A woman told her illness was “all in her head” actually had a rare condition was causing to faint up to six times a day when she stands up.
Beth Joyce, 27, suffers from Postural Tachycardia Syndrome (PoTS), which causes an abnormal and prolonged increase in heart rate after standing up.
Symptoms occur when the body is unable to adjust to gravity and include fatigue, light-headedness, heart palpitations, sweating, nausea, fainting and headaches.
Once a keen rock climber, Beth was left unable to stand without fear of fainting and was so terrified of it happening in public, she became housebound.
Finn, Beth’s beloved Patterdale Terrier pup, knows when she isn’t well and will stay by her side.
He even barks when she faints to alert her boyfriend Ben Gibbons that something is wrong.
Beth said: “He was a present from my granddad to give me something to focus on and to look after because everyone was looking after me.
“He knows when I’m not right and will be clingy and stay by my side.
“Once I had fainted at home and he was stood over me barking to get Ben’s attention.”
Beth’s symptoms were dismissed by doctors at first due to a lack of knowledge and understanding of the condition.
After finally being diagnosed, she was given the crushing news she might never be able to drive or work again, which brought on depression and anxiety.
She completed her degree, but struggled to work due to the chronic fatigue brought on by PoTS.
Beth added: “I used to work part-time in an office and I would get home from work and literally go straight to sleep for a few hours, I was completely wiped out.”
She also stopped going out in public through fear of fainting.
She added: “It was really scary because I never knew when it was going to happen and I’d end up banging into things or knocking my head .
“I didn’t want to be out and about in case it happened and I shut myself off completely.
“One a couple of occasions I fainted in the street and woke up in hospital covered in wires not knowing what was going on.
“That was the scariest thing that has ever happened in my life.
“I’d only go to places close by with a friend. I couldn’t even go to university and missed out on a huge part of my education.
“I started to suffer from depression because it was upsetting and I felt lonely.”
She first noticed something was wrong when she returned from a summer break in Corfu aged just 19.
Beth, who had worked the season in a bar, saw her summer cut short by a mystery illness.
Things took a turn for the worse when she developed daily headaches, heart palpitations, brain fog and uncontrollable dizziness.
She began to faint without warning up to six times a day, which would cause fractures, bruises and black eyes.
But when she went to the doctors, her GP put it down to both her age and tiredness.
Beth added: “I’m very grateful my friend wouldn’t leave it at that and dragged me almost kicking and screaming back to the doctors.
“But this time my GP said it was all in my head.”
Beth was finally referred to hospital where she saw a specialist nurse on a cardiac unit.
She underwent blood pressure checks, heart scans and a gruelling tilt table test which forced her to faint, and confirmed she had Viral Onset PoTS.
Beth, of Leyland, Lancs., said she was both “encouraged and devastated” by her diagnosis.
She added: “Being diagnosed with and coming to terms with PoTS has been one of the hardest, life-altering things I have ever had to deal with.
“However it has shown me just how strong I am as a person to come as far as I have despite the daily difficulties that I continue to face.
“It was a big relief to know it wasn’t all in my head and something could be done about it. But it was also terrifying because it was life-altering.
“When the doctors first told me I didn’t say anything for a long time and then while I was waiting for my prescription it all hit me and I thought, ‘I’m going to be doing this every month for the rest of my life.
“I broke down in tears because I knew my whole life was going to change at such a young age. That was the worst part for me.”
Beth is hoping to learn to drive now that her medication has levelled out, but she needs authorisation from doctors and the DVLA.
She added: “It would be a huge difference. At the minute I can’t carry lots of shopping because it tires me out.
“I’d be able to do a big shop for the first time ever, which would be amazing.
“I’d also be able to get to work or to appointments without having to rely on public transport or lifts from my boyfriend.
“I haven’t been able to drive because of the possibility of fainting but also because it makes you dizzy and tired and that affects your decision making.
“But now I am able to spot the signs myself and know my triggers and I’ll know not to drive if I’m feeling stressed or tired.”
Beth hopes she can inspire other people who may be suffering from the condition to be aware of the symptoms
She is hosting a tea party at the coffee shop she works part-time to raise awareness for the condition on Friday, October 25.
Blackpool Tower will also be lit up purple on the day to highlight the condition as part of PoTS UK’s day of awareness.
Visit www.potsuk.org for a fund-raising pack.