Crista Procopio had seen so many doctors and had become so frustrated with the lack of a diagnosis for her symptoms that she almost threw her shoe at one of them. That’s how the 23-year-old describes one particularly distressing medical encounter to our friends at Cosmopolitan magazine. That doctor, she tells the magazine, “told me I was PMS-ing.” She’d had her concerns written off one too many times.
Crista’s symptoms of dizziness, “unbearable chest pain,” and almost constant nausea had become too much to ignore. She had suffered chest pains from the time she was a kid, but she tells Cosmo she ignored them for many years because “no one else thought it was a big deal.” It did turn out to be a big deal when, during her freshman year of college, Crista became so ill that she couldn’t get out of bed. She threw up so often she lost 20 pounds. Things were so bad she temporarily withdrew from college and began to look for answers.
Her quest eventually led her to Brent Goodman, M.D., a Mayo Clinic neurologist in Arizona. “I knew that I was suffering from a serious, physical illness, and I decided to go to Mayo Clinic because I knew that they were used to dealing with difficult health cases like mine,” Crista tells us. Dr. Goodman considered Crista’s full range of symptoms (nausea, fatigue, chest pains, numbness in her fingers and toes, problems regulating her temperature, tachycardia, dizziness and severe migraines) and told her that she fit the criteria for postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome or POTS. Dr. Goodman tells Cosmo that while it’s not clear why people develop the condition, “there may be genetic factors that predispose individuals to develop it.”
Unfortunately, diagnosis was the easy part. “Currently, there is no cure for POTS,” according to Dysautonomia International, a nonprofit organization Crista volunteers for. But while she doesn’t have a “grand treatment plan or anything,” Crista says, “at least I have some answers -- finally!” And she isn’t letting her condition stop her. She graduated from the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University and now is business development manager for Redox Diagnostics LLC and business coordinator for Trinity Consultants Inc. She also started an online support group for people with POTS called “With a Side of Salt“ (for good reason). Her diet now includes a whopping 10 grams of salt each day, one of the ways she is managing her condition.
“What I love most about my Mayo Clinic experience, is how everyone works together as a team,” Crista tells us. “Every time I walk into Mayo Clinic, I can honestly breathe a sigh of relief. I know that whatever crazy health issue I am currently dealing with will be taken care of and everything will be OK.”
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