MY LIFE WITH POTS - PART 1

| Posted by Kimberly Merke | comments

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Kim Posing practice with Steely.

Kim Posing practice with Steely.

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  • Kim Posing practice with Steely.

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The P Word...

My life with POTS. 

My name is Kim Merke. I am a 38 year old mother of three who is also a personal trainer and partner in a contracting company. Four years ago I was diagnosed with a medical condition called POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome). It is a rare but debilitating condition. I have had issues my whole life with high heart rate, dizzy spells, nausea, severe fatigue and many other symptoms. I finally found out what was causing all of these problems when my teen daughter needed heart surgery. They looked at our family medical history and discovered that I had POTS. As difficult and unbearable as this condition can be, I am so thankful to have finally find out what was going on with my health.

 

Four years ago I was diagnosed with a medical condition called POTS

There are different type of POT Syndromes, varying in symptoms from mild to severe. According to my cardiologist, I fall into the severe category. This strange syndrome is a neurological condition affecting many functions and systems in the body. POTS sufferers can experience anemia, blood pressure problems, heart rate issues, tremors, respiratory complications and digestive issues, causing severe food allergies. Twenty-five percent of POTS patients may even up in a wheel chair. I experience every one of these symptoms, but am thankful to continue to be ambulatory.

 

I had a severe seizure this past year and I had a difficult time bouncing back from it. This is all part of POTS. I choose to not take medication for my condition because I would not be able to work out and to me, what's life without exercise? So I have many things to make sure I am monitoring daily such as my water and salt intake. We POTSIES dehydrate at the drop of a dime and we have 40% less blood volume than the average person so I drink about 4-5 litres of water a day and make sure I get enough salt because we do not hold electrolytes in our bodies.

 

This is an overwhelming and frightening condition that takes a toll physically, mentally and emotionally making coping with the simple daily tasks in life a huge challenge. I have always been an active person even as a child. I was in ballet for 13 years and loved outdoor activities. As an adult I wanted to compete in a fitness competition but life would throw a wrench in my plans. But I would always get back to my goal and keep working at it.

 

I first wanted to compete when I was in my early twenties but the fact that I had two children when I was between ages 19 and 21 kept me busy. I had also had two car accidents, leaving me to rehabilitate before I could even think about competing. Years later, at 35 I decided it was time to finish what I had started many years ago. I started to train for a competition but became very ill from POTS and was unable to continue; this was an extremely heart breaking time for me - all I wanted was to train and compete but my body was not cooperating with what my heart and mind wanted.

 

Exercise is a huge part of who I am; being a personal trainer is my way of expressing my passion and sharing it with others. I am a trainer with an exercise intolerance. My doctors told me that I could swim and go for walks. My response? No! I can't live a life just walking and swimming! It's not enough!

 

Last summer a friend invited me to my first fitness and fashion show here at the River Rock casino in my home town and I jumped at the chance to go. When I got to the event, I was not sure what to expect but I was shocked and inspired by a woman who had her own life challenges physically. When I saw this woman walk across the stage I said to my husband, “She does not look like the rest of the models.” She was a curvy and beautiful woman who was secure with herself and proud of the new body that she worked so hard for. The moment this woman walked out I said ‘If she can do it I can do it!’ It was from that day I decided ‘This is it; I have to finish what I started no matter what. I will walk across this same stage next summer,’

 

When I saw this woman walk across the stage I said to my husband, “She does not look like the rest of the models.”

So I met with my cardiologist, my naturopathic physician as well as my family doctor and immunologist. I sat in each room and told these doctors my goal and action plan to reach this competition. I told them that I needed their hep; I needed a team behind me. They all understood completely and have been supporting me ever since. My cardiologist gave me guidelines of weight training once a week and cardio a max of 4 times a week. I was honest and told her I would need to lift weight 3 times a week and I would do my best to stay within the guidelines. She said, “I want a picture of you walking across the stage.”

 

This has been an exciting and scary time for me but I have set my mind to achieve this goal and I WILL walk across that stage. I have had many rough days and some great ones. Many days I lay in bed unable to get up and take care of my daily responsibilities. Morning is the most difficult time of day so some days I am in bed until 1:00 pm then I have to run around like a mad woman to catch up on work, kids, taking care of my home and everything else in between. I knew from the start that I would feel unwell most of the days getting ready for this competition, so it's no shock to me when I feel horrible the days after I train.

 

It is never too late to finish what you started. This journey I am on will not be easy. I will fall off track and have to pick myself up and keep going. I just recovered from a severe case of vertigo that kept me in bed for more than two weeks; I could not even open my eyes or sit up. I felt so disappointed that I had lost so much weight and muscle from this illness and I had to start over once again; then I realized that this is all part of my journey and instead of wasting time and energy on this I need to get back on track and focus on the end results.

 

I hope to learn so much more about myself during this precious time, and use what I learn to help others who need guidance through their journeys. I will fall down. I will pick myself back up and move forward on this path. I am the biggest project I will ever work on and I plan on making it the best. I just want to say to all the people who tell me I shouldn't, couldn't and they wouldn't if they were me: don't worry about me, I got this. Focus on your own goals - you will reach them soon enough.

 

I am blessed to have the support of amazing doctors, a patient personal trainer who is there for me every step of the way, as well as a few special individuals such as my husband and the people who are helping me with this blog so that I may share my journey with all. I hope that I inspire other people who have challenges in life to go after their dreams and reach their goals even if it takes more than half a lifetime to get there.

 

I have been in the fitness industry for over 10 years; I started my career as a personal trainer working with incredible clients with some serious health issues. When my own daughter needed heart surgery I decided to create a program for teen girls called lil divas fitness to accommodate my daughter as well as other girls in the community. This program was close to my own heart as a child I faced many challenges of my own with self esteem and poor body image, so lil divas seemed like the perfect approach using exercise, and a combination of tools for these girls to learn how to love and care for themselves.

When I was diagnosed 4 years ago with POTS everything came to a halt including my diva classes, which was a heart breaking time for me and I had to step back and take care of my own health. So here I am today on this incredible journey that I was told would never happen. I have many challenges ahead of me before I reach my goal, but in the meantime I am embracing every moment along the way until my feet touch the stage this July for my first bikini competition.  My plan after the show is to focus on working with individuals who have health issues that desire to reach their own fitness goals.