My Interest in Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome

Researching Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) wasn’t exactly what I had written as my dream job when I was in the second grade, but ten years later, I was excited to make it the center of my first internship project. When I was sixteen, I was diagnosed with POTS following a concussion and several months of symptoms include headache, nausea, and vision problems that the doctors realized were separate from the concussion. Before this happened, I was playing multiple sports, doing well in school, and considering a career in engineering. I was content and not at all interested in a medical career or in conducting research. However, during the painful months that followed the concussion, I could barely put one foot in front of the other and tolerate the intense pain and other symptoms that choked my senses. I stopped thinking about engineering and spent my energy on going to doctor’s offices, attending physical therapy several times a week, and trying several medicinal and non-medicinal ways of improving my symptoms. I did not feel like myself at all, but I did latch onto one thing- the information I was able to gain through exposure to the medical world. 

Every office I stepped in, I noted the variety of instruments that would be used to take my blood pressure, measure my heart rate, scan my brain, and display MRIs. I found myself asking questions about the autonomic nervous system, the pathophysiology of dysautonomia (the group of conditions affecting the autonomic nervous system, including POTS), and the effect of head trauma on the emergence of symptoms. From then on, I realized that my curiosity was deeper than just trying to understand what was happening to me. I had found something that I cared about enough to pursue- I wanted to help work towards an effective treatment for POTS. Not just for me and my family, but for the friends I had met who had the condition, their families, and the probably millions of other people across the world who were affected by it. 

My first step was to learn about the mechanisms that were affected by POTS: I took high level courses in biology and chemistry as well as biomedical engineering and neuroscience courses outside of school. I cast a wide net for information about where I could do research, and found the OHSL, an organization that centered the internship experience around the individual and sought to build a community of researchers to answer important scientific questions. I decided to write a literature review about POTS and coordinate an online research consortium with top experts in the field to find out what other research could be done to find more effective treatments. 

I am grateful that the OHSL has been incredibly supportive in this project. I am grateful that I have learned to be patient with this condition and to empathize with anyone struggling with health problems. I am grateful that what I believed was bad luck turned out to be an important step in the medical career I want to pursue. 

In this blog, I plan to discuss more about my interest and work in POTS as well as other neurological conditions. I hope that my posts will encourage others to actively take an interest in their health, learn to empathize with anyone facing health issues, and learn more about neuroscience. 

Thank you for reading, and stay tuned for my next post, where I will talk about my interest in neurodegeneration.

Anisha Sankar

Research Associate at OHSL

02 Jul. 2020

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