Junior Amanda Brown is living with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS).
When Brown was a senior in high school, she was diagnosed with POTS. This heart condition makes a person’s blood pressure drop and heart race. The individual is likely to pass out as a result.
According to Brown, this syndrome is found in one out of every 10 females. The signs are different with every person. Brown said she gets lightheaded and does not remember anything a couple minutes before fainting.
According to mayoclinic.org, patients will usually grow out of the syndrome sometime in their 20s. The symptoms of this syndrome started when Brown was a child.
“My body rejected an illness that I had when I was little,” Brown said. “My immune system tried to fight it off, but I was so weak that my heart couldn’t keep up.”
Brown said when she first started experiencing symptoms, she would pass out anywhere from 10 to 50 times a day. So far on Northwestern’s campus she has only passed out twice.
“I don’t remember five minutes before I pass out,” Brown said. “It is random now, but was much more frequent when it first started.”
Brown said that the high school she attended and her community in Loveland, Colo., had a hard time dealing with her unusual situation.
“A lot of teachers thought I was on drugs. They didn’t understand,” Brown said. “The doctors thought that I was faking it because I had a normal resting heart rate.”
Since Brown has come to NW, her life has been different without her family close. She has to be with another person most of the day.
“I can’t do things by myself,” Brown said. “I always have to be with someone used to my condition.”
Freshman Hannah Tweadt, Brown’s roommate, said she was used to responding in emergency situations from her experience with disabled children. Tweadt has not yet witnessed any of Brown’s fainting.
“We make light of it, and when I know she has fainted earlier, I just leave her alone to rest,” Tweadt said. “I think it has made us closer. I’m dyslexic, so I know what it’s like to struggle and be at a disadvantage.”
Brown said the best way to react to her fainting is to roll her on her back, lift her legs and bend her knees.
“Just talk to me until I come to,” said Brown. “It is best to not have more than three people around.”
The biggest setback with this condition is subconsciously worrying, Brown said. She is allowed to have a driver’s license because the fainting only occurs when she is standing.
“I fear just getting out of bed some days when I’m not feeling well,” Brown said.
Brown said her condition is frustrating and disabling. More stress, whether mental or physical, brings on the symptoms.
“Some days I’m a normal kid, but other times I ask myself if doing what I want is even worth it,” Brown said. “Some mornings I feel sick, and I get migraines. If I don’t feel good for any reason, I’m definitely with someone.”
Brown said her most embarrassing moment was on high school awards night after she crossed the stage.
“The good part was that I was not accepting my award,” Brown said. “In the cafeteria of my junior college I fainted and was then known as ‘the girl who faints.’”
Softball has been a big part of Brown’s life, both while growing up and here at NW. Coaches of her high school team were not comfortable allowing her to play, and she has not played a game in three years. Brown said she hopes to get playing time at NW.
“Softball helps with my heart rate,”Brown said. “It makes my heart stronger, and it stabilizes my heart rate.”
Brown said that she had no faith in the beginning of her struggle.
“I didn’t understand why God would give me this if it would just keep me back in life,” Brown said. “As I began to read other people’s stories on the Internet, I realized that I could grow out of this, and it was only going to make me stronger.”
Since her diagnosis, Brown said her family has gotten closer, and her faith continues to grow stronger.
“I pray four times a day just to remind myself that God is still listening and I can get through this,” Brown said.
Brown said so far NW has been a blessing and an encouragement.
“I came to a Christian college because even though it’s hard to have my body do this, I want God to know I still believe in him.”