By Monica Penaranda

When I was 16 years old, I found out I was pregnant. As if that news wasn’t shocking enough, I learned shortly thereafter that I had pulmonary hypertension (PH). Sadly, two months later, my beautiful angel left the protection of my womb and died, and I was fighting for my own life. Physicians told my parents that I wasn’t going to make it.

Twenty-three years later, here I am.

I was saved because a doctor on my team had heard a PH specialist speak about the disease. My physician reached out to that doctor, who stabilized me by phone, enabling me to transfer to her care at UCLA Medical Center. Three days after being transferred, I went home with a pump, central line and a completely new life.

Life changed dramatically after diagnosis. I was told I could never have kids, work full time or live on my own. My dreams shattered in seconds upon hearing those words. I went from playing varsity softball, cheerleading and running track to being connected to a life-sustaining pump and continuous oxygen. I had to refigure my life goals.

My incredibly supportive parents heard about a Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA) support group in Los Angeles, and they brought me to the meeting in a wheelchair. I really don’t know where I would be mentally if it weren’t for PHA and its wonderful support groups. The group was like a breath of much-needed fresh air for my soul.

I’m now lucky to share my life with my wonderful husband and our 15-year-old son. One of our missions in life is fundraising for PHA, which we became involved in many years ago. I’m honored to have become a PHA support group leader and even more so to be a member of the PHA Board of Trustees.

I know PHA has been our greatest advocate. I can’t imagine living with this disease without PHA.

Twenty-three years ago, there was one treatment for people with PH. Our life expectancy was humbling. Our prognosis was grim. This year is PHA’s 30th anniversary, and treatment advancements have become so hopeful.

We have real cause for joy. My friends are living longer. But we still desperately need a cure.

Please help change the lives of PH patients like me by making a donation. PHA is getting us closer to a world without PH by funding game-changing research and providing vital support and education programs to the PH community

Join PHA’s 30th anniversary celebration by donating today, and join my family in the PHight against PH.

Monica Penaranda of Hacienda Heights, California, shares her story as part of PHA’s 30th anniversary fundraising campaign.

Monica Penaranda and her family