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Format: 04/23/2014
Format: 04/23/2014


Pulmonary Hypertension Patients and Families Gather for Education Forum

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

At this time last year, Jody Dawson of Robinson Township was standing for eight hour shifts at her job in a local hotel. Over the course of a few months, work and every day activities became a challenge. She came home from work exhausted, with swollen legs. Carrying her laundry to the washing machine left her breathless.

Dawson was diagnosed in August 2010 with pulmonary hypertension (PH), a life-threatening illness in which the vessels in the lungs thicken and constrict, leading to heart failure. Without treatment, the average lifespan for a PH patient is 2.8 years. Nine treatments are now available, but PH symptoms often mimic those of less serious conditions such as asthma leading to a delayed diagnosis and poor prognosis.

On June 11, 2011, Dawson, her mother, and her nine-year-old son will attend PHA on the Road: PH Patients and Families Education Forum at the Hyatt Regency Pittsburgh International Airport. PHA on the Road is a free full-day forum organized by the Pulmonary Hypertension Association that educates PH patients and their families by bringing them together with the leading medical professionals in the field.
The Pittsburgh forum is one of four forums taking place around the country this June.

“It’s still hard to accept that I have PH, but I do, because I have to,” said Dawson, 30. “I’m taking my mom and son with me so they can get a better understanding of PH.”
PHA on the Road offers a unique opportunity for patients and their families to interact with medical professionals who are experts in the PH field.

Raymond Benza MD, and Michele Svitek, RN, BSN, are serving on the host committee for the Pittsburgh forum and are among eight health professionals representing West Penn Allegheny Health System at the event.
Dr. Benza, Director of the Pulmonary Hypertension Program in the Gerald McGinnis Cardiovascular Institute at Allegheny General Hospital, will present the talk, “Long-term Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension Management: Ways to be Followed and When to Modify Treatment Regimens.” He and Svitek will also participate in a panel discussion and demonstration of exercises designed for individuals with PH.

In the past year, Dawson has had two cardiac catheterizations and tried two different medications with hopes of controlling her PH. Later this month she will undergo another catheterization and begin treatment with a new drug through a clinical trial at Allegheny General Hospital. She looks forward to finding supportive services for individuals with PH at the event and to meeting and talking with others who live with the disease.
“People who haven’t heard of it or don’t know much about it don’t understand when something as simple as taking a walk through Giant Eagle is exhausting. Nobody can understand that it really takes that much out of you.”

Editor’s Note: Jody Dawson and Dr. Benza are available to speak with the media about the Pittsburgh PHA on the Road forum. Media are also welcome at the forum.

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