17-Year Grove City Survivor of Deadly Lung Disease Fights Back as a Pulmonary Hypertension Association Volunteer Advocate and Fundraiser

Her shirt reads “I’m a little SOB — That’s short of breath. Ask me why.”

Seventeen years after learning she has pulmonary hypertension (PH) and that she would likely die within five years, Merle Reeseman of Grove City lives a full and purposeful life. Tethered to portable oxygen, she spends her days answering phone calls and responding to emails from newly diagnosed patients, leading support groups, and raising funds for Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA) programs to help people with PH live longer and better.

PH is a progressively debilitating disease resulting in high blood pressure of the lungs due to narrowing of the pulmonary arteries. PH forces the right side of the heart to pump so hard to move blood into the lungs that it can lead to heart failure and death. Symptoms are non-specific and include shortness of breath, fatigue and chest pain and consequently people with the disease go months, sometimes years, believing they have something other than PH. Most people living with PH are ultimately diagnosed with an advanced form of the disease. The disease affects adults and children. While there are no pediatric treatments, with early and accurate diagnosis, quality care and appropriate treatments now available for two forms of adult PH — pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) and chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension (CTEPH) — can extend and improve the quality of life for many people living with the disease.

Reeseman will share her story Saturday, Saturday, Sept. 9, at PHA on the Road in Pittsburgh, Pa. The free day-long education, networking and support event is open to people living with PH and associated conditions, as well as their loved ones. As the nation’s leading PH organization, PHA delivers integrated patient and health care professional programs that advocate for patients, catalyze research for a cure, empower PH patients and caregivers, and enhance patient care.

Empty nesters with four grown children, Reeseman and her husband, Tom, had big plans before doctors diagnosed her with the disease. Instead, she was confronted with the death of her father, deep despair over the 9-11 terrorist attacks, and a health condition that left her struggling to breathe most of the time….

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