I'm Aware That I'm Rare: Deloris and Rick Peacy


Deloris and Rick Peacy have been married for over 40 years. The Peacy’s are support group leaders from Arkansas who don’t let Deloris’ diagnosis stop them from living a life full of travel. Rick’s outlook on being a caregiver is a lesson in love for all.

Transcript:

Deloris:
I’m Delores Peacy from Arkansas.

Rick:
I’m Rick Peacy from Arkansas. We’ve been married for 43 years and we will be together forever.

Deloris:
In 2000, I started feeling out of breath and stuff. I thought I was out of shape because before that I was doing a lot of walking and stuff, going around town and climbing stairs and stuff and doing OK. Then, it just got where I was so out of breath I thought, “Well, maybe I had a blockage or something.” My doctor did just a routine check-up on me, the lung x-ray, and said I had an enlarged heart. From that I went to see a cardiologist and he would run echocardiograms every six months. They gave me blood pressure medicine and that’s all they did. Well, he moved to a different hospital and it was time for my appointment and I always kept them, so I made it with another doctor and he did a stress test. The stress test, I flunked it royally and two days later I was in the hospital and did a right heart cath and was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension.

Rick:
It was hard but her and I had been through so much and so I looked at her and said, “Well, we’ve gotten through everything before. We’re going to get through this. It may be a little harder and stuff.” From that day on we just, “Hey, it’s life, we’ve got each other and that’s it. We’re going to do it and we’re going to make it.”

Deloris:
In 2010, they did a bubble test on me at Vanderbilt, that’s where I started going then in ’08. They did a bubble test and found out that I had what’s called Eisenmenger syndrome, that’s where you’re born with a hole in the heart. The hole, you can’t close this hole because it acts as the pop-off, it relieves pressure in my heart. Well, my hole has gotten larger to where my blood flows through the shunt and doesn’t go down into my lungs to get the oxygen. I’m on eight liters now and most of the time when I’m moving around it’s not nearly enough so it makes it really hard. In the last years I’ve gone down a lot.

Rick:
Yep, and they said even going up on her oxygen would not help. I mean, that was her pulmonary doctor told her that. We now have her the scooter and we’re working on getting her a motorized wheelchair because the scooter is borrowed. As long as I’m there with her and everything we’ve got her handled.

Deloris:
He’s a good caregiver. He’s so supportive, he takes over the duties of the house, which I can no longer do.

Rick:
Yes, I am the housewife.

Deloris:
I can no longer do them and so he takes over. If I go to having a time breathing which sometimes I just totally lose all my breath he knows how to work me out of it and get me back into breathing good again.

Rick:
Yeah. She’ll get totally out of rhythm and I just grab a hold of her and tell her how to breathe, just slow and easy, in and out. I get her back in rhythm, takes me about 30 seconds to a minute, and she comes out of it and away we go. It’s just all in how you want to do it and the fact that you want to do it. We know several that have her problem and the spouse has just totally turned on them and walked away. That’s not good, that’s not what a spouse does. A spouse is until death do you part, through thick and thin, good and bad, doesn’t matter, you stay and you help. I’m here. I’m here for the duration.

Deloris:
I couldn’t do it without him. Obviously, I was born with it. It didn’t show up until later in life and I wonder why all of a sudden. We have five children and most women with PH cannot have children. The children don’t survive or sometimes the patient doesn’t survive and we had five healthy children. I feel like this was my mission, this is why God gave it to me … To go out and to share my story and to help others. We’ve had people in our group, especially the first group. The first lady I met, she was in tears constantly. She just couldn’t handle it. She was always calling and we would go see her at the hospital. She would always say, “Oh, you make me feel so much better,” and I’ve had several in the group to tell me that. I think, “Well, that’s what I’m supposed to do.” I’m supposed to help others get through it the best I can and to make them feel better.

Rick:
Take you a drink, you’re getting …

Deloris:
Hoarse?

Rick:
You’re getting shaky, okay?

Deloris:
Out of air.

Rick:
Just relax, slow and deep. See, she goes talking a lot and she gets low on air. She’s just got to back off and …

Deloris:
Breathe.

Rick:
Flow with the go and go from there. That’s where a good caregiver comes in. You can sit and listen to somebody and you know when they’re having a problem and you say, “Stop, back up, slow down, and go from there.” I’ve been … Well, I had a heart attack back in 2011, in July of ’11 and I was lucky. I told them to get me to the hospital, they did, and if they hadn’t I wouldn’t be sitting here with her now because it was in the widow maker, I had 99 percent blockage. She came to the hospital to see me right after they had me in recovery. It’s crazy because as soon as they put the stent in there I turned totally around. I was great. I was ready to get up and walk out and go home.

Deloris:
He was laying there joking with the nurses just having a good time and I was scared to death and figured he be about half out of it and in so much pain. It was like, “Wait a minute. You just had the heart attack, what’s wrong with you? You’re not sick.”

Rick:
I figure that God knew she needed me to take care of her and that’s why he pulled me through this and got me back in shape. Things are good and, to this day, cardiologists look at me and say, “You shouldn’t be in the shape you’re in for what you went through,” because my heart had damage through every layer and my heart is totally healed up. They said that’s very unusual for the heart to do that but mine has. I credit that to God because this lady here needs me, and I’m here. We’ve been together 43 years and hope to have another 15, 20 at least and go from there. No matter how it is we’ll take it to the end and be together forever. A lot of people that have PH, “Oh, I can’t travel because I’ve got oxygen, I’ve got this, I’ve got …” She’s been on oxygen since ’04. We have put more miles on in the last 12 years than what we did in the 30 some years before that. Her and I travel all over the place. We don’t let it stop us. I have a tank in the back of the van that I can fill that off of any time I need. We keep it full all the time. Whenever we decide we’re going to do we get everything lined out well enough in advance and she has enough medicine to carry her through and everything. We just, we go. We don’t hold back. You make a couple of calls to double check everything, make sure it’s all in the works.

Deloris:
We have to drive, I can’t fly.

Rick:
Yeah, she can’t…

Deloris:
The doctor says I’m not supposed to go over 3,000 miles altitude.

Rick:
(laughs) 3,000 foot.

Deloris:
(laughs) I said 3,000 miles. 3,000 foot elevation and so we just drive and just take our time at it.

Rick:
Don’t know how much longer this one can hold up to it because she’s having a lot of problems.

Deloris:
A lot of breathing problems now.

Rick:
Yes, so we’re just taking it one day at a time but doing it to it.

Deloris:
I’m Delores and I’m aware that I’m rare.

Rick:
I’m Rick and I’m aware that Delores is rare and will always be rare.

Rick’s outlook on being a caregiver is a lesson in love for all. Listen to “I’m Aware That I’m Rare: the phaware™ podcast” at www.phaware.global/podcast. Learn more about pulmonary hypertension at www.phaware.global. #phaware #phawarepod

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