Rare condition saps young mother’s strengthGlance through this month’s issue of “Fitness” magazine and you will find Melissa Holerud of Hudson featured in the “fitlife - I did it!” section. However, she suffers from a nervous system condition called dysautonomia, specifically POTS, which affects her heart rate and blood pressure.
By: Meg Heaton, Hudson Star-Observer
Glance through this month’s issue of “Fitness” magazine and you will find Melissa Holerud of Hudson featured in the “fitlife - I did it!” section.
The feature focuses on the 26-year-old’s decision in March 2011 to quit smoking, swap soda for water and start running with very positive results. She lost 64 pounds and was most happy about being able to keep up with her two young children.
But it wasn’t long after those changes that Holerud got a diagnosis for some health issues she had been dealing with since the birth of her daughter four years ago. She suffers from a nervous system condition called dysautonomia, specifically POTS, which affects her heart rate and blood pressure.
“It started with headaches that were pretty intense. I didn’t think too much about it, chalking it up to being a new mom and the stress that goes along with that.”
The headaches got worse and more frequent after the birth of her son two years ago. Mounting fatigue was also becoming a problem. But when she consulted with doctors, she was told that all mothers of young children were tired and stressed. She was also going through a divorce and her health continued to be an issue. Extreme night sweats were added to the mix following some surgery.
But stress continued to be the diagnosis. “The doctors kept telling me to go home and rest but I knew something was wrong with my body. One doctor thought it might be lymphoma but it wasn’t until I saw a doctor here in Hudson that I was diagnosed with POTS.”
Holerud said her Hudson physician noticed something unusual in her blood pressure. She took Holerud’s pressure while sitting, then had her stand while she checked the pressure again. In the average person, blood pressure adjusts to the standing position within three to four seconds. It took 15 minutes for Holerud’s pressure to adjust.
“That is what causes the headaches, the dizziness, the fatigue and the nausea. It is rare and lots of doctors don’t know about it or think of it as a possibility but it was a relief to finally know what was happening to me,” said Holerud.
The treatment mostly addresses the symptoms of the condition. She takes medication to raise her blood pressure and chemotherapy drugs to address the nausea and fatigue. She also takes pain pills to address her headaches and other issues.
While she had never heard of the disease before her diagnosis, she has made connections through the Internet and social media with other POTS sufferers. “Just recently I was on Facebook and read that an old friend of mine from high school had just been diagnosed.”
Holerud said living with a chronic illness is not only hard for her but for her children and family. “I think people thought once I was diagnosed that it could be fixed. They don’t understand what it is like to live with this every day. It is hardest with my kids but they are learning that mom can’t pick them up like she used to or play like I did.”
Holerud said she is learning to live with her new reality which includes a regimen of medications throughout the day. She is in a supportive relationship with Tony Weiss and has family around to help including her mother, Jane Nicol.
She has heard of the specialist in Milwaukee that she hopes to be able to see in the near future. In the meantime she has been blogging about her experience from the website POTSplace.org. She is also hoping to raise money that she would like to use to print information about the condition and distribute to clinics around the area.
Holerud said seeing the story in “Fitness” this month was bittersweet. “It was nice to see it but I’m not that person anymore....I do think God gives us things like this for a reason and I think I am supposed to tell people about it, get the word out so others don’t have to wonder like I did what was wrong.”
For more information about dysautonomia and POTS go to