Explore UPMC.com

Julia Feitner — Pulmonary Hypertension

The Challenge: Pulmonary Hypertension

Julia Feitner - Pulmonary Hypertension Patient Success StoryJulia Feitner was a reasonably healthy and fit 25-year-old when she gave birth to her first son, Alex, in 2004. But after her pregnancy, she couldn't bounce back. Julia kept gaining weight and getting more out of shape, with even simple activities like washing dishes leaving her very tired.

Julia didn't seek help until a few years later, when she was seven months into her second pregnancy. By that time, she had to crawl on the floor to put toys away and could no longer walk up the stairs. She broke down crying to her obstetrician, insisting that her problem was more than just weight gain. He ordered her to go to the hospital immediately, where she underwent five days of testing and was put on oxygen.

A doctor at her local hospital in central Pennsylvania diagnosed Julia with pulmonary hypertension, or high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs. He said she never should have gotten pregnant.

“He told me that I was so sick that either my baby or I would die," Julia says.  "The hospital decided they couldn’t treat me.”

The Path to UPMC

Desperate for options, Julia’s mother — who had lectured at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC for their nursing continuing education inservices — suggested they call there.

Julia's doctor spoke to Daniel Edelstone, MD, an obstetrician who said he'd successfully delivered a number of women with pulmonary hypertension.

Dr. Edelstone sent for Julia immediately, and she and her husband traveled to Pittsburgh by ambulance. Less than 24 hours after her diagnosis, Julia underwent an emergency Caesarian section and delivered a small, but healthy, baby boy named Harrison.

The next day, Julia was transported to the Cardiac ICU at UPMC Presbyterian, where doctors from UPMC’s Comprehensive Pulmonary Hypertension Center started her on an IV of Flolan, a drug that dilates the blood vessels in the lungs, making it easier for blood to flow.

Julia spent two weeks in the ICU, then another week in the hospital. A few days after she was discharged, her friends came to the Step Down Unit with Harrison, who had been kept in the NICU to gain weight. Not long after, the family was together again at their home in Mechanicsburg, Pa. 

“My son and I are alive today because they worked together to save us," states Julia.

That trust led Julia's family to make the big decision to move to Pittsburgh so they could be closer to her medical team at UPMC.

The Solution: Medical Management

Since Harrison's birth, Julia has managed her condition with medication. More recently, she's also taken part in pulmonary rehabilitation, a specialized program that helps people with chronic lung diseases increase their lung function through closely monitored exercise.

“Having pulmonary hypertension is like breathing through a straw, so it makes everything more difficult,” she explains. "I do get tired easily, but right now, I feel like my health is on the upswing."

Julia stays busy with many volunteer efforts. She's active at Alex and Harrison's school and through her involvement with local and national pulmonary hypertension groups. Julia co-chairs a pulmonary hypertension support group for patients and their families in western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio, and serves as race director for the PHenomenal Hope 5K Run/Walk, an annual event that raises funds for reearch and increases awareness about the condition.

"These days, I'm not counting every breath. I'm making every breath count," Julia says.

» Read stories from other UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute patients like Julia.

Learn More About Heart and Vascular Conditions

UPMC Patient Education Materials:

From our Health Library:

​​​

©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by Healthwise, Incorporated. To learn more, visit www.healthwise.org

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com