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Start Giving Patients the Freedom to Heal.

Barely one month after being released from my hospital stay in February of 2017 someone messaged me that I was “doing it wrong.” Those words exactly, and that I needed to reflect more positivity. Resentful is an understatement that I felt within that moment, and every once in a while I still allow this intrusive message to continue to plague my thoughts. Yes, I have given it more power than I should, but the truth is that the message she sent actually does have a lot of power. In my weakest moments sometimes remembering that message is a deep cut.

You see, this hospital stay was an emergency admit, in the middle of peak tourism season in which I had just opened a store only a month prior, oh, and I sold flowers and Valentines Day was fourteen days away. Did you get all that? Exactly. I was trying to run a store almost four hours away, in severe heart failure, and I was in the ICU having a specialty team put a tube in my chest that would remain there forever. As far as I could see (which was through a filter of complete panic) my life was over. The doctors told me I was dying around the time I was finally doing something I had dreamed of, and it was interrupted in the most intense way. I was hospitalized eleven days; eleven days of constant beeping, cardiac alarms, palliative care, counseling, transplant doctors, and entire team staring at you and taking notes at least two times a day. That doesn’t include the insane pain, crying, nausea, and trauma. Eleven days I laid there barely making it out in time to immediately turn around and have everyone’s Valentine flowers done. I was extremely sick; I had lost around thirty pounds, was still throwing up around three in the morning every night, and being a new IV patient which includes learning about the machine as well as the medications attached to me. I was still extremely angry that I would get up to do something and would feel my pump slam down behind me, tugging my tubing. Or that showers now meant maneuvering tubing, and feeling the warm water hit a bunch of plastic taped to your chest. The reality was setting in that I was finally attached to a machine – my worst fear. My invisible disease was finally visible, and I was on the last leg of therapy – one step closer to organ transplantation. Okay, I’m done with the existential thoughts but you get the point.

I am just now comfortable with IV therapy…a full year and a half later. I finally mix seven cassettes to put in the fridge so I am changing my medication on time. I am finally taking care of my central line after losing my first. The road is just now gentle because that’s how long it took to accept my pump, work out all the technical kinks – and I am not alone. A lot of us PH’ers struggle with IV therapy, and years later it is common to still have a flood of emotion come over you causing you to be self-conscious about your disease, your body, and to be angry or sad. It is completely normal to suddenly “see” your pump for the first time in forever or to watch people swim and scream “WHY” inside your head. This will continue – not most days but it will happen at least one of those three hundred and sixty-five.

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The point is, when I received this message I was only one. month. out. Need I repeat myself but barely a month – that’s not even the amount of time you need to even recover from the new medication. Your entire body has been invaded and is changing among a very powerful life altering drug running through it twenty-four seven. Your entire world has been shaken by trauma, paranoia about your own death and future, and you open your messages to see “you’re doing it wrong.” This is nothing against this person – because she is a good person, but to this day those words are penetrating and wrong themselves. However, they awoke me to the reality that she speaks for the common voice and attitude in America – and that’s a damn problem.

We often are so bothered by things that we can’t comprehend so we blanket them. Patients ourselves do it some time before we truly develop an understanding of our disease. If you have something serious, invasive, life threatening, or mortality awareness in general about you – you are blanketed, unfollowed, or reminded that you need to be happier. Instead of people volunteering to visit you in the pits of hell, they decide to pretend it doesn’t exist. The pain, and trauma you lived through is really a happy story – and you should be thankful. YES, IT IS but it is NOT RIGHT NOW. The right thing at the wrong time is still the wrong thing. Things need to be felt, acknowledged, and sort through. In a year it is a happy story, and a transcendent story of personal growth and pain, but right now it is barely escaping with my life. It is not okay to rush any kind of healing. It is not okay to pretend someone’s pain doesn’t exist because it makes you uncomfortable. We should be uncomfortable quite often in life – that is if we want to keep moving forward. Things that count, helping other people, feeling all the feelings often comes from a driving force of being uncomfortable, and wanting to change that.

Being diagnosed incredibly young has been a process of learning about mental health, trauma, and where I fit into in this society. A society that is obsessed with perfection – we can’t deny it. We would gladly drop a thousand dollars at Hobby Lobby making our home amazing to take Pinterest pictures for our Instagrams to prove to everyone how perfect we are. We all do it – all of us deep down wants to be a Pinterest perfect woman. Being a physical reminder that things are quite imperfect, medical bills are piling, and coverage is being threatened can have you cast out of a lot of situations when it comes to fitting into society. It is extremely hard to find a place for yourself when your reality clashes with their ideals. More and more I hear about PH’ers horrifying experiences of being corrected, made fun of, not welcome, and overall just not supported.

I get that we are unrelatable in a lot of aspects. Our pets are our only children, we post pictures of mixing our medicine, and maybe our stories on Instagram consist of hospital stays with the caption being a slight mental breakdown. We are literally looking death in the mirror everyday and trying to fight and cope with it. In a country where we have been deemed “too expensive” for medical coverage, and a “burned down house” AKA hopeless cause – difficult is an understatement. We would just like a little time to vent and be heard just like you get to after spilling coffee down your front on your way to a meeting with screaming kids in the backseat – only for us maybe it’s congress messing with our healthcare rights or our copayment is $4,000 this month. We just want to vent to our friends then move on to shopping at target too.

You can think we are doing it wrong, you can be that outside perspective and see that we are suffering, and you can do two things; you can send us a message saying “you’re doing it wrong.” OR you can send a lunch invite, and over a great meal ask, “How are you doing? How are you coping? What hobbies do you do for yourself? What was it like? Wow, tell me more about that?” like a human would. It’s really that simple.

Please save your criticism for real problems in this world, like healthcare, racism and misogyny. Please save your lousy Facebook messages, and trade them in for connection. We just need time to heal, real connection, laughter, company and we want to be heard – we are tired of being silenced by America’s expectation of normal.

-haley.

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Terminal, Terrified, and Traumatized.

Reactive is the exact word to describe my current self; a volcanic emotional eruption after years of collision, change, pressure, politics, and overall what gradually morphs into traumatic stress. Many would define the results after a life changing — or life threatening event, but what had I experienced? Just a “bad” diagnosis and a few pills honestly. Until almost six years later when I felt comparably to unraveling like a cheap sweater, and finally diagnosed with severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Only eighteen at the time of my Pulmonary Hypertension diagnosis, I did not fully comprehend what would happen to not only my body, but my entire existence. In those beginning phases I showed up to a vastly overwhelming amount of appointments, collected pills, listened to results, and attempted to force myself into continuing a life that at the time felt right for me. I believed that I would do what everyone else was doing; find a career, get married, have kids, and just endure within the definition of normal. I took the “your disease is terminal, you can’t have kids, your life will forever change” and shoved it to a deep dark corner titled denial. In it’s place I painted a brave portrait of a “strong, happy, chronically ill human” to obliterate my reality’s truth. I received quite a bit of compliments on doing so too utterly convincing my conscious and others that I was truly happy, and most of all okay.

I don’t even know how it happened, or when it happened. It was a daily transition into this anger, grief, and outraged person that I harvested a special hatred for. Deeply I felt compelled and pulled to be another individual who others, including myself, did not understand. Unpredictability, obsessed, overwhelming sad compiled with anger — Why was this happening? Despair and outrage will bring you to your knees only to find a crevice of that darkened place that only you thought erasable. The truth is unpalatable, alienating, and disturbing. Underneath it’s crushing embrace I collapsed into this final form of who I had no choice in becoming — I just am.

In simplest of terms, I am being held hostage by my own brain to be kept inside a “reactive mode” because I am experiencing anxiety related to a past traumatic event. The diagnosis of a terminal disease is traumatic. The paranoia of keeping my central line in tact as well as my pump, and mixing my medication is traumatic. The constant hospital stays, checkups, surgeries, and mandatory IV’s are traumatic. Healthcare coverage being a constant threat in America is traumatic. “Will I die from my disease, or without treatment?”

Wrapping your mind around the fact that you will have your organs replaced is indescribable — and just when you think you have escaped these continuous phrases of “you will have a normal life” — the line that doctors rely on for relaxation, you see Facebook updates of people having babies right next to your twenty-year old friend who succumbed to her fight with this disease. Just when you thought you could continue on with your Saturday morning cup of coffee you receive the news that the grant organization, Caring Voices Coalition, is no longer covering any expenses for your medication for 2018. How will you cover your $60,000 a month co pays?

Your perception of reality is a fight for survival which is vastly too intense for others, especially when reaction is what you are currently wired to produce in result of these perceived, and very evident threats. While I am currently seeking help so that I can improve my well being, I have broken down and transformed. I will never be the same because the skin which holds my body together has new tubes, scares, and shed repeatedly. It is okay to change amidst your survival.

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I wish in this country we completely understood the toll of a disease on someone, and that the consequences bleed into all parts of our life: it is not contained to a hospital room. Someone who is chronically ill becomes limited not only by the failing body they are trapped in, but employment, relationships, insurance, housing and mentally — disease can envelope you. Chronically ill people are so anxious about current day America and their future that while taking care of these defeated organs we ignore the health and well being of one our most important; the brain. Why would a country of plenty make the checkups and healthcare of an important member such a challenge? Well, quite frankly, our lives are too expensive and non existent to begin with. What did you call us Senator Pat Toomey? Burned down houses I do believe?

While the intentions and thoughts behind caring about a chronically ill person are pure and vibrating from what we think could be a good place, we have to be willing and prepared to fully encompass the mental obscurity that will plague this human. It is an exhausting exchange of interactions in which patients are losing their sure footing among this journey. Their entire way of thinking, reactions, and beliefs are developing and brewing among damaged cells, treatments, therapies, and IV fluids.

I didn’t withstand a war around me, but instead within my own body. Developing trust issues against my own being and country takes up my free time, and flashbacks to moments in surgery or ICU that I would love to avoid forever. I live in terror because I know they are coming back with vengeance, generous strange organs, rib saws, and a high chance of death in the form of treatment…or lack thereof.

-haley.

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I Am THAT Sick. 

“Do you feel like you have quality of life?” was something asked by my palliative care nurse yesterday. Honestly, who could call this tube and machine attached to me “quality?”

I have been writing for almost five years about living with a terminal disease that is masked by this perceived normal, if you will, and the absolute frustration of everyday ignorance when it comes to people respecting and believing your reality. We are made out to be drama queens, negative, “too much”, and just about any other word humans would like to use as a buffer for their level of comfort. It’s an isolating feeling to know you are surrounded by people who will slap a prayer on a Facebook status, but will indirectly do what they can to keep your “suckage” far away from their steady life. It’s a dull feeling to know that you live among people who are contributing to the lack of early diagnosis problem by once again thinking you are just being dramatic, or negative. Patients literally die because they are told consistently that nothing is wrong.

Late January, death was on my mind quite frequently. My “end of life” wishes, and how they might find me in my home. I was having tachycardic episodes just even trying to pet Rocco, and found myself laying in the floor more often than not trying to calm my breathing, and move past that suffocating feeling. I knew what was coming; my invisible illness was working its way out.

After an almost two-week hospital stay, countless mental breakdowns, bruised arms, bruised hands, new nurse friends, and “mixing classes”- I walked away with a tube in my chest attached to a little machine. I never realized how many v-necks I own, or tops that lace up until I noticed a little white patch peeking out in the mirror. I have attempted to walk across my living room countless times before feeling a little tug reminding me that I am permanently bonded to this anchor. I forgot to enjoy just seeing my necklace resting against my bare chest, or how amazing my weird habit of rubbing my collar bones felt in which now my right one has a tube stretched over it.


Quite shockingly, the amount of “I didn’t know you were THIS sick” messages I received is more sickening than my heart failure in itself. I guess people really do want this justifiable evidence that you are in fact suffering which I guess seems understandable, but; while they see tubing they still don’t see the bills pile up for the expensive maintenance that is required to keep you alive. While they see your pump now they still don’t see you spending enormous amounts of time mixing your medication just right so you don’t accidentally kill yourself. While they see grumpy Facebook updates they don’t feel the mind numbing reality of laying in bed, throwing up, running to the bathroom every five seconds, and doing what you can to manage your pain level. While they see your spotty red rash along with your chest they don’t see your mini hospital that is quickly swallowing your cute home.

Congrats. You have your physical evidence. I am sick. My body is now reflecting its insides – and you know what? Despite whether Pulmonary Hypertension was visible to you or not, it has been this way for seven years – since day one of my diagnosis. It has always been this level of life altering since the moment they told me I did not have a good chance at a quality of life for long. It has been this horrible since the first echocardiogram when I was eighteen, or finding out I could never carry my own child. Open your eyes, listen to people, and gain some perspective on what sick means. The thought, and fact that you are stuck inside of a body that cannot carry you across the finish line, and that will cost you millions of dollars is realistic. You are allowed to feel this way; do not minimize your pain for others comfort.

While I realize I am NOT my disease, I find myself enveloped within it quite frequently. Instead of fighting it, I am making friends with it whether you can conveniently see that or not.

-haley.

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Libtard. 

Lately, Americans have been so focused on tearing the other political parties apart that it literally makes me laugh when they think they’ll defeat ISIS. Like, how do you expect to move forward as a team when you attack your fellow Americans? 

I never gave much thought to politics, and wanted to avoid it forever. I remember taking a quiz my senior year of high school so that we would be informed on what political party we identified with. I remember being one of the only kids on the extreme left side; yep, I was a liberal. I was also super confused because I was raised in a republican environment. Ya know, Texas, where everyone is supposed to shoot things all the time. I’ve always been different than my Texas environment. I was always uncomfortable in Texas because I think I was finally starting to figure out I didn’t belong. My values, and what was important to me was not to be found anywhere in Texas except in a few friends. This played a huge part in my relocation. 

Several months after I took that political party test at seventeen years old, I graduated high school and turned eighteen. A few weeks later I was diagnosed with a rare, terminal disease, and given around two years to live. I didn’t think much about it because one – I had literally just turned eighteen, and two – I thought having a disease meant sitting at home being sick…kind of like a day off from school. Until a few months later when my first medical bills started rolling in with my name on them, and I saw the stress unfold on my dads face did I realize not only was my health in trouble, but WE were in trouble. 

I swear getting diagnosed with a disease is like being handed a special form that reads, “Surprise! You didn’t sign up for this, but we’re taking everything you’ve got!” You think I’m exaggerating?! Just ONE of my life saving meds is $2,300 a month…that’s the COPAY. If I don’t find a way to send that in then they don’t ship me my miracle pills. If I don’t take my pills then I could maybe survive a year. This cost does not include my mandatory doctor appointments, tests, oxygen, other pills, speciality doctors, surgeries, and travel expenses. It didn’t occur to my eighteen year old self that medicine costs money…I thought my dad paid for that monthly when they took out of his paycheck for a thing called “insurance.” When my dad showed me what he pays monthly for our insurance, I about lost it. On top of that, we were being threatened (and still are sometimes) that I will “max out.” Ohh, you’re twenty three years old, and will die without this treatment? Too bad!! You’re too expensive for us!! That’s literally how we are treated. I am not a life. I am a dollar bill, and a number. 

Seeing as how I was eighteen when I was diagnosed, I really thought I would go to college, and pursue an education. However, with this mounting medical disaster at home, it doesn’t leave much room in the pocketbook for success. Believe you me, after hunting for scholarships, applying for financial aid, I literally gave up. I was tired of going into stupid little debts every semester. However, I have to have some type of successful career with health insurance by the time I am twenty-six. 

Let’s not forget about the uterus, people! I can’t get pregnant (it would kill me and the fetus slowly), I can’t be on birth control. Hmm. Okay. Maybe I should get my tubes tied, or everything removed?? Oh that’s right, doctors don’t just “do” surgeries on PH patients because of the risk of anthesia killing us, ontop of other risks. However, just two weeks ago my doctor told me they are working on coming up with a plan so PH patients CAN get pregnant! So maybe I shouldn’t get myself “fixed” and go through menopause at twenty three. I’m also told I can’t have an abortion because that would make be a murderous whore. 

I am a liberal. I am a democrat. Why? Because until the government stepped in on my life, I had no idea how horrible this country is set up. You cannot possibly survive under these financial conditions. I have given serious thought most times about quitting my treatment, saving my money, and living my last months on this earth happy and financially burden free; for not only me, but my father. I am twenty three years old, and I have to make decisions that people not even in their fifties make. 

  

I am a liberal, because I believe that despite any women’s reasons she deserves access to safe healthcare. 

I am a liberal because as a woman who has been sexualized – I acknowledge the war on sexism and racism and choose to FIGHT it, instead of burying my head in the sand. When your sister, mother, daughter, cousin, or friend is raped or attacked, then maybe you’ll choose differently. 

I am a liberal because I believe that your body shouldn’t be a financial burden. 

I am a liberal because I believe that you are an actual life, and people shouldn’t profit from you falling ill. I am literally a dollar sign. 

I am a liberal because I believe in loving, and accepting people. All of your hate speech will not change them. I’m tired of hearing “libtard” “liberal pussies” “damn liberals” and whatever else. Republicans use the bible to beat people in their arguments, yet they are the most hateful. Hmm. Make Jesus proud! 

I am a liberal because I appreciate this earth. Your drinking water, your mountain vacation, your fresh flowers, your eggs, animals, and the AIR your breathe will disappear. Nothing will matter when those things are contaminated. You won’t have to worry about ISIS when your planet is ruined. 

I am a liberal because I want change. I don’t want to have to choose paying to stay alive, or having an actual life! I’m a liberal because I believe in freedom; I believe in affordable healthcare, and education. Those two things right there could completely change not only my life, but MANY people’s lives.

 I’m tired of being called names. I’m tired of everyone only listening to reply rather than listening to understand. THE LEFT AND THE RIGHT WING BELONG TO THE SAME BIRD. Stop attacking other people because they are different than you. 

Libtards, really? 

-haley.