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Navigating High School with POTS

Meredith, age 16, California

In 2020 when I was promoted to high school from eighth grade, I was happy, healthy, and excited to start a new chapter in my life. Little did I know that this chapter would come with two neurosurgeries and four chronic illnesses that would control my high school years.

I’ve been diagnosed with tethered cord syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos, POTS, chronic migraines, and mast cell activation syndrome. All of these affect my day-to-day life in more than one way. The first time I had POTS symptoms was after my first neurosurgery in 2021. I’ve had tachycardia and low blood pressure my whole life, as well as dizziness, but I had never fainted.

The first time I passed out was in school, in the middle of math class. I was immediately rushed to the nurses office and then sent home. My pediatrician believed that was having a heart attack do to my other symptoms, and I sat in the emergency department for hours, waiting for tests to be run. I had the worst migraine of my life. I had been hooked up to monitors for several hours, and eventually they told my mom that antipsychotics would be the best way to help me. The male nurse taking my vitals told me that my chest pain was most likely from my boobs growing, and told me I was causing inconvenience. I went home with no answers. Months later, a pediatric cardiologist immediately told me I had POTS.

When I was diagnosed with POTS, I had to be more careful with the medications took, the food I ate, the amount of water I was drinking, and standing up. The school system provides no help to students with any kind of disabilities or chronic health conditions. The first time I passed out after my diagnosis during physical education class, the coach scolded me for disrupting his class and proceeded to call me gimpy in front of other students. My grades were lowered as punishment for my high number of absences. The only support that I have in the school day is from my friends, who do their best to make sure I am always taken care of. Navigating high school is one of the biggest challenges I face, and I’m still trying to learn how to create an environment where I can be more successful.

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