MECHANICSVILLE – Mary Fisher was enjoying life as an Atlee High School student, especially her French class and playing violin in the orchestra, but that changed in January 2019 when she started falling and fainting.
After extensive medical tests, it was determined that Mary suffers from Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS).
According to the Cleveland Clinic website, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/16560-postural-orthostatic-tachycardia-syndrome-pots, “POTS is a condition that affects circulation (blood flow). POTS is a form of orthostatic intolerance, the development of symptoms that come on when standing up from a reclining position, and that may be relieved by sitting or lying back down. The primary symptom of an orthostatic intolerance is lightheadedness, fainting, and an uncomfortable, rapid increase in heartbeat.”
“She has a version of generalized hyper-mobility,” Joy said. “Her joints pop out of place.” The dislocations are usually partial; most people with this [POTS] get those more often than full dislocations.” Mary said she experiences joint and muscle pain.
“For Mary,” Joy said, “it means that her heart rate was really high and blood pressure was super low.”
Mary’s diagnosis took months to determine. Joy said they “went to every kind of doctor through VCU [Health System].’ Dr. Laura Burijon at MRMC (Memorial Regional Medical Center) coordinated the appointments. “I can’t say enough good things about her,” Joy added. Dr. Burijon practices family medicine.
Mary was seen by rheumatologists and cardiologists and underwent x-rays, CT scans, MRIs and an echocardiogram. She then was sent to Dr. Dominic Sica, a nephrologist at VCU. Joy said POTS can attack the kidneys, so balancing salt and water is imperative.
There is no cure for POTS, which means this is a lifelong condition for Mary – but she will be able to manage with medications.
While Mary has adjusted to the changes in her life, she has added a loving and faithful friend she named Frankie Lou. The docile and well-trained golden retriever is a service dog.
If Mary’s heart rate starts to rise, Frankie Lou, who is 8 months old today, will comfort her by placing her head on her lap. Mary celebrated her 18th birthday on Thursday, with a promise from her mom that she could do whatever she wanted.
By April 2019, Mary and her parents, Thomas and Joy, along with Atlee administration, agreed the best way for her to continue her education would be to become a homebound student. She gets headaches and her energy level decreases, with her needing to rest. Mary is a senior and will graduate with her class on June 13.
The Fisher family attends Mechanicsville Baptist Church. Mary tries to go as often as possible based on whether she has the stamina.
Joy praised the support of guidance counselor Amy Couillard, homebound coordinator Phillip Reynolds and math teacher Andrew Nicholas.
Therapy dogs are expensive, so, to help get Frankie Lou, Mary digitally started drawing portraits of pets, charging $25 each.
A reminder to those who want to approach or pet Frankie Lou, service dogs are not to be distracted when they’re wearing the vest.
When she graduates, Mary plans to take a gap year and continue training with Frankie Lou.