Rare disorder challenges Utah wakeboarder

Posted at 10:05 PM, Aug 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-10 10:10:24-04

TOOELE COUNTY, Utah-  Seventeen-year-old wakeboarder Cate Siniscalchi of Stansbury Park suffers from Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, or POTS.  It's one of a group of disorders that have orthostatic intolerance (OI) as their primary symptom.  OI describes a condition in which an excessively reduced volume of blood returns to the heart after an individual stands up from a prone position.

“A normal person’s heart can regulate the blood perfectly, so there’s no problem," Siniscalchi said.  "But, with POTS patients, the blood will pool in your feet, it’ll get stuck there, so your heart has to work overtime.”

She experiences symptoms like passing out, leg numbness, and total body paralyzation.    Siniscalchi had brain surgery last year, which cut her season short, but wasn't diagnosed with POTS until March of this year.

“It’s hard when my brother will tell me to cut harder, or stand up more, but I can’t feel my legs so I don’t know how to do it,” said Siniscalchi.

Cate has dreams of going pro, looking up to wakeboarders like Danny Harf, Parks Bonifay, JD Webb, and Shawn Murray.  But she knows her road will be more challenging, having to deal with POTS symptoms and recovery.

“I just want to keep going, I don’t want my diseases to define me," she said.  "I recognize that, yeah, I am a sick kid, but I don’t want it to define me and I don’t want to become my sickness.”

POTS patients are encouraged to stay active.  Studies show that despite the pain or fatigue caused by the disease, symptoms are better managed with exercise. Because she wakeboards, Siniscalchi has become a role model for others with POTS, encouraging them to go for their dreams.

“Life is way too short to not go for the things that are going to make you happy," Siniscalchi said.