My name is Wendy Baruchowitz. I am a wife to my loving husband, Mitch and the mother of two wonderful young boys, Braden and Blake.
In 2011 my life was suddenly turned upside down. I was pregnant with my younger son, Blake and due to minor complications put on bed rest for several months as a precaution. One week before my due date I was cleared to move around. Hallelujah! However, I did not realize how de-conditioned I had become. I went to stand up for the first time, approximately one week before my due date and immediately knew something was wrong. I could feel the blood draining from my head and pooling in my ankles and feet and my heart was racing. I felt dizzy and nauseous as well. I asked my husband to take my pulse; he looked at me a little wide eyed. “What?!” I asked.
“160” he replied. “But you are probably just really out of shape, honey.”
No. That wasn’t it. Not even close. Just upon standing, my heart was pounding out of my chest - like I had just finished running 20 twenty miles
Fast forward one week after the birth of my son: No I was not simply just out of shape. It was far worse. My symptoms multiplied to include migraines, dizziness, light-headedness, incontinence, nausea, vomiting, tremors, insomnia, shortness of breath, cognitive impairment, brain fog, adrenaline rushes, ice cold hands and feet, debilitating fatigue and chest pain to name a few. I could barely stand or walk without feeling like I was going to faint. In sum, I lost the ability to function. I was petrified and despondent.
I lay in bed crying, locked in the dark space of my new “life”. My newborn son was being cared for by others, as was I. I could not even hold him because of my balance and fear of fainting.
I was desperate for answers. And it was this desperation that drove me out of bed and to dozens of doctors over the next several months. I was determined to find out what was wrong with me.
But not one doctor could give me a definitive diagnosis, as nothing in their medical experience could explain the constellation of symptoms I was experiencing. Neurologists, internists and cardiologists told me that I was suffering from postpartum or that I had anxiety from the birth of my son. I was offered counseling and anti-anxiety medication. Insulting.
After three exhaustive months, I finally received a diagnosis: POTS. Never heard of it? Neither had most of my doctors.
POTS stands for Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. POTS is one of many Dysautonomic disorders, which simply means a deregulation of the autonomic system. Anything that your body automatically regulates – think heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, sleep, mood, respiration, blood flow, temperature regulation, tear production – my body cannot. This is why I need your help.
Why I Need Your Support
It takes an average of six+ years for a person with POTS to receive a diagnosis. I diagnosed myself after googling my symptoms, but could not find a doctor to confirm that I had POTS for three months. Why? Because few people, even in the medical profession, know enough about the disorder to identify and diagnose the condition.
But getting the diagnosis was just the beginning of the journey. After two years, I finally found a specialist in Ohio at the University of Toledo who put me on a protocol that significantly improved my condition. The magic elixir included daily exercise, a high salt diet and 60-80 ounces of water a day. (It’s important to note that this protocol does not work for all POTS patients.)
When I first started exercising I was able to swim just one lap in the pool. But working with a trainer I got stronger over several months and got myself up to 30 minutes a day. I was then ready for land exercise. Initially swimming was the only form of exercise I could tolerate – it was horizontal, my heart rate was 20% lower in the water, and it defied gravity (the enemy to all POTS patients). In my determination for health, I swam everyday (yes, I mean everyday) to build up enough strength to eventually graduate to upright/land-based exercise. I began on the treadmill by walking 1-3 minutes a day. Today I am able to walk/run two miles a day and weight train three times per week. Weights are good for everybody, as we all know, but more so for POTS patients because muscle mass is critical to pumping the blood back up to the heart to prevent fainting.
Additionally, I now walk 11,000+ steps everyday, roughly equivalent to 5.5 miles.
Over three million people in the U.S. have POTS. But it is estimated that many more are un/misdiagnosed. Currently, there is very little research or awareness about POTS and Dysautonomia in general. It is critical that the medical community is educated about this life-altering syndrome. Because with the proper diagnosis, patients can get help and reclaim their lives.
Please help. It’s time to spread the word! It’s time to take a stand against POTS!!