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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

PH Goes to College

Part I by Kiara Tatum

It’s August, which means its back to school time for students.  But when you have Pulmonary Hypertension, it can change the flow of the college experience.  Whether you are a commuter or live on campus, having PH and going to college is rough.  I had symptoms of PH while enrolled in college; however, I wasn't diagnosed until two years after graduation.  However, I know how difficult it was for me to get around the college campus and to balance the shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pains, and stress of the college course load as well as a social life with friends.  Here’s some helpful advice that might be helpful to you during your college days.

  1. For those living on campus or away from home, find a PH specialist that is near your college campus that you can turn to during a medical emergency.  However, you should be keeping in contact with your PH specialist from home since you will be returning home for doctor appointments and care while not in school.
  2. Go to the campus disability office or office of accommodations right away.  By going to the disability office you can find out what services are offered to students with disabilities and what your rights as a disabled student are, especially if you have to be hospitalized and will miss classes as well as need to make up exams, labs, or special assignments.  Make sure that the disability office has a copy of your necessary medical documentation on file.
  3. Let your professors know that you have Pulmonary Hypertension.  Explain to them that you may miss classes due to your illness.  However, you will inform them via email or voice mail, so that you can continue to keep up with your studies and assignments.  But you may need extra time to complete assignments if become hospitalized or have bad PH days.  
  4. Whether you live on campus or commute, be prepared for a medical emergency.  Keep the emergency documentation on the room refrigerator, keep in backpack, or even put on your cell phone.  And make sure the campus medical office has a copy of your medical records as well as wear a medical alert ID bracelet.
  5. Use your academic planner to keep track of not only of all your assignments and due dates, but of your medical appointments, medication reorders, and medical contact information.  This will help you be less stressed when trying to balance the college life with your medical world.
  6. Get email and cell phone number of at least one person from each of your classes that you contact and obtain a copy of notes and/or class assignments if you have to miss class. This will help you to stay caught up if you have to miss classes due to bad PH days or hospitalization.
  7. Stay in contact with your parents or caregiver.  This is especially important for those who will be attending college for away from home.  Those who love you should hear from you each and every day.  It can be a quick text if you’re busy, but they should know how you are feeling in regards to your PH and well being at school.  If you’re not doing well, then be honest and let them know that today wasn't such a good day and explain to them why. 
  8. Oxygen can be an asset when walking on a large college campus.  Getting around on the college campus can be difficult, so adding oxygen or using medical equipment like a scooter or motorized wheelchair can help you get around the campus with ease.
  9. Take good care of your physical and emotional needs especially if you live on campus and are away from home.  Always make sure that you take your medication as prescribed and use your coping tools to get through stressful times.  It’s great to have a social life, but keeping a good balance will help with the course workload and keep your body and mind less stressed.
  10. Know that it’s okay to say that you have to go home or that you have to drop a course.  Sometimes you will miss too much class due to hospitalizations or bad PH days and need to drop courses during the semester.  You may not always be able to keep caught up during that semester, so taking a leave may be necessary.  Just be okay with that decision and know that you can always go back next semester.  Even though you may feel angry and disappointed, stay motivated and positive.  You will get your degree, no matter if it takes you a little longer than someone without PH or a chronic illness.

Stay tune for PH Goes to College Part II.  Hear from the voices of current college students that are diagnosed with Pulmonary Hypertension.

1 comment:

  1. As a college student, I wanted to let people know that going to a community college is an acceptable alternative. It's a great way to slowly ease into the college life, smaller classes so the teachers will actually know who you are, easy to make connections with students if you need them to take notes for you when you're gone and a way smaller campus. Plus if you have to drop a class or anything, you haven't lost a huge amount of money either. I am going to community college and I love it. I get to stay home with my family but I get the college experience without having to worry that the classes are too far apart and all my teachers have been able to know me and actually know who I am in the class - incase there was ever an emergency. So if you're thinking of going to college, know that a community college is not a bad place to start!