After enjoying freedom for a couple of weeks—no doctors’ appointments and tests—it was time to meet with the pulmonary hypertension specialist.

We spent close to an hour going over results of the bubble echocardiogram and extensive blood work that had been done a month ago. The echo showed no holes in my heart—thank you, Lord—and the blood screen was normal. Imagine my surprise though when the doctor said that my heart was “stiffer” than normal. Now that was a new “bump in the road” and just what did it mean?

“A stiff heart can be referred to as a ‘diastolic dysfunction’ wherein the heart muscle becomes stiff thus preventing it from filling itself completely with blood with each heart beat.” Resulting conditions can be high blood pressure (I have it), swelling of the feet (yup, have that, too), fluid in the lungs and so on. I’ve also been diagnosed with sleep apnea, which can play a very large part in these very serious medical issues.

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The doctor reviewed possible treatments: a stronger diuretic, the use of a CPAP machine, cardiac catheterization and medication. He indicated no surgery was needed. When he stepped out of the office to take a phone call, it gave me some time to digest everything, or try.

When he returned, I asked if we could follow a conservative path in the treatment: increase the diuretics and use the CPAP machine. Mind you, I was going to receive the machine the next day, so I hadn’t even tapped that resource. He agreed and as I left, we scheduled an appointment for July; that would give us ample time to see if this course of treatment would be successful.

Art had used a CPAP machine and I thought it came right out of a nightmare. It was cumbersome, weird-looking and covered his nose and mouth—he said he felt like an aardvark! Not so, my friends. The representative from the surgical supply company laughed when I mentioned my past observations and fears. I was so afraid of being claustrophobic.

“Take a look at this,” he said.

The machine is streamlined and fits on the night table. The mask? It has two thin straps which go over my head and the mask gently fits over my nose only; the hose is narrow and very pliable—I can move around and get comfortable. No claustrophobia. No noise. I’ve used it for just a few days so I’m adjusting, but it is not as frightening as I had imagined—I’ll be a real pro by July!

I must share this with you: The other day I was going through a box of costume jewelry and came across an unusual piece. Years ago, when my boys were in Cub Scouts, they needed empty amber-colored pill bottles for a project.  The bottles were melted and the end results were unusual pins in different sizes and shapes. The pin I held in my hand was made by son, Paul, and it was a perfect heart! Wow!

So there you have it: Meds, machine, lots of good thoughts, hope and prayers and a precious heart created and filled with love.

Ruthann can be reached at