Krista Cummings, of Richmond, Virginia, is a Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA) support group leader and Email PHriend. She became a PHA volunteer because she remembers how fearful and helpless she felt after she was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension (IPAH) in 2009 when she was 22.

By Krista Cummings
The most rewarding part of being a PHA volunteer is being able to reach out to someone who feels alone. You know by their emails they are truly thankful for you taking the time to correspond with them.

I do not want others to feel like I did; it is humbling to know that you can be there for someone even if they are on the other side of the world. I have met people from all over the world who have PAH or pulmonary hypertension (PH). I have even spoken with someone in India about how to find a PH doctor there.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, I have seen a lot more people trying to reach out. It is nice that PH/PAH patients have a platform like Email PHriends. It truly embraces you like no one ever has.

I have grown so much in the past few years from being an Email PHriend. I will never forget the first time someone reached out to me through PHA. A woman just wanted someone to be there for her because she had no one in her life to talk to. We talked for hours, and we laughed until we cried. It is things like this that show how something can pay off if you put your enlarged heart into it.

Fortunately, my family is very supportive, but not everyone has that support network. I decided to join PHA about 10 years ago after my doctor recommended it. There is a lot of misinformation about PAH, and I was comforted by that PHA has information for everyone, including your family members and friends.

Since then, I feel blessed to be able to meet others in my area and state who have the same disease I do.

Krista’s great work is made possible in part thanks to generous contributions to the PHA Peer Support program from Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a division of Johnson & Johnson, and United Therapeutics.