Despite being diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension as an infant in the mid-80s, Sarah Atkinson lived a happy childhood. “She rode her bike, swam in the pool, we traveled a little and she tortured her siblings…Sarah could surprise others with unexpected acts of love, such as rubbing my forehead when I wasn’t feeling well or writing little notes to cheer people up,” says Sarah’s father Gary Atkinson. “But she was equally capable of inexplicable acts of annoyance that would exasperate any parent, including cooking plastic Fisher-Price people in the oven or cutting her brother’s hair. In other words, ‘a very normal existence’.”

By her teenage years, Sarah experienced many milestone moments: She received her driver’s license, landed her first job, went to sleepovers, dated and had dinners with friends. She surpassed all predictions of her life expectancy at the time of her diagnosis. By the time she turned 18, Sarah was looking forward to touring colleges and visiting her sister, Christine, at Boston College.

Gary Atkinson and his family will participate in the 2019 Boston O2breathe Walk on Saturday, June 1, on their team “Because of Sarah” in Sarah’s memory. Sarah passed away during her senior year of high school. She will be remembered always by her loved ones as a “brave, vivacious, social and determined young lady.”

The team has a goal of raising $1,000 in support of PHA’s mission: to extend and improve the lives of those affected by PH. If you live in the New England area, join families like the Atkinsons at the 2019 Boston O2breathe Walk on June 1. Visit for more details or to register.