our daughter in July of 2011, I was suddenly beginning to get short-of-breath during such routine tasks as grocery shopping. A few days later I found myself struggling to catch my breath when bending over to pick up toys, and then again that night when I went to bed. I called my OB, and we both thought it might be a Pulmonary Embolism, so I went to the ER. That came back clear, but the doctor said my EKG was off... no big deal since I've had a congenital heart defect since birth, which was repaired at age 8. I was admitted, and then transferred via ambulance to the Cleveland Clinic.
That night I was told my pulmonary pressures were 160 per my echo (PH is considered as anything above 25). But as I was still walking to/from the bathroom without difficulty, I didn't realize how sick I was. I was rushed into the Cath Lab just before they closed for the day, and given a swan catheter, and admitted to the Cardiac ICU.
The next morning I was started on Flolan (a continual IV that goes directly into my heart). I spent 2 weeks in the hospital: 1 in the ICU and 1 on the cardiac floor before returning home. I returned home caring for myself, our 4 year old son, a newborn, and a continual IV! It was very scary, but thank God for my husband, family and friends! I am now on IV Remodulin and Revatio, and continue to show improvement with my cardiac function!