Local patients, expert break down stereotypes

Catherine Colangelo and Katie Lawson, both diagnosed with POTS

HAMBURG, N.Y. (WIVB)- Catherine Colangelo and Katie Lawson are your average teenagers; except that walking the down the street isn’t something they can do for more than a few minutes.

“When I stand up sometimes I will have to sit right back down because I’m so dizzy,” Catherine told News 4.

They both have POTS Syndrome, a common type of Dysautonomia, a condition that affects the Autonomic Nervous System, which controls basically everything we do.

“Imagine not being able to stand or walk, not being able to go shopping, cook dinner, or take a shower,” said Dr. Svetlana Blitshteyn, Director of the Dysautonomia Clinic here in Western New York.

She’s one of the few specialists in our area, and even co-authored a book about the disease.

Dr. Blitshteyn said it’s common for a diagnosis to take years.

Katie and Catherine know the feeling all too well.

“It just took a bunch of different doctors. I went to a neurologist, a cardiologist, an allergist, like every doctor I went to. But then they figured it out, and I started getting treated and I started to feel better,” Katie said.

She was diagnosed at the Cleveland Clinic; Catherine had to go to Michigan.

“Me and Katie have definitely become closer because we know what it’s like for each other to have to go through it everyday,” Catherine told News 4.

Symptoms of Dysautonomia include trouble standing or walking, light headedness, fainting, fatigue, and headaches. It also affected your heart rate, which comes with a load of other problems.

“It’s hard to concentrate because there’s not enough blood, like in my brain,” Katie said.

85 percent of cases are in teenagers, mostly girls, but anyone can get it.

There’s no sure, just ways to treat the symptoms.

Dr. Blitshteyn told News 4 stereotyping can often lead to misdiagnosis.

“When there is these multitude of symptoms that don’t fit into certain diagnostic criteria that doctors commonly know, they start thinking well maybe the patient is just anxious. You’ve got to remember that most of these patients are young females. We do have that bias in medicine. We do have that bias in medicine that females tend to me more stressed or anxious, or it’s just caused by their period,” she said.

Katie and Catherine have started an awareness campaign to shed more light on the disease, especially for young women.

They told News 4 while sports are out of the question, they plan to live as normal of lives as possible; both will be attending college.


WIVB.com provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Note: Comments containing links are not allowed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s