Why I Race to Stop Pulmonary Hypertension

My daughter Mackenzie brightened the lives of her family and friends with her constant, contagious and incredible smile and big hugs. She had a way of warming the hearts of people of all ages. She was a fun friend and yet a quiet companion and lived with enthusiasm. She loved life and made the most out of it. She was most often found riding her Dora 4-wheeler throughout the neighborhood waving and saying “Hi” to everyone.

I race for my daughter Mackenzie, who passed away at age 5 after a battle with chronic pulmonary hypertension and pneumonia.

Mackenzie was born in August of 2004 with both of her lungs partially collapsed. She landed in the pediatric intensive care unit often, was on a restricted diet, and for four years visited 12 specialists searching for a diagnosis.

Mackenzie endured blue episodes, had a high red cell blood count and was in the lower third of the charts. Throughout her countless doctor appointments, blood draws and tests, Mackenzie’s enthusiastic spirit did not falter.

Finally, at the age of four, Mackenzie was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension secondary to Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA).

Despite rapid progress in treatment for pulmonary hypertension, repeated misdiagnosis causes many patients to receive care only at advanced stages of the illness.

At the age of five, Mackenzie developed pneumonia while vacationing in Florida. She was placed on a respirator and flown back to Michigan. After a six-week battle with chronic pulmonary hypertension and pneumonia, Mackenzie became one of God’s angels.

Mackenzie is love, she is happiness, she is determination. She was little in size but most importantly big at heart. She drew us all in with her smile, her hugs and her waves, and most importantly she taught us to ignore limitations that life may have and instead approach each day with enthusiasm.

In 2009, through inspiration from my girlfriends and my daughter Mackenzie, I took up competing in triathlons. The following year, a friend energized me to start running further and I completed three marathons. Racing has allowed me to meet other inspiring individuals as well as encourage others to get out and run, get fit and stay healthy.

During Mackenzie’s battle, the DeWitt community was extremely supportive. Helping to organize the DeWitt Take a Breath for PH and Get Moving for MS each year is one way I help to give back to such an awesome community.

About the Author: Melinda Grubich is co-director of the annual DeWitt Take a Breath for PH and Get Moving for MS events. For race information or to register, visit dewittracephms.com.

Editor’s note: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is a proud sponsor of the DeWitt Take a Breath for PH and Get Moving for MS event. 


Photo credit: Aivaras Čiurlionis (feature image)

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  1. God bless you to have so much inspiration in your trials and tribulations with your daughter God is so amazing and now you are running, I hope to get to that area of strength in my life, Thank You Thank You Thank You for listening…..,,

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