Andrea Murphy, a staff nurse from Bath, recently featured in her hospital Trust’s in-house magazine, Insight, to talk about ten years of living with pulmonary hypertension.

Andrea, 38, works on the Eye Unit at the Royal United Hospital in Bath and was diagnosed with PH in 2007. In the beginning, things looked very bleak and Andrea was told to take medical retirement. But instead of being consumed by the things she couldn’t do, she fought back with a self-driven determination not to let her illness define her.

Andrea with her family

Andrea told the publication how she balances her illness with working life. She said: “Work is my saviour. When in my uniform, I am Andrea the nurse. Most of my patients have no idea I’m ill. I work because it’s good for me – I need to feel part of something bigger, and I want to make a difference. On the Eye Unit, we work miracles by restoring peoples’ sight. Work helps to keep life ‘normal’.”

Andrea also took the opportunity to share her advice with others diagnosed with PH, and Insight featured the following tips:

Own your condition

“It’s been really important to me to own my condition. As it’s so rare, I have had to become my own expert and my own advocate. The team of specialists who have helped keep me alive for over ten years are amazing – but it is a team effort of which I am part. As a nurse, it surprises me how easily some people hand over control of their conditions and their lives. It is my PH, and I like to have control over it as much as possible.”

Don’t give up on living

Andrea and Rich

“When I was diagnosed, I thought my life was ending. Since then, I’ve married my amazing husband Rich and maintained a fulfilling career. Don’t give up on living. Put dates in the diary – you may have to cancel, but never stop making plans. Take each day as it comes, and celebrate your achievements – some days these may be as big as getting married and some days as small as brushing your teeth.”

Don’t let the illness define you

“‘Andrea the patient’ lives in a box under the bed. I am so many other things first: ‘Andrea the wife’, ‘Andrea the friend’, ‘Andrea the nurse’. The illness has taken many things from me, but I refuse to let it define me.”

Andrea ended the article with a plea to readers. She said: “Please, if you haven’t already done so, sign the organ donation register. Some lucky PH patients’ lives can be transformed by transplants. Life can change in the blink of an eye – donation is one way to bring something positive out of tragedy.”

Andrea has since told us: “I was poorly one summer and spent ten days in intensive care. My family was told to prepare for the worst, but thanks to the wonderful care I received I went back to work after a four-month recovery. My colleagues held a charity cake sale to raise money for PHA UK, and I took the opportunity to raise awareness of PH – it’s so rare; gets little publicity; and most people don’t realise just how serious and life threatening it is, given the ‘invisible’ nature of the disease.

“I try not to focus on my illness every day, so seeing myself in print was slightly surreal. I also didn’t expect so much interest – life is difficult for lots of people, but the positive feedback from colleagues, staff members and patients has been truly overwhelming. Life remains a challenge, and there have been considerable lows, but I continue to focus on living in the ‘here and now’ and enjoying each day as it comes.”

Thank you to Andrea, and everyone who raises awareness of PH through their local media.