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29th September 2020

Enjoying life with pulmonary hypertension

Despite an overwhelming diagnosis, David Stott returned to enjoying life, family time and staying fit, all while helping others with the same condition – the epitome of today’s World Heart Day message, ‘Use Heart … for society, your loved ones and you’.

David’s journey started at the age of 36 when, having always been physically fit, he noticed a change.“I was always very active” David tells This Is MedTech, “either running or playing football. All of a sudden I started to have difficulty exercising. I couldn’t climb the stairs without being breathless and when I spoke for long periods of time people would notice that my voice would go croaky.”

Initially, he put it down to lifestyle factors, hay fever or asthma. But knowing things weren’t quite right, he went to his doctor, who was quick to refer him. It was then that specialists diagnosed David with idiopathic pulmonary hypertension, a serious condition characterised by high pressure in the blood vessels that supply the lungs.

“The condition is not like normal blood pressure, which is measured in the arm,” David explains. “My heart rate, blood pressure and saturation levels were all normal because my heart was compensating quite a lot.” Specialists therefore relied on a range of medical technologies to arrive at their crucial diagnosis.

“It snowballed from smaller tests, such as electrocardiograms to assess my heart’s rhythm, to emergency computerised tomography and magnetic resonance imaging scans to model how swollen my heart was,” David explains. An ultrasound-guided catheter was used to measure the blood pressure in David’s heart and pulmonary artery, and exercise tolerance tests gauged the point at which his heart stopped working efficiently.

The tests showed that David’s heart was dangerously under pressure – five times the normal level. “If I wasn’t as fit as I was I would probably have been dead from a stroke or embolism,” he says. But through their initial and follow-up assessments, his healthcare team were able to define an effective treatment plan and get his life back on track.

While medical technology still plays an important role in David’s life seven years on, through annual check-ups, David’s focus has shifted to living his life and helping others with the condition. Describing the mental side of the diagnosis as one of the bigger challenges, he is keen to steer people away from random internet searches for information and towards official websites. He has also shared his own experiences through seminars and social media, as well as putting his fitness and musical talent to good use in charity runs and events in aid of the Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA UK), a charity dedicated to supporting people affected by pulmonary hypertension.

“It is important not to underestimate the place of psychological support and counselling,” David reflects. “But people should also be positive. My life has changed a lot since I developed pulmonary hypertension. I am a better person for having this and a lot of positive things have happened to me as a result. I believe that everything leads you to a certain point and it’s how you move with it that’s important. I can say, hand on heart, that I would not want to change anything.”