Two words I have grown to hate, pulmonary hypertension because it took my favorite grandmother from me too soon. She was only 65 years old, and my favorite person in the whole world. My mother had died when I was very young, so my grandmother raised me, loved me and provided a fantastic home. She was there for everything in my life; my marriage, the birth of my two children and when I graduated from nursing school.
Knowing the reality doesn’t help
Being a nurse, I knew the prognosis of pulmonary hypertension. I knew the symptoms, life expectancy and the deterioration that can happen quickly. Just because I knew all of that didn’t make it any easier when my precious grandmother began to decline in health. It started small, she couldn’t go on walks with me anymore, and couldn’t run around with my kids when they went over to visit. Then it progressed to where she could not leave her house anymore and had to wear oxygen regularly. It was heartbreaking to watch, and even more emotionally damaging when I had to help her shower and do simple tasks around her house.
Moved in to help my Grandmother
After many conversations with my husband, we decided that I would move in with her to help take care of her. Her biggest fear was living in a nursing home, and I had promised her years ago that I would never do that to her. Luckily, my husband and I only lived one block away from my grandmother, so it was easy to see my children and husband still frequently. When I moved in, we both knew she didn’t have much time left. I helped clean her house, cook her simple meals when she requested them and took care of her every need.
The decline was emotionally jarring
My grandmother reached a point where she could no longer get out of bed. She slept over 16 hours a day and even just speaking exhausted her. She lost her appetite and began to lose weight quickly. I had only been living there for a month when this started to happen. I was not sleeping, and I was near breaking point every day. Our friends and family came over to provide help and give me breaks to be with my family. I was terrified to leave her side because I wanted to be there for every moment as much as it broke my heart.
The end finally came, and so did the relief
Two weeks later, my grandmother passed away peacefully in her sleep with me by her side. I was holding her hand when she took her last breath. She looked so serene and peaceful, and for that I was grateful. I was a mess when she died and cried for weeks. She had been my mother in every way for my whole life. Losing her was like missing a part of myself. On the other hand, I was relieved because pulmonary hypertension had taken its toll on her heart, lungs, and body. I’m glad she’s not suffering anymore, grateful for it even.
Now I work hard to ensure other people who are diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension, as well as their families are well educated on what to expect and what they can do to manage it.