‘I still get tired and … have to rest. But I’ve learned to listen to my body, and I fully intend to PHight on!’

Pam Vinesett of North Carolina served three years of active duty and 17 years in the Army Reserve. The mother of seven and grandmother of eight enjoys swimming, fishing and tubing with her husband, Dave.

By Pam Vinesett

In 2014, I decided it was time to get in shape. I began taking Zumba classes and slowly started losing weight. But I had difficulty keeping my breath during some of the Zumba classes and when walking across the room. A flight of stairs was so difficult that I had to stop and catch my breath.

At the time, I was working as a call center supervisor, which was a pretty successful job. At work, I noticed that I would sometimes feel flutters in my chest. One day, I was feeling dizzy with flutters, so I went to the emergency room thinking I was having a heart attack.

The doctors checked me over, told me I had anxiety and gave me a heart monitor to wear. After a week of wearing the monitor, the results came back inconclusive, and the doctors prescribed some medication to help what they thought was my anxiety. I took the medication for two days before I called my doctor and asked to be revaluated.

I then was diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma. They gave me an inhaler to use when I needed it and sent me to a clinic to see if I had a sleep apnea. During the sleep study, the doctors saw a mild sleep apnea, but my oxygen drop was greater than the episodes of my breathing stopping! My oxygen was going into the 80s, which didn’t match the number on the sleep apnea score.

With the discovery during my sleep study, my doctors referred me a cardiologist. The cardiologist performed a right heart catheterization, which showed the right side of my heart was enlarged. He diagnosed me with idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH).

When I got my diagnosis, I was devastated. I didn’t know what pulmonary hypertension (PH) was or how it would affect me. But my husband was extremely supportive, and my doctor assured me that I could could continue to exercise because I was in good shape.

I had stopped Zumba while trying to figure out what was wrong. When I started taking sildenafil, Opsumit and a blood thinner, my doctor said I could resume Zumba.

Initially, the medication worked great, and I was able to attend and teach Zumba, something I had been working toward before my diagnosis. Shortly after I began my medications, my doctors discovered that I had a brain bleed. I was immediately taken off my blood thinner and told to stop Zumba until the blood was absorbed.

After six months, regular checkups showed my brain bleed was fully absorbed. I was cleared to slowly begin Zumba again. After three months, I was released to full Zumba, and I now teach four to six classes a week.

I have continued to get stronger and feel good most days. My Zumba classes are like an extended support system inside and outside the classroom.

Ever since I was cleared to exercise fully, my doctor says, “Keep doing what you’re doing!”

I intend to, even though I still get tired, have “hit the wall days” and need to rest. But I’ve learned to listen to my body, and I fully intend to PHight on!!

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Pam and Dave Vinesett