Chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension (CTEPH) is a form of pulmonary hypertension (PH) associated with pulmonary embolism (PE), a life-threatening blood clot that usually forms in a vein deep in the legs and travels to the lungs. People living with CTEPH may be candidates for a pulmonary thromboendarterectomy (PTE), a surgical procedure to remove the chronic clots that can significantly reduce or even normalize blood pressure in the lungs. Bill Kolms had a successful surgery that allowed him to return to many of his favorite activities.

I have grown a large vegetable garden my entire married life. After moving to a new house, the garden was cut to about a tenth of its size. As my CTEPH worsened, the size dwindled even more to the point that I planted a couple of tomato plants, but didn’t even feel like venturing out to tend to the plants or pick the few fruits that managed to grow.

After my PTE surgery and my recovery, I began planning a new, larger garden for this past growing season. With the blessing of my understanding wife Peggy, I cleared out a section of a flower garden and planted green beans, leeks, beets, tomatoes, cucumbers and onions. I couldn’t wait for them to break through the ground last spring so I could start tending to them. I was out there every day watching over them as they grew, watering, fertilizing and pulling weeds.

Soon the leeks were big enough to transplant, the table onions were ready to pull for dinner and the beans were flowering. The first picking of green beans was a labor of love and, together, Peggy and I spent part of the day processing them for the freezer. The first beets were harvested and the leeks were shooting up to 3 feet tall. This has been the best time I have had in the garden in years. I shared my bounty with my kids and neighbors and can’t wait to plant more delicious vegetables next growing season!

Bill Kolms was initially told that he was just getting older and needed to exercise more before he sought additional information about his symptoms. He ultimately determined that he had a type of pulmonary hypertension caused by high blood pressure in the lungs — chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension (CTEPH). He underwent a surgical procedure that some candidates with CTEPH are eligible for that can help reduce or normalize pressures in the lungs. He continues to be a member of the PHA community by leading a local support group. Watch Bill’s story below:


This post is part of PHA’s The Right Heart blog series. Find out how you can share your story. Click here.