Sarah Jutze, Brittany O’Donnell, and Patrick Northrup have been working on their DECA project for five months now, which is the POTS Awareness Campaign. They have been trying to inform the faculty and students at Millbrook High School of the realities of living with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome or POTS. It is a type of dysautonomia and, more specifically, a disease affecting the central nervous system. In order to inform the faculty, the group handed out a survey with standard questions about POTS to the teachers at Millbrook. Once all of the data was recorded, the group found that the most common question teachers had trouble answering was what to do if a student with POTS starts to experience symptoms in class.
Therefore, the group decided to create a pamphlet for their STOPOTS campaign containing all of the necessary information relating to the disease. They got permission from Ms. Butler to place the pamphlets in all of the teachers’ mailboxes at school so teachers could easily access the information on the steps to take in a situation where a student is experiencing symptoms. There are four main symptoms: migraines, dizziness, fatigue, and weakness. These are just the major symptoms to be on the lookout for, however, there are many more, including insomnia, shortness of breath, fainting, etc. The pamphlet explains what POTS is, what dysautonomia diseases are, the symptoms, and most importantly, what to do if there is an issue.
If there is a student with POTS in your class, and they start to experience any of the symptoms, the first thing you should do is notify the teacher. From there, the teacher will decide what to do. One option is lying the student down with their feet elevated to allow the blood that pooled up in their feet, from very low blood pressure, to flow back throughout the body. Another option is to walk the student to the nurse; however, a student needs to be accompanied by an adult in case they faint on the walk to the nurse.
As far as peers are concerned, it is imperative that you realize the symptoms of POTS are real. Fatigue and migraines might seem like normal complaints from a teenager in school, but these complaints are extremely heightened with POTS and are experienced daily. Someone with POTS is not faking the symptoms, being lazy, or just skipping school if they have to go home; their pain is invisible to everyone else except them, so please realize this and respect it. POTS is an invisible chronic illness that requires a lot of attention. People affected by the disease take multiple types of medicine at various times in the day to manage their pain and symptoms.
Sometimes POTS can last a lifetime or it could be outgrown when a person is in their early twenties. The most common time for someone to be affected is around middle school. There are fourteen people in Millbrook High School alone that fight this disease every day. Although you may not know who has POTS, now you know that it is a serious disease that should not be taken lightly. Please be aware of what POTS is and how you, as a student, can help your peers. To learn more, watch the video attached to hear about the disease and the STOPOTS Campaign from Sarah Jutze and Patrick Northrup themselves.