I continued working at Head Start, which was challenging and rewarding. It was also exhausting, both mentally and physically, but ESPECIALLY physically. I worked in a building that had two floors, and my classroom was on the second one. As a part of the job, I had to eat breakfast and lunch with my students, which meant we had to go all the way to the basement to eat in one of the cafeterias. This meant I was going up and down four flights of stairs with children at least twice a day, however, I often went up and down way more than that. Seriously, I look back today and wonder how I actually survived the job. The stairs weren't the only thing making me tired, it was also being on my feet a lot, and well, just dealing with 18 little tykes every day! And some days they were just NOT GOOD!! LOL
During my third year at the job, I started getting major respiratory illnesses. I had double pneumonia the first time, around Thanksgiving. Then I had bronchitis a few months later. It was when I had my third bout with something lung-related that my primary doctor told me to quit my job. I was 24 at the time. Who really thinks they'd retire at that age?? I had never even considered quitting, no matter what the job was doing to my health. If it wasn't for my doctor, who knows what would have happened to me! I really don't think my body could've tolerated that job any longer if I had just kept on working!
So, I stopped teaching. I wasn't sure if I should bother finishing my Master's degree, but I did anyway. And then that was that. What next? My dream had been to teach, and now I couldn't. I spent a very long time just trying to get my health back and wondering what in the world I should do next. I also was referred to the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio for a lung transplant evaluation. I started going in 2002, and a year later I was put on Tracleer. My first shipment included a flyer that opened up an entire new world to me with the link to the website for the Pulmonary Hypertension Association. I spent a week reading the site, crying at the posts on the Message Boards, because OH MY GOODNESS, THERE WERE OTHERS LIKE ME!!! I eventually checked out the chat rooms, and I was hooked! I "met" phriends, and connections were made. It was the most wonderful thing ever!
I am not exactly sure of the year, but I THINK it was 2005 when I was approached about starting a support group in my area. My first thought was "Oh, hell no." I could handle being in front of a group of children, no worries. But in front of a group of adults?? It petrified me. I really didn't believe I could do it. But I said I'd consider it, and I prayed. I prayed about it hard. God must have seen something in me that I couldn't, because he slapped a "YES" on my forehead and I decided sure, why not? I'll give it a try. It still scared me, but I'd try! And after finally getting things set up, I had my first meeting! It was a decent crowd of people, and everyone was really thankful that I had started something. I realized that must have meant they might have felt as alone as I had all the years I spent growing up with PH and not knowing that there were others like me. I got home from the meeting and cried, tears of happiness that I was able to not only help someone else, but help myself cope with the isolation this disease can bring.
Since then, I have come to the conclusion that I AM still teaching. I may not be in a classroom, I may not be in front of a room of little kids, or big kids, but I am in front of others who want to know more about this disease and how to live with it, not in spite of it. I have "met" so many other PHers in the world wide web communities such as Facebook. I've become a chat room leader on the PHA's website, and a PHA mentor. I get random calls or emails from people sometimes wanting to know all about what the heck they were just diagnosed with, and how in the world to cope. I'd like to think that I'm helping all these people, because I certainly felt so alone once, and received so much support when I finally found a place where people could relate to what I've dealt with my entire life. I know my purpose in life had something to do with teaching others, I just had no idea that God had a different idea of what my classroom would be like.