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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Generation Hope Goes to Boston

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Posted by Colleen Brunetti
On June 8th, PHA brought their education program “PHA on the Road” to Boston, MA. Doctors, patients, caregivers, and family members convened at a beautiful hotel on the Charles River. It was a day of education and networking, a time to make new friends, and a time to meet up with old.

The day started with pre-forum support groups where newly diagnosed, longer-term patients, parents, and caregivers could meet up specifically. I, along with Kiara Tatum, led the newly diagnosed group. I remember the early days of diagnosis…wondering how to find the right doctor, trying to have confidence in your treatment plan, the worrying and wondering that comes with a diagnosis like pulmonary hypertension. So many patients reached out to support us in those early days – it is a privilege to pay it forward and offer that support for others.

The opening session went over diagnosis, treatments, and long-term management of pulmonary hypertension. No matter how many times you attend these events, a refresher always helps, along with the very good chance that you will pick up one or two new things along the way. Break-out sessions throughout the day offered time to learn about more specific areas of interest, such as exercise and diet, congenital heart disease, and preparing for travel and emergencies.

Colleen with Jeannette Morrill
The highlight of the day’s events for me, as I’m sure for many others, was listening to Jeannette Morrill talk about her journey with PH.  Jeannette has been diagnosed for 37 years!  This is totally unheard of in the PH world - especially as her diagnosis came in 1976 prior to any real treatments being available.  Jeannette's story is one of perseverance and hope, brutally honest in the challenges, and full of celebration in the triumphs.  

Finally, the day wound to a close, ending on a high note, with an overview of clinical trials for new treatments, some perhaps not so promising, but several that may be set to offer new hope for patients.

As the conference wound down, Generation Hopers gathered in the hotel restaurant for our meet-up. We’ve had meet-ups like this a few times before, but it never ceases to amaze me, sitting there watching everyone interact. The connections that happen are nothing short of spectacular. PH can feel pretty isolating, but I could look across that circle and see another mom raising young children while she battles PH, and I know she “gets it”. Two other patients connect as they share news of their pending lung transplant evaluations. What’s it like to be in your 20s or 30s and staring down a full lung transplant? I don’t know. But they do. And when you face anything like this, you need each other.

By far the highlight was sitting in that circle, listening to each attendee talk about their hopes – what gives them hope, or what they have hope for. Hope that children will no longer know their mom as “sick”, hope for a favorable transplant experience, hope to have to use less oxygen, hope for new and better treatments… the hope that binds us together and spurs us forward. Thank goodness for moments like these.

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