Ribble Valley teaching assistant speaks out on living with rare disease

Catherine Makin
Catherine Makin

A Whalley woman with a rare lung disease is backing a national awareness campaign to help more people understand her condition.

Catherine Makin (36), lives in Whalley and was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension five years ago. The life-shortening disease, which affects just 7,000 people in the UK, causes high pressure in the blood vessels connecting the heart and lungs. Symptoms include severe breathlessness, fatigue, blackouts and swelling around the ankles, arms and stomach. There is no cure.

PH Awareness Week takes place this week and has been organised by the Pulmonary Hypertension Association - a national charity that supports those with the condition.

Catherine, who works at Lee Royd Nursery School in, Accrington, said: “I had never heard of PH before I got diagnosed and it was all very scary and overwhelming. The condition causes me problems with physical activities like walking, because I get very breathless. I also get very tired and lethargic, and I’m not able to work more than 12 hours a week. My job is important to me though, because it gets me out of the house and gives me something other than my illness to talk about.”

As well as taking seven different types of tablets, Catherine must use a nebuliser to inhale medication up to six times a day. She receives treatment at a specialist PH centre in Sheffield.

Catherine said: “Emotionally, some days I will feel fine, but other days I don’t want to get out of bed. I do have off days where I’ll sit and cry because I don’t know what the outcome will be. "Since being diagnosed with PH I’ve had to learn to toughen up and be positive when I think there’s something I can’t do.”

Iain Armstrong, chair of the PHA UK, said: “Pulmonary hypertension is an extremely serious condition that has a huge impact on people’s lives. You often can’t tell someone has PH just by looking at them - so encouraging understanding of this rare, devastating condition is vital.”