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Change of Career with Diagnosis?

Brandon, age 25, Washington

The turn of a new decade seemed so bright. I had a new job, a fiance, my dogs, and stability. I was at the peak of any arborist's career. I was climbing multiple trees a day, working out daily, running an under 6 minute mile, and eating like an athlete. Then one day, I just couldn't. 

I was tired March 12th, but I still did fine at work. I ran a 5:30 mile. Took the dogs on walks. Everything was normal. March 13th, I could hardly walk. I tried to work but could barely walk to the trees let alone climb them. Standing seemed impossible. I struggled all day to do 4 trees that would have been an hour task on a good day. I turned greyish. I couldn't talk anymore. I didn't feel alive. My chest hurt beyond anything I'd ever felt. I wrote it off as I was sick, maybe I caught COVID-19, maybe I'm just worn out. It was unreal. I took 2 weeks off and tried to go back to work.

I thought I'd be okay. The first day was normalish. Then it went downhill, fast. I could barely stand, let alone walk and climb. I tried to use the bucket truck, but standing and moving with a chainsaw when I'm not in my right mind seemed... reckless. On the last day, I blacked out dragging brush to the chipper. I'd had my knees buckle before, and I'd been knocked out before, but fainting was totally different. I was told to stay home until this got figured out. Nobody wanted anything bad to happen, and this was not a normal situation.

And so I sat. I would try to walk and do things, but even moving around in my 200sq ft motorhome was exhausting. I couldn't do household chores. I started sleeping nearly 14 hours a day. It was the worst thing I'd ever felt. I thought I was going to die. However, being a prideful "manly man", I didn't want to go to the hospital. I waited for the doctors. They thought maybe asthma. Nothing. Referrals for testing were sent....

Then started COVID-19. The economy shut down. Doctors closed. Everything stopped. It made getting tested for anything impossible. I figured if I had heart failure or something, I'd be okay if I didn't do anything. So we sat. My now wife, Kayana, thankfully has been able to keep us afloat. Our modest lifestyle helped immensely. My savings got wiped out, and our illusion of control and stability slowly crumbled as we grasped tighter to regain it.

After months of waiting and testing and frustration, a clue. My blood pressure dropped, ending my treadmill test after only 3 minutes. Then, the tilt table test... The morning of June 15th was... Unexpected. Here I was, expecting to be told you're dying or it's a valve problem or you have heart failure or the dreaded, nothing's wrong. Instead, a 4 letter, ironic acronym. POTS. I had to laugh. Even better, mostly women get it. And It's permanent and has no cure. Plus, I'd already been exercising and eating right. Talk about feeling emasculated. 

Then, lightbulb. I'd been unhappy with many aspects of arboriculture. I'd never intended to make it my career. I'd wanted to go to college and be an engineer or physicist, but survival took priority. I just could never justify leaving the career I'd built. I got stuck. Despite the feeling that I was not in the right career, it was too much effort to switch careers. Now, I nearly have no choice. 

As of today, it's still a waiting game. With the system opening again, maybe more can be figured out. Maybe I need to suck it up and retrain, or go back to school. Maybe my hobbies of hiking and climbing and running are no longer attainable. Maybe, this is my cue to sit back and let life lead me to my truer purpose. Maybe, my letting go will reshape the future of how POTS controls me.

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