Chorley woman shares her health story to help others

A woman from Chorley with a rare lung and heart disease is backing a national awareness week to help more people understand her condition.

Wednesday, 27th October 2021, 12:30 pm

Shelley Higham, 41, was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension (PH) in 2019, meaning she can no longer work or go on days out with her children.

The former retail assistant suffered with breathlessness, chest pain, and swelling in her legs for a year before her diagnosis – and she must now take oxygen for 16 hours a day.

PH affects just 8,000 people in the UK. It causes high pressure in the pulmonary arteries – the blood vessels connecting the heart and lungs – and there is no cure.

Shelley Higham, from Chorley, is sharing her story about living with pulmonary hypertension (PH) to raise awareness about the condition during PH Awareness Week

Shelley, who takes strong drugs and relies on a BiPAP (ventilator) machine while she sleeps, said: “It was heart-breaking to be told I had an incurable disease that I had never heard of. The more I read about it, the more shocking it was, and I started to wonder how much time I had left. It was scary, and it still is now.”

Shelley is sharing her story in support of PH Awareness Week, which takes place from November 1-7, and has been organised by the national charity PHA UK.

“It’s important that more people understand what it’s like to have PH”, she said. “I can’t live a ‘normal’ life; I have to plan everything around the oxygen, and I do feel restricted.

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Shelley Higham, from Chorley, with husband Gareth. Shelley is sharing her story about living with pulmonary hypertension (PH) to raise awareness about the condition during PH Awareness Week

“No-one has heard of PH and even I find it hard to get my head around sometimes. It isn’t just a condition for old people, or people who smoke; it is a condition that can affect anyone at any age, and it should be spoken about more.”

As well as breathlessness, symptoms of PH can include fatigue, blackouts, chest pain, and swelling around the ankles, arms and stomach. Medication can help people have a better quality of life, but there is no cure.

Shelley, who has two sons aged 21 and 12, added: “I’m really worried that I won’t be here when my children get married, or when they have children of their own. I worry I won’t grow old with my husband.

“Having PH has changed my outlook on life, and I never take anything for granted now. Money is nothing. As long as I have got love and my family and friends, that is all I need.”

To find out more about pulmonary hypertension, visit www.phauk.org

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