It started when I was a baby and I got shingles and pneumonia. I don’t remember it, but I’m assuming it wasn’t exactly a fun experience. Then in 1st grade, strep throat went around the classroom; I got it very often, as did my best friend, who had to get her tonsils out because of it! In 2nd grade I had surgery for a hiatel hernia, and the following summer I broke my arm. Then, it all stopped. And I was a fairly healthy kid until 10th grade. I rarely got sick, and aside from a yearly checkup, I never went to the doctor.
. . .
On February 8th, 2009, I woke up in an ambulance with paramedics trying to prick my finger for a blood sugar test. I didn’t know why I was there- I was healthy! I had my first seizure on that day. The doctors tested me for every illegal drug imaginable, and they couldn’t figure out why it happened. So they attributed it to low blood sugar, though mine was only a little bit low at the time.
It was supposed to be a one-time thing. I wasn’t too worried about it, and I ran a track workout a mere 2 days later. I got an EEG [like an EKG for your brain] and a cardiac stress test [which I took as a challenge and impressed the doctors, haha], both of which came back with normal results.
. . .
At school I started to get dizzy a lot. It would come in the afternoon, and one second I would feel good while the next second I’d feel like I was about to faint. Some days I had to call my Mom to pick me up early so I could go home and lie down- it was that bad.
On May 1st, 2009, I had my second seizure. I was out for a run with my track team when I felt that familiar aura. Everything I saw looked like it was underwater, and my body felt paralyzed. I stopped running and apparently exclaimed, “I think I’m gonna have a seizure!” Then I crumbled to the ground and started shaking. My coach and friends were terrified: they didn’t have a cell phone and needed to ring doorbells at the surrounding houses to get someone to call 911. Luckily somebody was at home, and an ambulance came. Meanwhile, I stopped breathing and turned blue, and my coach tried to perform CPR. I was able to wake up and start breathing again on my own, but was still unconscious.
This time, I got an MRI, but the results were normal. Whatever was wrong definitely wasn’t brain-related. A doctor at the ER plopped a large, white, oblong pill into my hand and told me to swallow it. I didn’t know I would have to take two of those pills each day, or that they would make me really tired and unable to stay up past 10 pm. I really didn’t know another thing: that those pills wouldn’t work.
. . .
On July 1st, 2009, I had my third and final seizure. This time, my Mom saw it happen and was able to describe it to the doctors. The referred me to a cardiologist.
Throughout this ordeal, I continue to run. I PRed in the 3200M and 5K, and set a PDR of 12 miles. I would run 30-45 miles each week during the summer, and always in the mornings. I was excited for a successful season of varsity cross-country. But all that changed during the team time trial. It was a warm summer evening, and we were to run 2 miles at race pace. I completed one mile in the hot sun, then collapsed on the course. I didn’t have a seizure, but I was scared. I felt like I was on a roller coaster that wouldn’t end. But eventually I felt a bit better.
Once school began, the afternoon dizziness started up again, too. Cross-country practices were too hard for me to handle, and I had to miss them often. I tried to run another race, but the same thing happened. It was so hard, especially since I didn’t know what was wrong with me.
. . .
My cardiologist told me he wanted me to have a tilt-table test. It consists of laying on a gurney, strapped in with monitors on your heart and blood pressure. The table is raised to an 80 degree angle, and the goal is to see how your heart rate responds to this. Mine didn’t like it. I was diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, and was placed on medications for it. They don’t always work perfectly, but they ease my symptoms and have stopped me from having any subsequent seizures.
Yes I still get dizzy often, yes I get frustrated and angry, yes I wonder why I had to develop this condition. But no I haven’t given up, and no I will not stop doing the things I love. I want to run a marathon, I want to run the Boston Marathon, I want to live my life to the fullest. To me, health is not about eating healthy foods or living a so-called “healthy lifestyle”, it’s about your body and mind being capable of the things you want it to do. If you don’t have this, and I know from experience, you’re not healthy. It may sound simple, but so many of us forget what real health is. Go to the doctor when you’re sick, rest when you’re hurt, eat what you want when you’re hungry, and most importantly, do what makes you happy.