“I once attended a conference where the speaker asked us, Whose life is better today because you’re walking this earth? I couldn’t tell you for the life of me what the conference was about, but that question stayed with me. I didn’t feel like I was making any kind of lasting, positive impact on the world.
“A couple months later, in June 2012, I was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH).
“The first thing I read about pulmonary hypertension (PH) after googling it, even though the first thing my doc said after delivering the diagnosis was, ‘Don’t google it,’ was that the only cure is a lung and/or heart transplant, and that without treatment, the median survival rate is less than three years.
Less than three years. I was 35. My kids were two and almost four. I wasn’t going to see them learn to ride a bike, go to kindergarten, go to prom or graduate from high school.
“Right away I wanted to know my treatment options. Based on my age and the severity of my condition, my doctor wanted to start me on meds right away. The treatment she recommended was IV Remodulin. As those of you on IV medication know, that very first description of IV meds doesn’t do it justice. Until you’re living it, you can’t understand the true impact of medication delivered 24/7 via a pump connected to a central line in your chest.
The days and months following my diagnosis were dark. But I had kids, a job to get back to and bills to pay. And now on top of feeling like I wasn’t making an impact, I also felt like I was running out of time to do it.
“I work at The Ohio State University, where I also serve as co-chair for Campus Campaign, the University’s annual charitable drive. When Campus Campaign next rolled around following my diagnosis, I found the Pulmonary Hypertension Program Support Fund, which provides resources for my doctors at Ohio State to network, attend conferences and conduct research.
“During Campus Campaign, we always try to highlight some funds that we think our staff will connect to. We started including the PH Program Support Fund in that list, and the response was overwhelming, so much that people started calling it Becca’s Fund. In 2016, one of my co-workers who was moved by my story challenged his department to donate to my fund, saying he would match any donation to that fund up to $10 per person. At the end of the campaign that year, he wrote a check for $1000 to the fund in my honor. We have regular, full-time employees who make less than $11 an hour, but every year they donate to my fund. It’s a gift that blows me away, and it’s one for which I will never be able to fully express gratitude.
“In October 2017, I was able to move from IV Remodulin to Orenitram. Two months later, I took my kids to an indoor water park and swam with my son for the first time – he was seven years old. Unfortunately, oral medication didn’t work for me, and in September 2018 I went back to IV Remodulin. But I strongly believe that the donations made to the fund and other funds like it around the country are the reason I got a year of living pump-free. I got a summer of swimming with my kids, and that’s worth the world to me.
“Since my diagnosis, Campus Campaign has become very personal for me (you can see my story online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shPcKYWuWt4&t=27s). And that’s how I’m trying to make sure someone’s life is better today because of me. Over the years, I’ve donated to a number of funds, for a number of reasons.
“When we have fundraising awareness events in our department, people often ask why they should donate. The conversation typically goes like this:
Me: What’s important to you?
Me: Do you eat food? Drink water? Have a pet? Need medical care? Want to go to college? Want your kids to go to college? Support the arts? Want a safe campus?
There is truly a fund out there for everyone, not just at Ohio State.
“If I’d never been diagnosed with PH, I don’t think I would have developed the interest in fundraising that I have. Of course, I have a personal stake in donations to “Becca’s Fund,” and most days I struggle to find anything positive in my PH diagnosis, but if I can convince someone to donate to any charitable cause, to make a difference in any way, I’ve found my way to make someone’s life better.”
For anyone interested in fundraising, find out more about PHA fundraisers that help improve the lives of those living with PH.