Richard Schulz was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension in 2009 and attends the support group meetings in Sioux Falls faithfully.
Pulmonary hypertension is abnormally high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs that makes the right side of the heart need to work harder than normal. Nancy Naeve Brown has more on how a support group in Sioux Falls is helping patients deal with this progressive and fatal disease.
None of the people in this room look like they are terribly sick, but the truth is, they or their loved one have a little known disease called pulmonary hypertension. Often misdiagnosed as asthma this invisible health problem will almost always include shortness of breath, fatigue and dizziness. Four patients of Cardiologist Dr. Kevin Vaska with Sioux Falls Cardiovascular started this support group in 1990. It's now grown to include 70 members state wide.
Dr. Vaska says, "It's a good way for empowerment for these patients. They become more knowledgeable and I think they are more responsible and responsive to their disease and can take better care of themselves."
Pulmonary hypertension essentially it's characterized by continuous high blood pressure in the pulmonary artery in the lungs. It ultimately leads to failure of the right side of the heart which is responsible for bring blood to the lung.
Richard says, "I'd climb a light of stairs and have to stop to catch my breath before I could go on."
Richard Schulz from Hartford was diagnosed with this life threatening disease a year and a half ago. He now has a central line attached to a pump that continually feeds medicine to his lung to keep that pulmonary artery open.
Richard says, "It has helped. I can breathe again. I can go up a flight of steps. I can do work in the yard and around the house."
Since there is no cure for this condition, Richard says the support group meetings have helped him breathe a little easier knowing he's not alone and that's saying something with a disease that often takes your breath away.
Besides the support group in Sioux Falls, there is also one in Huron and third just started in Rapid City.