Ever since I could remember I wanted to grow up and be a nurse, not just a nurse, but a GREAT nurse. You know the type, the one who’s name you will never forget because she made your mom smile when she was having her worst day ever, the one who gave your baby his first bath, or the one who showed compassion to your grumpy grandpa while he was in the hospital. In 2011 I graduated nursing school, became a licensed Registered Nurse and got a job as an Oncology nurse. I was living the life that I had always imagined. My days consisted of spending my days working my dream career in a fast paced environment as an Oncology Nurse and my nights hanging out with friends and family, spending time at the beach, shopping, going out,dancing and being a normal 25 year old. On June 13th,2012 I went from the healthy , fun loving nurse to the other side of the bed as a seizure patient . A week after my initial seizure I suffered a stroke due to a drug administration error at a local hospital. Following the stroke I underwent 8 weeks of inpatient therapy and many months of rehabilitation.
9 months after the initial seizure I was ecstatic to be able to go back to my job that I love so much and to be able to slowly incorporate normal activities back into my lifestyle.
Shortly after returning to work I began having seizures again along with an array of new symptoms such as chronic dizziness,extreme fatigue, trouble catching my breath ,heat and cold intolerance, heart palpitations, chest pain,tremors, excessive thirst,trouble standing for long periods of time,pain in my feet (due to blood pooling) and syncope ( fainting). In March of 2013 I was diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome which is thought to have been brought on by the stroke I suffered last year.
Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome is a form of Dysautonomia ( a malfunction of the Autonomic Nervous System) in which the change from a lying down position to standing causes a dramatic increase in heart rate. The normal healthy person tends to have a heart rate of about 60-90 beats per minute no matter what position they are in. In someone suffering from POTS every time they stand their heart rate increases by 30 or more beats per minute , bringing the heart rate extremely high. For example, when lying down my HR runs about 70 beats per minute, when I stand it may jump to about 115 beats per minute and when I start to walk it may increase to upwards of 190 beats per minute causing the symptoms that I mentioned above. The increase in the severity of my condition has caused me to take a leave of absence from work and be taken care of full time by my parents, as well as changed my lifestyle dramatically including spending my days in a reclined position and avoiding being upright for more than a few minutes at a time. My treatment plan includes recumbent exercise, medications, and twice weekly IV fluid infusions.
Although it’s been a hard adjustment I try my hardest to remain positive and incorporate normal activities into my daily routine. The support of family and friends has made it possible to be “Brittany” again. I may be a different, more laid back, low-key version but I’m still the same old me. I am now a patient, chronically ill, and most of the time I don’t feel well at all but that doesn’t take away the fact that I am also a nurse, a lover of family and friends and a good girl’s night. My main goal in sharing my story is to provide support, spread awareness, and share my perspective of what it’s like living with a chronic invisible illness. The rest is still unwritten……