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Valley high school student battling rare blood condition

LISTEN: Valley student diagnosed with POTS

Phoenix — High school students are busy.

They start the day early, attending classes well into the afternoon. Then, they have their after school extracurricular activities, sports and homework.

That could leave them vulnerable to a condition called POTS, which leads to extreme fatigue and other issues.

Tempe, Arizona, resident Lawson Stanley, 17, is one example. She was an active Seton Catholic High School (Chandler) student, and was even on her school volleyball team.

But things were beginning to change.

“Freshman year, I started getting tired,” Lawson said. “And from there, it just kind of spiraled down. Every week, I would just start experiencing a new symptom, whether it was like headaches, nausea, dizziness. And from there, it just really got worse and worse.”

She said on KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News Weekend show that she started sleeping 10-14 hours a day, but was still exhausted.

“Everyone called me Rip Van Winkle,” she joked.

Her mother, Gwen Davis, said she took Lawson to eight different doctors to find out what was wrong.

“This poor girl had blood test after blood test after blood test,” said Davis. “We saw a list of doctors. At one point in time, (Lawson) said, ‘I’ve seen all of the ‘ologists that you could absolutely see.’ Still, we didn’t have answers!”

Finally, someone suggested that the go to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. There, Lawson was diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, aka dysautonomia. Medicinenet.com describes POTS as a condition in which an excessively reduced volume of blood returns to the heart after an individual stands up from a lying down position.

The primary symptom is lightheadedness or fainting. Lawson did not report that symptom, but said she frequently tunes out for a few seconds at a time.

The condition can hit people at any age. Davis said doctors told her that it often affects high school-aged kids who have an extremely active life.

Lawson said she has undergone several treatments.

“She’s done a lot of biofeedback treatment,” said Davis. “Part of the treatment can be blood pressure medicine. What they told us at the Mayo Clinic was, ‘Drink lots and lots of water, because you stay dehydrated when you have POTS.'”

Doctors also told Lawson to consume more of something that they tell most patients to cut back on: salt. That’s because with POTS, salt helps your blood volume.

Davis added that POTS can be hard to treat.

“I think it’s terribly under-diagnosed,” she said. “Her biggest problem was chronic fatigue. For others, their biggest symptom was migraines, and for others, it’s just stomach (issues).”