Treating pulmonary hypertension with medicine and trust

A young math teacher learns to live with pulmonary hypertension by trusting herself and her providers.

Pulmonary hypertension is a type of high blood pressure that affects the arteries in the lungs and the right side of the heart. This pressure causes damage to the blood vessels in the lungs, which forces the heart to work harder to pump blood through the lungs.

Pulmonary hypertension is rare and has no cure. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, but no one knows for sure if or when their pulmonary hypertension will get worse.

Lindsay Thurman has lived on that edge for over a decade.

It all started when she was just 22.

Strange symptoms appear

“I started getting out of breath while doing normal activities,” said Lindsay, now 38 and a high school math teacher. “Just walking up some stairs would get me out of breath. I came close to fainting a few times, too.”

At 23, Lindsay moved from Louisville to Texas and started seeing a new doctor.

Norton Pulmonary Specialists

Pulmonary hypertension is treatable, especially when diagnosed early. If you experience shortness of breath, dizziness or fainting, talk to your health care provider.

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“He found a heart murmur, and later diagnosed me with pulmonary hypertension. Then he eventually sent me to a [pulmonary] specialist.”

The specialist did more in-depth testing.

“When I called the office to get my test results — they told me I was fine; they didn’t find anything wrong with me,” said Lindsay, who was surprised and confused. “I was still having some symptoms.”

For the next three years, Lindsay’s symptoms not only came back, but got worse.

“I started to pass out,” she said. “I went back to the specialist who had told me I was fine. I learned there was a mistake at the office, because they were confused as to why I had never come back after my testing.”   

For Lindsay that was frustrating, to say the least.

“Statistics show that people diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension survive for a little less than three years without treatment,” she said.

New doctor, new outlook

In Louisville, Lindsay connected with John W. McConnell, M.D., pulmonologist specializing in pulmonary hypertension with Norton Pulmonary Specialists.

“I had not had a good experience with my specialist in Texas, so I was wary and skeptical,” Lindsay said. “But I started to see Dr. McConnell, and I realized over time that the team there was completely different.”

Besides building trust with his new patient, Dr. McConnell got Lindsay enrolled in clinical drug trials

Lindsay is now a firm believer that having a health care team you trust is very important.

“If you can’t trust them, and you don’t feel they listen to you or respect you, it’s hard to know if you’re doing what is best for you,” she said. And what is best for Lindsay is taking care of her health. From yoga to healthy eating, she has learned to listen closely to her body. In good weather, you can find her running marathons or hiking. She also enjoys hanging out with her dogs and nieces.

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