A Leicester mum who received a heart and lung transplant earlier this year is raising awareness of the rare disease which led to the life-saving operation.
Asha Sagoo, 41, lives in Oadby and was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension (PH) in April 2016. The serious condition, which affects just 7000 people in the UK, causes high pressure in the blood vessels connecting the heart and lungs.
In February this year, after her PH worsened, Asha received a heart and double lung transplant at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital – an operation so rare that it was only the third time it had been performed there.
Asha is backing PH Awareness Week 2018, which takes place from October 22-29 and has been organised by the Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA UK). The charity works nationally to support those affected by the life-shortening condition, which has no cure – although transplant is an option for some patients.
Asha said: “I want to raise awareness of pulmonary hypertension because people need to understand how devastating it is to live with. I was on oxygen 24 hours a day, I had a line delivering drugs straight into my heart 24 hours a day and I was in a wheelchair. I couldn’t even walk from my front door to my car on the drive.”
Symptoms of PH include severe breathlessness, fatigue, blackouts and swelling around the ankles, arms and stomach.
Asha received her new heart and lungs after four months on the waiting list, something she describes as a ‘miracle’. Having regained her independence, she is now able to do more with her children Ryen, 11, and seven-year-old Shanon.
“I can pick them up from school and take them places, with no oxygen or wheelchair to carry around,” she said. “Two weeks ago I took them swimming for the first time in four years and was able to lift my daughter up in the pool. I had missed that so much.
“Just being able to breathe on my own now feels amazing. Having pulmonary hypertension, and then the transplant, has changed my perspective. I appreciate life more and I want to make every day important.”
A recent survey by the PHA UK found 60 per cent of patients feel PH has had a ‘major impact’ on their quality of life and almost 90 per cent said it has impacted their mental and emotional wellbeing.
Iain Armstrong, chair of the PHA UK, said: “Many hear the word ‘hypertension’ and immediately assume it is high blood pressure, but PH is an extremely serious, devastating condition that has a huge impact on people’s lives. You can’t tell someone has PH just by looking at them, and our members tell us they are often frustrated by people not understanding how ill they are – which is why encouraging people to talk about the disease during this awareness week is so vital.”
To encourage understanding of the disease, the PHA UK is calling on people affected by pulmonary hypertension to talk to family, friends and colleagues during PH Awareness Week.
To find out more about pulmonary hypertension or get involved with PH Awareness Week visit www.phauk.org.