Patients & CaregiversReal Life Stories
Nisha’s journey with pericarditis changed her perspective on life and taught her to appreciate the little things.
Before Her Diagnosis – A Dream Career in Medicine
Nisha grew up in a small town in Florida. She loved spending time with her family and being active as a young girl. Her lifelong dream was to pursue a healthcare career, and she was inspired to follow in her aunt’s footsteps and study to become a PA – Physician’s Assistant.
Nisha began her medical career as a scribe in a busy hospital emergency room. After working for two years, she was accepted into a Physician’s Assistant program. Nisha’s first job after graduation was with a family practice. However, her goal was to work in gastroenterology.
After the pandemic, she found a gastroenterology position close to her family. She felt comfortable with the physician and accepted the job. It seemed like fate.
In March 2021, Nisha started her new job with daily training and long hours. As she continued learning and getting ready to practice independently, she felt grateful for finding this job, which consisted of working in a clinic and taking calls on weekends once a month.
On July 10, 2021, Nisha worked her typical on-call shift. Later that night, as she was preparing a pizza, she noticed that, when taking a deep breath in, she found it difficult to manage the out-breath. Not thinking much of it, she ate her food, talked to her sister, and went to bed.
The following day, Nisha woke up with unusual pressure in her chest and sharp aches. She attributed it to acid reflux from her pizza the night before and made her way to work.
Throughout the day, she kept experiencing chest pain. She grew concerned and requested an exam from her co-worker, a Nurse Practitioner. Asking for a quick EKG, Nisha didn’t expect much. After reading the EKG, the Nurse Practitioner told Nisha that her EKG was abnormal and that she should head to the ER.
With her background in healthcare, Nisha did not think her pain level warranted a trip to the ER. Plus, she lived alone and had no one to take her to the ER. As a precaution, the Nurse Practitioner contacted a local cardiologist, who called Nisha that night. The cardiologist considered her symptoms, told Nisha not to worry, and arranged for her to come in for tests.
In the days following the tests, Nisha’s shortness of breath worsened. When she finally received her results, she was experiencing pounding chest pain and could barely breathe without sitting forward.
Diagnosis & Medications
Nisha’s mom sat with her in the room as the cardiologist said, “Given your ECHO results, you most likely have a case of pericarditis.”
He recommended Nisha take NSAIDs and return for a follow-up in 2-3 weeks. As Nisha walked away from the office, she thought, “I’ll be fine. It’s only some NSAIDS for a few weeks.”
She was wrong. The next few months were life-changing. She couldn’t catch a break. Nisha had constant chest pain and shortness of breath and needed to sleep on four pillows a night. And the medications kept piling on – NSAIDs, anti-gout medication used for pericarditis, blood pressure medication, and a beta blocker.
After finishing the anti-gout medication, Nisha started to have severe palpitations. She had developed PVCs amidst her pericarditis. Nisha took multiple beta blockers for the next six months to help slow down her heart rate and reduce palpitations. After a year, she could finally tolerate the chest pain and palpitations with a small beta-blocker dose.
Navigating and eventually reducing her severe cardiac issues for a year, Nisha felt in control. Little did she know that taking months of NSAIDs for her pericarditis would cause a gastrointestinal issue called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Nisha also developed gastritis and had to take antacids. The discomfort continues, but now is a mild case of reflux.
Forever Changed – But Grateful
Pericarditis has changed Nisha’s life. A once healthy 27-year-old woman, seemingly overnight, Nisha became a person who could barely catch her breath when walking up one flight of stairs.
While it is difficult to understand why this disease would happen to her, Nisha feels grateful now for what she has been through. She realizes how much she took life for granted – the ability to breathe every day, to run without getting tired, and to enjoy a simple soda or coffee with friends.
Nisha is a strong believer in God and knows that her experience was meant to shape her into who she is today. This disease has strengthened Nisha and allowed her to deeply sympathize with others with serious health issues. She understands on a very personal level that a person is not their disease.
The Good News
Two years after being diagnosed with pericarditis, Nisha is off her cardiac medications and takes an antacid weekly, strictly watches her diet, and avoids strenuous work. Staying positive and having faith helped her to know everything would be okay. She cherishes all the little things life has granted her and hopes her story inspires others.