Lung Transplant Gets PH Patient Back on the Dance Floor
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Dottice Boardley of Randallstown, MD loves to dance, garden, and spend time with her family, including her husband of 36 years, her two sisters, and her adult son.
About 10 years ago, Dottice started noticing that she was frequently out of breath. Walking up a flight of stairs to her office’s conference room became a tough task. Two years later, things had gotten so bad that she wasn’t able to work anymore, even though she was only in her mid-fifties.
Although shortness of breath can be a sign of many different health problems, Dottice was determined to find out the cause. Her primary care physician referred her to the University of Maryland (UM) for help. There, she was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension (PH), a condition that happens when the pressure in the lungs’ arteries is high. PH makes your heart work harder to pump blood and may eventually lead to heart failure. PH specialists at UM talked with Dottice about her disease and available treatment options.
“I had never even heard of PH,” Dottice remembered. “The team at the University of Maryland told me what it was, and explained that it was a chronic disease, but I didn’t understand at first how serious a diagnosis PH is.”
Over the next few years, Dottice managed her condition with medication. She had to have an IV port placed in her chest to give her a constant flow of medicine. One of the medications included a continuous venous infusion through a tunneled intravenous line in her chest. She noted improvement on treatment, but despite aggressive medications, her disease continued to progress. Her blood oxygen levels begandropping dangerously low, so Dottice was on supplemental oxygen for five years.
“It controlled my life, because I couldn’t do anything without it,” she said. “Eventually, I was basically confined to my home.”
While there are multiple treatments for PH, the only cure is a lung transplant. UMMC is one of only two centers in Maryland to be designated a Pulmonary Hypertension Center of Comprehensive Care. The UM multidisciplinary team of experts has vast experience treating PH, including the most advanced forms of the disease. The team, led by Aldo T. Iacono, MD and Gautam V. Ramani, MD, guided Dottice through the transplant preparation process.
Dottice was hospitalized in November 2019, and on December 18, she underwent the lung transplant surgery. “I call it my birthday now,” Dottice said. “Right after the surgery, I was off of oxygen. It was that fast. I was amazed.”
After the transplant, Dottice no longer had PH. She recovered for a month in the hospital before coming home to continue her recovery. Her family supported her every step of the way. Dottice is committed to sharing her story, so that other people might seek treatment.
“The University of Maryland Medical Center is just the best. The staff there, I can’t praise them enough. They were wonderful. Because of them, I was able to get through this,” she said.
Today, at age 64, Dottice has a new outlook on life. She takes nothing for granted and enjoys every day. In March 2021, Dottice got back out on the dance floor for the first time in years, kicking up her heels at her niece’s wedding. “I hadn’t been able to do that for such a long time. It felt so good to dance again,” she said. “Everything has changed for me, thanks to this surgery and the care I received at the University of Maryland.”