May 26, 2017
Like many pulmonary hypertension patients, Michelle Figuras’ journey to a confirmed diagnosis took several years. She began experiencing unusual symptoms in her late 20s. For years, Michelle was treated for high blood pressure, anxiety, and allergies, before a trip to the ER in 2013 finally confirmed a PH diagnosis thanks to a right heart catheterization.
My name is Michelle Figueras and I'm from Upland, California.
I was in and out of the hospital for about five years. I was having leg swelling, high blood pressure, shortness of breath, and then it was mental. I was in heart failure in 2013 when they actually diagnosed me. When I found out I had pulmonary hypertension I was terrified because I Googled all the information and nothing sounded good. But, after I got treatment, I was really relieved because my life has changed completely on medication.
The first time I met another patient with PH was actually at a support group, and that was life changing because they introduced me to other people who were on the same medications, and kind of understood what I was going through, and I still latched onto that friend until now.
I advocate for myself. I educate my doctors, first of all. Some of my doctors had no idea what, they told me, "I've got to go back to the books on this one. I can treat you, but I still have to learn myself."
So, I first educated my physicians, and then I got very involved in the support group, their fundraisers, and charity walks, and just volunteering my time to help other people. I feel like a lot of people might have this and they just don't know.
There's a lot of people that complain about shortness of breath, and asthma, and things like that, and a lot of times it can be PH. Nobody's going to take the time to do a diagnostic test, especially if you look healthy, like I do. It's terrifying because I think had I looked sick, doctor's would've found this a lot sooner. I was a little sad that they didn't find it sooner because I was already in heart failure.
I'm not limited but I used to have a hard time getting upstairs without my heart racing and being short of breath. Now, I can work out five days a week, and I'm pretty unlimited. So, I'm very thankful.
Before diagnosis, I just had a hard time doing things like dancing. I can remember being at a wedding and after two minutes of dancing I was exhausted. And I couldn't understand why, here I am young, should be able to party, and I had to sit down after one song. And, my aunts who are 30, 40 years older than I am are sitting there dancing all night, and it was... you know now I can do that limitless.
The message I would give to newly diagnosed patients is don't give up hope and really get connected with your support group. Get connected with me, or somebody, anybody who has this and use them as a resource, because you have to advocate for yourself.
My name is Michelle and I'm aware that I am rare.