Yasmin walked across the parking lot that was just a few minutes from her local pub, but her feet were sore from a night of dancing. She wasn’t used to the high heels she wore. Her friend was following behind her laughing at her inability to walk a straight line. Yasmin agreed to be the designated driver and she didn’t mind it at all. It wasn’t long ago that her friends were there for her when she needed them, so it was the least she could do. She placed her purse on the hood of her car so she could find her keys That’s when she saw the note on the windshield.
19-year-old Yasmin considered herself healthy. She had just graduated from Homewood School and started a new job. Everything seemed to be going great until she suddenly became ill. “The main thing that I noticed was my legs swelling up, my stomach, my back, and my eyes also became really puffy and sore,” she said. Yasmin thought it was cramps and allergies, but little did she know it was way more serious.
She took antihistamines and painkillers to comfort her, but the same symptoms keep persisting. One day when she had to leave work in pain, she knew something was seriously wrong. Her mother advised her to go to the doctor. The doctor diagnosed her with exhaustion and told her to take some time off work. But the doctor was wrong about this.
Yasmin followed her doctor’s orders and took some time to catch up on rest, but her symptoms persisted. She explained, “I was literally walking the distance of a room before I had to stop walking. My exercise routine went from healthy to non-existent. Where I used to go to the gym five times a week, my health was just getting worse and worse.” Something was definitely not right.
Even though Yasmin stopped exercising she continued to lose weight. She didn’t have much of an appetite and looked pale. She was miserable. It hurt her mother to watch her deteriorate, yet there was nothing she could do. “My symptoms developed gradually, but in the last few months leading up to my diagnosis, it was just getting worse and worse. My mum said she was scared she would lose me.” Then, Yasmin’s health took a very dangerous turn.
She had been rushed to A&E (accident and emergency) at Tenterden so many times that the nurses and doctors knew Yasmin, her family, and even her friends by name. No one had answers for her even after countless tests. Her mom had many disagreements with the doctors and pushed for every test they could perform. A majority of the tests came back fine. Finally, they got some answers.
After the faint whispers of the word “hypochondriac” and repeated doctor visits, Yasmin was finally given the diagnosis of idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension. Her mother was relieved that she could finally stop searching for the cause of the symptoms. But they had never heard of it before. They wondered what it meant for Yasmin. Could she live a totally normal life? Was there a treatment for it?
Although she was relieved with her diagnosis, Yasmin researched it to learn more. Even the simplest tasks can be exhausting with Idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension. She would have to get used being short of breath in her daily life. She took six months off work to get adjusted to her medication and to come to terms with her diagnosis. But there was one thing that worried her about having a lung disorder.
A person born with Idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension has a life expectancy of up to 17 years. But at 19, Yasmin has passed all of her doctor’s expectations. “The diagnosis was a relief at first, but now it’s just difficult to live with. Now I’m on medication it’s more manageable, I’ve actually had a pump fitted now which I have to take my medication though, it’s permanently attached to me.” Living a normal life as a teenager is challenging for Yasmin.
Yasmin was hurt by the stranger’s note left on her windshield. The blue badge that allowed her to park in a disabled spot was visible, but the passerby was quick to judge her. She was shocked that someone was trying to shame her after all she had been through in the last few years.
The note made her furious. How dare someone try to make her feel bad for parking there. She had been through so much and wasn’t about to let them get away with this. Yasmin went straight to her computer and started typing. “Whoever wrote this couldn’t write their name, couldn’t write their number and didn’t want to approach me in person.” Of course, she didn’t end there.
“I saw the note you left on my car and this is what I want to say back… Last night I went to the White Lion in Tenterden with my friend and parked my car outside Prezzo in the disabled space and, honestly, I didn’t think anything of it. I was angry and frustrated.” Even though she only received the one note, she was used to the disproving stares from strangers. They were judging her for parking in the disabled spot.
She shared her past experiences online hoping that it might bring some awareness to Idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension. “You can tell people are staring when you get out of the car and stuff like that, but nobody had actually said anything before, let alone left a note. When I put my badge up I feel like I have to walk out of the car limping.” The internet was listening to Yasmin.
Yasmin’s intention was that her story would alter the outdated ideas of what a disability looks like. Not everyone is the same. For some, it’s physical and for others, the effects are not physical. “I shouldn’t have to feel like that because there is an illness there, but it just doesn’t show. Just because I’m not in a wheelchair or have a visible ailment, it doesn’t mean I’m not entitled to use a disabled space.”
The note turned out to be a blessing because it helped Yasmin to find her voice and her strength. She explained, “It’s not all bad though because after posting about the note on social media, the reaction from people on Facebook has been amazing.” She hopes that her story will continue to raise awareness of those who are suffering from similar symptoms. Although the person who wrote the note didn’t have the courage to sign their name or number, Yasmin has shown her courage by sharing the incident with the world.