Living later life with PH
Pulmonary hypertension doesn’t discriminate on age and maintaining hobbies and social interaction can be even more important as we get older. Here is the story of two pensioners making the most of their later years.
As well as having PH, 73-year-old Donald Whalley lives with kidney failure – a condition which sees him travel to his local hospital for renal dialysis three times a week.
However, the grandfather from Greater Manchester doesn’t let any of it get in the way of weekends away with his wife, and he even does his own decorating.
I was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension two years after starting the dialysis, so it has presented some additional challenges. I try not to let things get me down though – you just have to keep plodding on!
Donald’s dialysis days start early. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday he rises at 4.30am to get ready, taking regular breaks because of the breathlessness. Having long given up on patient transfer services, he drives himself to the hospital ten miles away, and uses an electric scooter to get from the car park to the ward.
The dialysis takes four hours, time which he spends watching TV, playing games on his tablet and chatting to the others around him. “I have a good natter about football with the chap opposite, and we’re always winding the nurses up about Emmerdale and things on the telly.”
Donald’s scooter has helped him maintain his independence, and he uses portable oxygen cylinders to ensure he can continue to get out and about.
“The scooter’s a fold up one, very light, so I can lift it in and out of the car boot myself”, he said. “My bottle sits between my knees and it all helps to keep me mobile.”
Once a fortnight, Donald and his wife Sandra visit their caravan near Blackpool, something they have enjoyed for the last ten years.
They also like to decorate and do things around their home – although Donald admits projects can take a while to be completed.
It can take me all day just to move a curtain rail sometimes, but I keep going at it; I just have to do it in little stages. Sometimes the wife plays hell with me as I try too hard to do things, but I want to keep going. I do a bit, then have a sit down and get my breath sorted, and then do another five minutes.
Donald has five grandchildren aged between ten and 30 and as well as seeing them, he and Sandra enjoy shopping and occasional meals out together.
The pair do spend time on sedentary activities too. “When I’m not up at the caravan I enjoy watching sport on TV”, Donald said. “It used to be football, but now it’s anything as I can get every sports channel going.
Sandra and I also love watching quiz programmes and answering the questions. It’s good for keeping the mind active!
Staffordshire-based Mick Lovatt, 83, is also no stranger to multiple health conditions. Diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension halfway through treatment for prostate cancer, he’s now cancer free and determined not to be held back by PH.
“The main symptom I have is breathlessness”, he said. “But I’m doing well on my tablets and I’m alright as long as I have a walking stick. If I get out of breath, I just stop and sit down for a bit.”
Maintaining an active social life is important to Mick. He is on the committee of a large club for pensioners, and they meet every fortnight at the local bowling club for bingo. During spring and summer, they go on monthly coach trips around the country, and Mick also helps organise events like pie and pea evenings, and parties for the over 80s.
On the weeks the pensioners club doesn’t meet, he and his wife Dorothy visit their local pub for bingo. The pair also go out for lunch regularly with friends and spend time with family nearby.
“I get a lot of support from my family, they are brilliant,” said Mick. “My sons help with jobs around the house and my daughter takes me to my appointments at my specialist centre as I don’t like driving long distances now.”
Mick said his wife Dorothy is in ‘reasonably good health’ and they potter about in the garden together, sharing the work between them. “She does all the cutting down and that, and I do the planting. We try to keep busy. If we didn’t, we would just sit and vegetate.
“I still try to go to the football occasionally – Port Vale is my team – and I tend to go when the weather is good.”
The couple enjoy short coach holidays around four times a year and are currently looking forward to a visit to Scotland in January. They take it steady when away, enjoying day trips and meals, and manage by doing things at their own pace.
“Mick can’t walk up hills and things like that, but he has his stick and if he wants to sit down, we just do” said Dorothy.
Our friends are the same age as us, so they often need a sit-down too anyway!
“I manage the breathlessness ok if I just stroll about” added Mick. “You’ve just got to take life as it comes. If I can keep going like I am now, I’m happy.”
The pair have taken it upon themselves to keep busy and independent, sharing household chores between them and keeping in touch with friends.
“We’ve got very good family, but you can’t rely on them all of the time, as they can’t be with you all of the time”, added Dorothy.
We’ve made a life for ourselves. Mick does very well, and we just keep going.