George: Never let your POTS stop you from achieving your goals
My name is George, I am 21 and currently a student at Loughborough University. It all started when I contracted glandular fever in 2013. I suffered from pretty bad complications due to not resting enough in the first few weeks! This lasted at least 6 months, before I was diagnosed with post viral fatigue syndrome as I was really struggling to go to school, do exercise and even make it up the stairs at home. A few months and countless doctors appointments later and I was going up to the West Midlands from Devon to see a chronic fatigue syndrome specialist, who basically told me that I needed to be more positive…not sure how useful that is when you can’t stop collapsing!
After missing so much school and social life as a result of my symptoms (dizziness, palpitations, memory loss and chronic fatigue) my mum eventually managed to find the POTS website which showed a lot of my symptoms. This then led to few more doctors appointments where they often disputed the existence of the condition and whether it applied to me or not. Finally, despite it being a little to late for my A levels (I managed to get 3 A’s somehow) I got the diagnosis from a knowledgeable consultant and gained entry to the University of Surrey to study Economics.
I had looked forward to this for years and had just started on some new tablets (fludrocortisone). The few weeks between freshers and me deciding I had to leave were some of the worst I have experienced. As the amount of side effects I experienced meant I did not even last 20 minutes at the students union on the first night and needed a taxi to get back a relatively short distance. I had only a few friends, who were in my flat and were lovely to me but I never felt like I was well enough to do anything that I wanted to achieve.
This is where it started turn around for me, with the brilliant support of my girlfriend and parents and some new medication (midodrine) I started working at a local national trust café. At the same time I was starting to think of going back to university as I did not want to let my condition affect my goals in life anymore. I chose Loughborough University and subsequently managed to get some more help with my heart rate in the form of Ivabradine. This meant I could exercise more frequently without suffering from awful symptoms both during and after.
When I arrived at Loughborough last year it was definitely second time lucky! I signed up to the Rowing club as it was a sport I could sit down during, and my halls of residence gave me lots of new friends to spend the year with. I joined hall committee, did charity and volunteering work, and got myself a medal at an indoor rowing event!
There are a few things that I have still really struggled with due to POTS even now I am on the right medication. Firstly all the conditions that cause POTS symptoms to worsen are pretty prevalent at university, too much light or heat, consuming alcohol and lack of sleep mean that it will always be a struggle and you sometimes have to realise you cannot act like everyone else around you. Secondly the anxiety I have experienced within the last year, from just struggling to stand in a supermarket and do a shop because of the lights and temperature changes to walking to the far edges of campus just to get away from everything. There is always something new that will surprise you about your POTS.
This year I have managed to secure a job at an investment bank in London and am excited to get started down there. This story shows that although you may not be able to feel exactly like you did before you had this condition, you can always find a way to achieve amazing things. Something I need to work on which is never trying to hide when you are struggling as I find my parents and friends are always there for me when I need them.