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Four Years of Unknown Illness

Gabby, age 21, Massachusetts

Four years ago, right before my senior year of high school, I became unrecognizably sick. Alongside my family, I could not see the real Gabby underneath the mask POTS put on my life. What began with extreme and intense weight loss turned to constant syncope or near syncope. It took months of episodes of syncope and numerous other symptoms to present before I decided it was time to seek help. After thousands of dollars of testings and multiple specialists, I was told it was all my head. I was stumping all of the medical specialists that were supposed to hold the answers.

My world crashed down around me as I thought no one believed my daily struggles. I slowly watched my senior year pass me by from my bed as I struggled to move without my symptoms taking control. Being shipped off from one doctor to the next and every test result coming back normal, my mental health started to plummet alongside my physical health.

After four years of testing and what seemed like weekly appointments, I had finally found my answers. I truly owe my life to my cardiologist at Mass General Brigham. She understood all of my symptoms even though the vast majority seemed to mimic several other illnesses. After a tilt table test, it was beyond clear I was suffering from postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS). For the first time in four years, I left the office in tears. But this time it wasn’t tears of frustration, anger, or deep sadness, but rather true relief and happiness that I could finally get back to living my life. After starting a beta blockers, I have gained control over my life again and have never felt better. Dr. Tantengco, thank you for believing me.

All in all, the hardest part pre-treatment was learning how to accept the world moving on without you being able to keep up. However, POTS has shown me the strongest version of myself. The one that persevered and never stopped fighting even when it felt pointless. I wish POTS was more well known because maybe I could have avoided a four year diagnostic delay. I hope it becomes more well known so no one has to suffer so long without answers.