Upon first glance, you'd never guess that 32-year-old Elle Kirchoff has to spend most of her time in a chair.
"On a good day I can make it from my reclining chair to my kitchen sink," Kirchoff says. "That's about it. On a bad day I can maybe make it halfway and then I'm on the floor."
Doctors know what's wrong with Elle -- they just don't know how to treat it. She has a nervous system disorder called postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, or POTS.
When Elle stands up, her heart races, her blood pressure plummets and she passes out. It's gotten worse with time.
"I pass out 3-4 times a day," Elle says. "During the good phase of my life I'd pass out 1-2 times a week."
POTS forced Elle to give up her job as a high school Spanish teacher and threw her future into uncertainty. Elle has been to the Mayo Clinic, where there is research underway. Most POTS patients can manage their symptoms with various treatments or even recover, but Elle seems to have a rare form of this.
Elle's case may have started with a 15-pound tumor that was removed when she was in high school, throwing her system out of whack.
What she needs more than anything is more research on her condition to be done, which is why the American Heart Association of Minnesota chose her to be a spokesperson of sorts.
"The American Heart Association has been fabulous because they've given me a voice," Elle says. "Nobody has heard of POTS. What I want is some researcher or physician to get an interest and say this needs to be looked into, something needs to be done for all these people who are left disabled."
This vibrant 32-year-old is engaged, but holding off on tying the knot with the hope that medical science will come through.
"I really want to walk down that aisle," she says. "And I want to be in that white dress and I want to see him and I want to talk with him and I can't right now."
There is no known cure for POTS. Elle adds a lot of salt to her food, monitors her blood pressure and heart rate, and works with a great team of doctors.
She became a Heart Association spokesperson by attending a Go Red Casting Call last summer. You'll see her story on billboards and ads in the Twin Cities starting next month.
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