Michele Freeman is the support group leader of the Central Oregon PH Support Group in Bend, Ore., and the caregiver for her husband, Les Freeman.
She describes her experience as a support group leader and what motivates her: “It was an easy fit as I have facilitated other groups, have many contacts in the community and I was becoming dialed in with the vast array of resources the Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA) has to offer. However, the main reason why I like and continue to be a support group leader is that it allows me to have a support system that understands our unique challenges as we navigate through the unknowns of pulmonary hypertension (PH). The knowledge I gain helps me stay on top of what is happening in the PH world. In addition, it allows me to give back to my community and know that I am doing something valuable.”
Michele likes to try different things for her support group meetings that help group members learn more about PH, along with learning how to live with the disease.
For example, for a recent support group meeting, Michele organized a field trip to Boomerama, an event that she describes as an “educational summit, a home and garden show, travel expo, and a health and wellness fair all rolled into one” focused on older adults.
“A PH diagnosis not only affects the patient, but the caregiver and family members in ways that they are not prepared for. It is difficult finding answers and correct treatment for the disease, and then one must balance work, doctor’s appointments and other life events. This is a world that most of us find daunting at times. We mourn the life we lost and yet at the same time are trying to create and maintain the best life possible – a new normal. Events such as Boomerama open our eyes to new resources and support, which helps to make this new normal possible. Help is there, we just have to know where to find it.”