Class of 1974
Jeannette's story is that of a true champion. A talented woman, with a successful career, that has had to, and still to this day, overcome insurmountable challenges, but comes out on top time and time again. In true champion form, she uses her experiences and goes out of her way to inspire people of all ages.
In 1970, Jeannette left Greenville High School with the reputation of an outstanding athlete. She did not disappoint that reputation as her career progressed. She went on to the University of Maine at Presque Isle and for four years was a staple in women's athletics. She enjoyed a great career as a volleyball, basketball, and softball player. She did all of this while excelling in the classroom and graduating with a degree in Physical Education.
After graduation came the start of a promising career. Her knowledge and positive attitude were essential to her success and spread to her other duties as a coach. It was while she was in class that things started to take a turn in her life. While running laps with her students, Jeannette had a "freak" fainting spell that would change her life forever. After many misdiagnoses and tests before an echocardiogram and heart catheterization revealed the truth. In 1976 Jeannette Morrill was diagnosed with Pulmonary Hypertension (PH).
PH is high blood pressure in the arteries to your lungs. The blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to your lungs become narrow and hard, which makes your heart work harder to pump blood through those vessels. Over time, your heart weakens and it eventually leads to heart failure. Symptoms of PH include: shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, fainting, loss of energy, swelling of arms, legs, ankles, or abdomen, and dry cough. Symptoms are worsened by physical activity. There is no cure for PH. In 1976, Jeanette was given two years to live.
Forced to retire from teaching due to disability, Jeanette was limited to a electric wheel chair and 24 hour oxygen. Several years went by, and many lengthy stays in the hospital, but Jeanette stayed strong. Thanks to some help from some experimental drugs, her conditions started to improve. In 1982, she resumed her teaching career at Greenville Middle/High School. During that time her assignments included being a sixth grade self-contained teacher; designing a course geared toward life skills such as coking, sewing, CPR, first aid, hunter safety, outdoor skills, and snowmobile and ATV courses; and taught science and language arts. She also coached middle school girl's basketball, junior varsity girl's basketball, varsity softball, and varsity girl's soccer (including an Eastern Maine Class D Runner-up season).
In 1997 her Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension no longer responded to the experimental drug, which forced Jeanette to retire once again from teaching. That hasn't stopped her from continuing to make a difference. She continues to be an inspiration, friend, and resource to everyone that knows her and especially to those that also suffer from PH. She has been the Keynote speaker at the Pulmonary Hypertension Association International Conference in Orlando in 2014, at the Pulmonary Hypertension Association of Canada Conference in Montreal in 2015, was a patient speaker at a Congressional Luncheon in 2009 and 2011, and has spoke at numerous PH Educational forums nationwide. Jeanette published a book in June of 2010 called Living with Pulmonary Hypertension. In 2012 she was named the Outstanding Citizen of the Year by the Pulmonary Hypertension Association.
Perhaps the actions that define Jeannette as a champion even more then her accolades, is the unselfish work she does to help others suffering from PH. Since 2007 she has been the coordinator for the "Maine Swinging Fore a Cure" Charity Golf Tournament, which is the primary source of income that supports UPHill Journeys, Pulmonary Hypertension Research, and Pulmonary Hypertension Care Centers across the United States. She is the founder of UPHill Journeys, whose mission is to "support and sustain our friends and neighbors in Maine and New Hampshire's pulmonary community on their journey toward a cure – affiliated with Maine Medical Center, Portland." Through all of this Jeannette continues to befriend, counsel, and be a positive resource for numbers of people affected with PH. It is now going on 40 years since she has been diagnosed with this disease, and it is believed that she is the person in the US to live the longest with the disease.
The University of Maine at Presque Isle is proud to honor Jeannette Morrill and welcome her into the Hall of Fame. The Athletics Hall of Fame Reception and Dinner will be held in the Campus Center on Saturday, October 1st at 5:30 PM. Tickets are $20 and can be bought by calling the Athletics Department at 768-9506.