MedWatch Today: Taking Back Your Life from Pulmonary Hypertension

Med Watch Today

Living with pulmonary hypertension is not easy. PH is a very complex disease that can be treated and managed, but not cured. The Fresno Pulmonary Hypertension Program at Community Health System is the only nationally accredited center in the Central Valley. It provides comprehensive medical care to those dealing with PH.

Gerardo Estrada lives for being active with his family. But four years ago, the Corcoran resident said he was struggling with poor health.

“At 43, I started to feel a little sick, little by little. I started getting shortness of breath… And then it started getting worse and worse,” said Gerardo.

Gerardo saw various doctors but no one could pinpoint what was wrong.

He continued, “I was at the point in my life where I thought, this is the way I have to be. I have to deal with it, and it was miserable for my wife, my kids.”

Finally, Gerardo got a right heart catheterization. Dr. Vijay Balasubramanian, or Dr. Bala, explains that pulmonary hypertension is difficult to diagnose.

“The only way to measure it is to directly measure it. And for that, we need to do a procedure called right heart catheterization. And that means putting a little IV in and sending a little thin wire through that and that goes through the veins into the right side of the heart, and then it can actually take it into the lungs and then directly measure the pressures,” said Dr. Bala.

Gerardo was referred to Dr. Bala, who officially diagnosed him with pulmonary hypertension.

Dr. Bala continued, “It’s high blood pressure in the lung circulation… There are many ways one can get it… The main type is the type one, which is when the blood vessels within the lungs, the small micro blood vessels get tighter over a period of time due to some thickening, due to an inherent process and as it gets more and more tighter, the blood has to squeeze through those blood vessels and the blood pressure goes up.”

Gerardo was 355 pounds and Dr. Bala said the PH contributed to his massive weight gain. Though Gerardo was happy he finally had a concrete diagnosis to explain his ailments, the journey through this complex disease was just beginning.

“The best way to explain it, it’s like breathing through a straw all day and night,” commented Gerardo.

Dr. Bala said symptoms of PH can be debilitating. He explained, “Shortness of breath and fatigue, being the most common symptoms, especially when it’s associated with some exertion… ankle swelling, some chest pain, feeling lightheaded when they do some exertion activities.”

The Pulmonary Hypertension Program at Community Health System has been nationally recognized since 2017.

“We are the only expert center in the entire Central Valley of California, providing the specialized care for our patients here, so our patients travel average of two to three hours to kind of come and get their expert level of care,” stated Dr. Bala.

Because of this program, patients like Gerardo are able to participate in cutting edge studies and exposed to therapies that can help them get through their battle with PH.

Dr. Bala continued, “He [Gerardo] was able to go on an injectable therapy called prostacyclin therapy that we could start him on, and then transition him to an oral form of the same therapy and he benefited a lot from that.”

“I know I’m gonna do my part, and with the help of Dr. Bala and my wife and kids, they’ve kept me motivated, and I’m not gonna go back to the way I was,” said Gerardo.

Gerardo has a handle on his PH, and is now back to living a vibrant and active life, filled with gratitude for Dr. Bala.

He ended, “I’m above grateful, it’s, I’m not here without him.”

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