29: Never Lose Hope

29: Never Lose Hope

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings

Never Lose Hope

The only disability in life is a bad attitude.
~Scott Hamilton

From a young age, I was intelligent and athletic and lived a pretty easy life, with my future full of trophies and awards. I met my true destiny at the age of thirteen as I lay on a soccer field, clinging desperately to my last shards of consciousness. Finally, I let go and tumbled into a world of darkness, leaving behind pandemonium as people struggled to help an unconscious girl who, just hours ago, had been perfectly healthy. Maybe if someone had warned me how drastically this was going to change my life I would’ve clung to my consciousness and made a miraculous recovery.

Three months later I was still spending most of my time in bed. I was in eighth grade at the time, and still had not returned to school. Most of my friends had become distant and doctors did not know what was wrong with me. Every day became more and more frustrating.

Eventually I returned to school on a part-time basis. Instead of getting the sympathy I expected, I received dirty looks and harsh rumors about how it was “all in my head.” Things that were once easy for me became extremely difficult or altogether impossible. I could never concentrate on my schoolwork and the sports I’d once excelled at were completely out of the picture.

Somehow, I made it through the year and moved on to high school. Since my dreams of being a soccer and cross country star were ruined, I joined the drumline instead. I passed out at nearly every band practice and people were constantly complaining about always having to take care of me. Some people even tried to get me kicked off drumline. Luckily the band director stuck by my side. I think she knew how desperately I needed somewhere to belong. Still, I continued to be bullied and labeled as an “attention-seeker.” I was even abandoned by the few friends I had left.

As I struggled through my health problems and loneliness I kept promising myself that things would get better, and eventually they did. I made friends with a few members of the drumline and even developed a crush on one of them. In my PE class I met a few nice girls who were on flagline, another section of the band. By the end of the year they convinced me to try out for flagline, and I made it! My crush also asked me out.

In my sophomore year, things began looking up. Most of the flagline girls understood that my sickness was real and they took good care of me whenever I passed out. My new boyfriend also helped care for me. Finally, I had an understanding group of friends and a boyfriend who loved and supported me through everything. Unfortunately, my struggle still wasn’t over. In October, my health began deteriorating and I developed severe throat pain and lost my voice. Once again, I spent most of my time in bed and couldn’t attend school, but this time I had friends to help me through it. In December, I still wasn’t better and my doctor decided to send me to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota in hopes that the doctors there would be able to solve the case that had puzzled every other doctor I’d seen.

After a week of testing, the Mayo doctors diagnosed me with a problem called POTS, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. They were certain that the fatigue, headaches, passing out, brain fog (trouble concentrating), and other problems I’d been suffering from were not “in my head” and that I’d outgrow the sickness within a few years. They also determined that my throat pain and voice problem were caused by an inflamed nerve, which could be treated with medication.

It has been three months since my return from Mayo and my voice has made a full recovery. Although I still suffer from the many painful symptoms of POTS, I am extremely grateful to finally have a name for my illness. If it hadn’t been for my family’s perseverance in finding a doctor who could diagnose me, I’d still be wondering if my problem really was “in my head.”

In the end, I’m glad that no one warned me what would happen if I let go of my consciousness. I may have lost the easy life of trophies and popularity that I used to have but right now I’m still happier than I’ve ever been before. I have new friends and an amazing boyfriend whom I never would have met if I hadn’t been forced to quit sports and join band instead. I understand now that no one can be perfect, no matter how hard they try, and that strength isn’t measured by how far we can run or how many pounds we can lift but instead by how we handle ourselves in the face of adversity. And, most importantly, I’ve learned to never lose hope because perseverance can get you through any situation, no matter how impossible it may seem.

~Carly Collins, age 15

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