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I'm Aware That I'm Rare: the phaware® podcast

A new podcast series devoted to raising global pulmonary hypertension awareness with dynamic stories from PH patients, caregivers and medical professionals from around the world. New Episodes every Monday & Thursday!

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Dawn Meador - phaware® interview 302

Nov 26, 2019

In this episode long-term pulmonary hypertension patient, Dawn Meador discusses PH diagnosis as well as her decision to adopt a child, post dx with her third husband.

My name is Dawn Meador. I currently live in Virginia. I was diagnosed in April of 1998, so I have had pulmonary hypertension for a little over 21 years.

When I first noticed that something major was wrong, I had a nine month old at the time, and I was carrying her in Walmart in her little pumpkin seat and I got to thinking, "I can't breathe. What is going on here?" You could literally see my shirt moving, my heart was beating so hard. So, the next day she had a doctor's appointment and I mentioned something about it to the doctor, because it was our family physician. From there, he did testing and then sent me to a heart specialist. They basically tried to tell me I didn't have a chance. I wasn't going to make it. I was going to have to have a transplant. There was no other ifs, ands or buts.

I got a second opinion from another doctor who did know more about pulmonary hypertension, who put me on medication and treated me for 14 of the 21 years before we moved out here to Virginia. However, I honestly think I had it longer, because I had spells where I would just pass out for no reason and they couldn't figure out what was going on or why I was doing it. Like during PE, there was one time we would do little stations and do exercises at the stations, and then run around the gym once or twice, and then go to the next station. My PE teacher looked at me and just screamed my name and told me to go outside because, he said, "You're as white as a ghost." He said, "From looking at you, I can tell you can't breathe, so go outside and get some fresh air." After that, needless to say, I never ran anymore in PE as long as I had him as my teacher.

So, I really think I had it longer. But it took me getting with the right doctor to actually figure out exactly what was going on. At the time, I actually had a five year old and the nine month old. I guess the first thing that popped in my head was this can't be real. This can't be happening. You know, I have a five year old and a nine months old and they both need me. I've got to stay here for them, so I've got to do what I've got to do to keep fighting through all of it. I guess it was not long after my husband went on deployment, everything shifted and it was a drastic change. I think I was more nervous for him to come back than he was, because we had to decide via email whether we was going subcutaneous or intravenous [for my treatment plan].

So through email, him and I are emailing back and forth about it and I'm like, "Great." We'd been together at that time, three and a half years. I just thought this is going to freak him out. You know, he's going to come home and I'm going to have this tube hanging in my stomach or out of my chest, and oxygen in my nose, and how is he going to react? His reaction to me was it doesn't change who you are as a person so why would it bother me? It's keeping you here with me so it's all good.

After my diagnosis, about a year and a half, two years later, my husband honestly just could not handle the medical issues and I was hearing, "Why do you have to go all the way to St. Louis?" Because it at the time I lived in Southern Illinois, so it was a two and a half hour trip to my doctor. "Why do you have to go all the way there? You should be able to find somebody around here that can take care of you." We all know with PH, the good doctors are few and far between. I guess that kind of started leading to the downfall of the marriage. We ended up divorcing and I met another man. He swore to me that it wasn't an issue to him, and after about eight or nine years, I started seeing that it was an issue to him, because I was having more problems. He just emotionally could not be there for me. So that marriage fell apart.

So, I was very, very hesitant when someone told me, "Oh, you need to meet this guy." I'm like, "No, no, no, no. I'm done. I'm not doing this again. They can't handle the medical problems." Our very first date we went out to eat and we sat down at the table and he said, "So tell me about yourself." And I said, "You know, I have two kids. I've been divorced twice. I have a lung disease that is going to one day either kill me or require a double lung transplant, and if you can't handle that, we're just going to call this friends and leave it at that." His next words to me is kind of what probably made me think, "Okay, he's a keeper," because his reply was, "Does the disease define who you are as a person?" "Well no." He said, "Then why would it be a problem?" I said, "Well, it was for the other two." And he said, "I'm not like the other two."

He has more than proven that he was right, because the week of our wedding, five days before our wedding, I was admitted into the hospital, because I was having a lot of issues and they had to do a right heart catheterization. During the right heart cath, they had to give me more anesthesia than they normally do. When I came out, I'm laid there, sicker than all get out. The anesthesia usually never ever bothered me, but because they had to give me so much more I was very sick. So here he is holding my hair back with one hand and the bucket with the other hand, and I looked at him and I said, "If this ain't going to make you run, I think we're good."

He didn't have kids when we got together and that was one of my concerns because I told him, I said, "You know, I can't have kids and you don't have kids, and I know you want kids." That is how the adoption kind of came about. We started talking about it. We got married in August of 2011, and at the very end of November of 2011, we had sat and prayed and thought and tried to figure out how in the world we were going to be able to do this adoption. [Going through] adoption agencies is 30 to 40,000. I don't know how people can even adopt spending that kind of money. A friend of ours sent me a text message out of the blue the very end of November. We were out of town. He had an awards banquet or something with the Navy that we were out of town for.

I looked at this text message and I looked at him and he's like, "What?" I said, "One of our friends is asking me if we're still wanting to adopt a child." I sent her back and I said, "Well yeah, if we can ever figure out how we can afford it." She said, "The girl that's been living here at my house with my daughter, who is pregnant, they have decided to put the baby up for adoption. Would you be interested?" We were like, "Yeah, we'll be back tomorrow. We'd love to meet with them tomorrow and talk, and then meet us and decide whether they want us to adopt the baby or not."

So the next day we met with them and we talked for quite a long time. On the following day I spoke with a lawyer and we got all the paperwork started. We found out the very end of November, and she was due December 28th. So, everything was going to have to move really quick. She ended up being born January 5th. So in less than a month and a half, we went from not ever thinking we were ever going to get a child to having a newborn baby that we watched at the delivery as soon as she was born. We are the ones they handed her to. She actually has a birthmark that is in the exact same spot as my husband's. She's got my husband's color hair, my husband's color eyes, and acts and looks just like both of us. So it's kind of unique how our story comes about.

There's lots of people that question us and ask us about it all the time. You know, "How did you think you were going to be able to handle a newborn with all your health issues?” My response was, you know, "If God gave us this baby to take care of, he's going to keep me around to me take care of him." So far he did it with the first two, so I think he's going to do it with this one too.

[My husband] treated my kids like they were his from day one. When he and I got together, the oldest was 17 and my daughter, the one that was nine months old when I was diagnosed, she was 13 and a half at the time when we met. So they were kind of pretty much grown and everybody's like, "You guys are going to start all over with a baby?" "Yeah. Why not? This is what we want." There were a lot of people that had doubts and worries and concerns, and I totally understand. I have been divorced twice. I have this lung disease. We never knew what was going to happen next, but we've been together nine years.

To see us together, we're not one of those couples that you can tell have been married for a long time. We're that couple, that 10, 15, 20 years down the road, you still think we're newlyweds and get along. We don't fight, we don't argue. We just don't. I dealt with all that with the first two and I told him right from the start, "I'm not going to argue, I'm not going to fight. That's not a marriage. If we can't talk about things and get along we need to figure out how to, otherwise it's not going to work." We communicate very well.

My advice would be just don't give up. Don't look at it as I'm never going to be able to have kids because there are other options out there. There's surrogacy, there's adoption, there's so many different routes that you can go. Just because you've got this disease does not mean you can't be a mom. It's not easy being a mom with the disease, but it is totally worth the fight to keep going when you look at that child and you know this is my child to raise. This is my child to take care of. It's the biggest blessing. I mean everybody asks us all the time, "Would you do it again?" Oh, I'd do it again in a heartbeat. I don't care how old I am. I would take four or five more babies.

If somebody was to say, "Here, would you raise these kids for me?" I'd do it in a heartbeat, because I love it. It's what keeps me going. It's what keeps me staying positive and it's what keeps me knowing that no matter how many road bumps that I hit with this disease, it's okay because I've got these babies at home to take care of and I've got to get back home to them. If anybody ever has questions or doubts, I'd be more than happy to talk to any of them.

My name is Dawn Meador and I'm aware that I'm rare.

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