Standing Up To POTS At Wittenberg

Standing Up To POTS At Wittenberg

Wittenberg University has made an effort to raise awareness about this disease around campus.
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Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) is one of a group of disorders that have orthostatic intolerance (OI) as their primary symptoms. It’s when an excessively reduced volume of blood returns to the heart after an individual stands up from a lying-down position. Some symptoms of POTS include fainting, migraines, and lightheadedness. These symptoms can be relieved by laying down again. Anyone at any age can develop POTS, but the majority of individuals who are affected (between 75 and 80 percent) are women between the 15 to 50 years of age.

Wittenberg University has made an effort to raise awareness about this disease around campus through the “Standing Up To POTS 5K.” The Pre-Health Professionals Club is teaming up with Dr. Pederson to bring the event to Wittenberg this year. Dr. Pederson’s daughter has POTS, which makes this disease hit even closer to home here at Wittenberg. The 5K seeks to raise $10,000 for Dr. Pederson’s nonprofit of the same name. The 5K is on April 9th and it starts at the Student Center.

This nonprofit provides a wealth of information about POTS and the people who it affects. It explains the tell-tale signs of POTS such as the symptoms explained above. Additionally, it provides information about treating these symptoms through the best medicines, advice about dieting, taking actions to avoid fainting and lightheadedness, responsibly exercising, and where to find counseling for the emotional struggles that this disease can cause. It also catalogs published research about POTS, which allows those who don’t know much about the disease to learn important facts about it.

Cover Image Credit: standinguptoPOTS.org

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Yes, I Had A Stroke And I'm Only 20

Sometimes bad things happen to good people.
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Recently, I read an article on Cosmo that was written by a woman that had a stroke at the ripe old age of 23. For those of you who don't know, that really doesn't happen. Young people don't have strokes. Some do, but it's so incredibly uncommon that it rarely crosses most people's minds. Her piece was really moving, and I related a lot -- because I had a stroke at 20.

It started as a simple headache. I didn't think much of it because I get headaches pretty often. At the time, I worked for my parents, and I texted my mom to tell her that I'd be late to work because of the pain. I had never experienced a headache like that, but I figured it still wasn't something to worry about. I went about my normal routine, and it steadily got worse. It got to the point that I literally threw up from the pain. My mom told me to take some Tylenol, but I couldn't get to our kitchen. I figured that since I was already in the bathroom, I would just take a shower and hope that the hot steam would relax my muscles, and get rid of my headache. So I turned the water on in the shower, and I waited for it to get hot.

At this point, I was sweating. I've never been that warm in my life. My head was still killing me. I was sitting on the floor of the bathroom, trying to at least cope with the pain. Finally, I decided that I needed to go to the hospital. I picked up my phone to call 911, but I couldn't see the screen. I couldn't read anything. I laid down on the floor and tried to swipe from the lock screen to the emergency call screen, but I couldn't even manage that. My fine motor skills were completely gone. My fingers wouldn't cooperate, even though I knew what buttons needed to be pressed. Instead of swiping to the emergency call screen, I threw my phone across the room. "Okay," I thought, "Large muscle groups are working. Small ones are not".

I tried getting up. That also wasn't happening. I was so unstable that I couldn't stay standing. I tried turning off the running water of the shower, but couldn't move the faucet. Eventually, I gave up on trying to move anywhere. "At what point do I just give up and lie on the floor until someone finds me?" That was the point. I ended up lying on the floor for two hours until my dad came home and found me.

During that two hours, I couldn't hear. My ears were roaring, not even ringing. I tried to yell, but I couldn't form a sentence. I was simply stuck, and couldn't do anything about it. I still had no idea what was going on.

When the ambulance finally got there, they put me on a stretcher and loaded me into the back. "Are you afraid of needles or anything?" asked one EMT. "Terrified," I responded, and she started an IV without hesitation. To this day, I don't know if that word actually came out of my mouth, but I'm so glad she started the IV. She started pumping pain medicine, but it didn't seem to be doing anything.

We got to the hospital, and the doctors there were going to treat me for a migraine and send me on my merry way. This was obviously not a migraine. When I could finally speak again, they kept asking if I was prone to migraines. "I've never had a migraine in my whole life," I would say. "Do you do any drugs?" they would ask. "No," I repeated over and over. At this point, I was fading in and out of consciousness, probably from the pain or the pain medicine.

At one point, I heard the doctors say that they couldn't handle whatever was wrong with me at our local hospital and that I would need to be flown somewhere. They decided on University of Maryland in Baltimore. My parents asked if I wanted them to wait with me or start driving, so I had them leave.

The helicopter arrived soon after, and I was loaded into it. 45 minutes later, I was in Baltimore. That was the last thing I remember. The next thing I remember was being in the hospital two weeks later. I had a drain in my head, a central port, and an IV. I honestly didn't know what had happened to me.

As it turns out, I was born with a blood vessel malformation called an AVM. Blood vessels and arteries are supposed to pass blood to one another smoothly, and mine simply weren't. I basically had a knot of blood vessels in my brain that had swelled and almost burst. There was fluid in my brain that wouldn't drain, which was why my head still hurt so bad. The doctors couldn't see through the blood and fluid to operate, so they were simply monitoring me at that point.

When they could finally see, they went in to embolize my aneurysm and try to kill the AVM. After a successful procedure, my headache was finally starting to subside. It had gone from a 10 on the pain scale (which I don't remember), to a 6 (which was when I had started to be conscious), and then down to a 2.

I went to rehab after I was discharged from the hospital, I went to rehab. There, I learned simple things like how to walk and balance, and we tested my fine motor skills to make sure that I could still play the flute. Rehab was both physically and emotionally difficult. I was constantly exhausted.

I still have a few lingering issues from the whole ordeal. I have a tremor in one hand, and I'm mostly deaf in one ear. I still get headaches sometimes, but that's just my brain getting used to regular blood flow. I sleep a lot and slur my words as I get tired. While I still have a few deficits, I'm lucky to even be alive.

Cover Image Credit: Neve McClymont

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7 Things Families Who Lose Their Dear Ones Far Too Soon Need To Know

I promise you will be able to carry on.

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To the families who have been affected by cancer, this is for you.

If you're currently going through it or lost a loved one to this monster I'm sorry. You're probably wondering why I'm apologizing?

It fucking sucks.

I don't know how many times I have screamed, cried, or asked God why he had to take her away. Why he had to put my family through this monsoon of emotions that happened while she was alive, and the monsoon's aftermath after she left.

Here are a few things I want you to know.

1. Know you're never alone.

Know there are so many families going through the same thing. Watching their loved one go through chemo, or radiation, forcing them to eat when they're not hungry. You are not alone, I promise.

2. It's okay to take a step back.

When my grandmother was going through hospice I helped every day when hospice didn't come. I helped wash her. I helped change the bedding. I helped dress her. I knew she would've done the same thing for me if the roles were reversed. She's been gone for 6 months but the last week of hospice still haunts me. I have nightmares, and some days all I can see is my grandmother skin in bone. It's okay to take a step back. I encourage you to take a step back. I know you want to be there for your loved one, I know. Yet you also need to take care of yourself.

3. The grass isn't exactly green on the other side.

I swear the grass could turn green from my tears. You will make it to the other side. I promise you will be able to carry on. I know it feels wrong and different in a bad way, but you must carry on with your life. That's what your loved one would want you to do. You will have days where you can't even get out of bed to brush your teeth, and there will be days where you'll just cry. That's okay. It's okay to cry and scream and go to therapy. It's okay to take care of yourself.

4. Grieve.

Don't ignore it. Don't try to rush through it. I tried to almost ignore it. Ignore that my grandmother was dead and ignore the steps of grief. I know that's stupid and it was stupid of me to try. I only hurt more in the long run. Grieve in your time. There isn't a timeline of how long you can grieve. Grief is scary and overwhelming and you see people's real colors. People grieve in their own ways. This is about you. Grieve in your time. Grieve in your own way.

5. There is no rush.

There is no rush to go through their things. There is no rush to throw things away. There is no rush. Just like grieving take your time. Obviously, you don't have long before planning a funeral but everything else can wait. You don't have to go through their clothes, and you don't have to go through all their belongings right away. Leave the house the way it was when they were still alive. It makes your heart hurt but it is also comforting.

6. If they want to stop treatment, support them.

I knew it was going to happen. It's something you can't ignore. Either they choose to stop getting treatment, or you run out of treatment options. It was kind of both for my Mimi. I think the hardest thing was accepting what the next steps were. Getting into contact with hospice, and then the medication, the stop of eating and drinking. Unable to get out of bed, and then going unconscious forever. I know how you feel. I know how your heart aches, and you're physically sick. I know. Yet they have lived a wonderful life.

7. They really are with you, always.

I thought it was cliché when people say, "They will always be with you." Yet it has been the only comforting thing I have. I see dragonflies daily, and this lone deer who stays close to my grandfather's house. You'll know. My family and I all have cremation jewelry, and it makes for awkward conversations, but I physically have Mimi with me every single day I wear my ring.

Cancer is mean and ruthless. It's selfish and it doesn't hurt just the body it is attacking.

To the families who are going through this, or the families going through hospice. I send nothing but my love and comfort for you guys. Take pictures even if you have multiples because those will be what you hold onto when they're gone. Record their voice and remember their laugh.

To the families who have lost their loved one, I am here with you. Take care of yourself even when you don't have the energy or care to. I know carrying on us horrible. Some days I'm physically sick wondering what I'm doing with my life. How could I move on? Yet that's the only thing we can do now. Hold their memories close, put their photos in an album, and never forget them.

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