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Patient Goes From Death Sentence to Living Life Happily With Pulmonary Hypertension Treatment
Appropriately, November, or Pulmonary Hypertension Awareness Month, is special for Sharon Rothan.
It’s both the month that she first felt the symptoms of the condition, and now, the month she celebrates living her life with her pulmonary hypertension in control.
"It has been three years to the month that I went to the cardiologist with shortness of breath,” she says. "I thought I was having a heart attack.”
Pulmonary arterial hypertension is a blood vessel disorder of the lungs in which pressure in the pulmonary arteries, the blood vessels that lead from the heart to the lungs, rises above normal levels. It is more common in women but affects both genders.
Symptoms include chest pain, dizziness, fatigue and shortness of breath which can occur even during routine activities such as walking across the room. Often, people attribute the symptoms to old age, or in some cases, like Rothan’s, other heart conditions.
Her tests revealed no left heart problems but instead led to this diagnosis, which she says "freaked her out.”
"The physician I was seeing diagnosed me right away,” she says. "I told him, ‘You sound like I’m going to die.’ He gave me five years to live. I was completely devastated and scared.”
But Rothan was referred to Jean Elwing, MD, UC Health pulmonologist and pulmonary hypertension expert, where she received the care she needed.
"Sharon had a severe case of pulmonary hypertension with extreme pressures in her pulmonary arteries,” Elwing says.
Rothan was prescribed Revatio and Remodulin—a common treatment for pulmonary hypertension—and now, she says she feels great.
"My pressures have gone down, and now I work at Macy’s and spend time with my family—all thanks to the care of Dr. Elwing and the team at UC Health.”
Rothan is also a co-leader of the Cincinnati Pulmonary Hypertension Support Group, helping patients and getting the word out about the condition.
"It’s incredible to think that years ago, two to three years was the life expectancy of someone with pulmonary hypertension,” says Elwing. "It just shows you how far we’ve come for awareness and treatment of the illness—oftentimes, if we can catch it early, the prognosis is much better.”
Patient Info: UC Health is conducting a number of additional clinical trials for patients who do not respond well to traditional pulmonary hypertension therapies or would benefit from a different treatment approach. For more information or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Elwing, call 513-475-8523.