One Small Tick


Valerie Proano slowly puts on her makeup and lays out her clothes for work. As she applies her makeup, she starts to feel sick as always at this time of the morning. Her hands start to shake and she loses some of her vision. Immediately, she reaches for her first dose of midodrine of the day. Her hands stop shaking and she is able to continue getting ready for work.

After getting dressed, she drinks a bottle of water and a couple sips of Gatorade for her breakfast. Her mother, Norma Proano, packs her laptop, headphones, lunch, and many bottles of Gatorade into Valerie’s backpack.

“It’s like I’m back in 5th grade,” said Proano.

Proano cannot do everyday tasks easily by herself because she has postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome or POTS for short.

“POTS  is a heart rate increase of 30 beats per minute [bpm] or more,” states the Dysautonomia International. Lyme disease is one of the many diseases and conditions to cause POTS.

“To say the least, my world was turned upside down completely after getting Lyme disease at Le Moyne,” Proano said. “I am no longer able to live as I used to.”

Proano, a 2015 graduate of Le Moyne College, first started realizing something was wrong during her junior year of college. She would feel like passing out after workouts and get weird feelings in her chest. “It felt as if my heart was beating out of my chest,” said Proano.  

Proano enjoyed running on the Le Moyne recreational center track and doing Shaun T workouts in her dorm room. At first, she thought it was just dehydration or not eating well, but after awhile the feelings continued to get worse.

When Proano visited her doctor when she returned home to Queens for a school break, he didn’t give her the answer she was looking for. “Oh, you have anxiety,” said her doctor.

However, Proano knew it wasn’t anxiety contributing to her feeling sick almost everyday. She knew she wasn’t nervous about anything while she would work out, so how could it possibly be anxiety?

Proano’s symptoms started to get worse to the point where she could no longer work out or even walk for a long period of time. Walking for a long period of time would make her feel extremely tired and just “really, really, really weak,” said Proano.

Proano and her mom Norma decided that they should try a neurologist, who diagnosed her with Lyme disease.

“I had no clue whatsoever that I had a tick on me. I am from NYC, so I had no awareness to the disease and how to watch out for ticks,” said Proano.

As Proano did research about how she could possibly get Lyme disease since she is from Queens, NY where there are little deer around, she realized she got it on campus from sitting in the grass at rugby games.

Proano went to two rugby games with her suitemate. The two of them would sit in the grass during the games because there are no bleachers next to the rugby fields. After going to the games, Proano developed the bulls-eye rash on the lower part of her leg.

“I did not think anything of it, but it being an allergy to something,” said Proano.

The neurologist prescribed doxycycline and thought she would feel better after two weeks. She didn’t.

Proano was on the antibiotic for four months. She had migraines four to five times a day during finals week of fall semester her senior year.

“I noticed myself getting weaker, weaker, and weaker,” said Proano.

The Lyme disease triggered an autonomic syndrome called postural orthostatic tachycardia, or POT for short, which can be brought upon someone who has Lyme disease.  

“My main symptoms include lightheadedness, feeling faint, blurred vision, heart palpitations, low blood pressure, increased heart rate, migraines and I have blacked out once,” Proano said.

All of the symptoms that Proano experiences are the most common symptoms people with postural orthostatic tachycardia have, resulting in difficulty doing everyday activities, according to Dysautonomia International.

“Some days are great and some days I’m bedridden and need my boyfriend or mom to help me do things,” says Proano.  

Proano’s boyfriend, Matthew Cortese, has been there every step of the way for her. He would drive her to classes, help her with everyday activities, but most importantly keeping her spirits up.

“I just keep a positive mindset and attitude, this helped a lot in the beginning and even now on the days she feels down,” Cortese said.

Proano is still being treated for postural orthostatic tachycardia. She goes to the NYU rusk institute of rehabilitation two times a week with her mother Norma.

Proano also is currently looking for a specialist in Lyme disease because many of the doctors she has visited still think Lyme is still in her system or don’t know how to help her.

“I would go to the top doctors and they would say, ‘I don’t know how to help you,’” said Proano. She has gone to 12 doctors.

However, through the extremely tough times of this sickness, Proano pushes herself everyday to think positively and work towards her career at Universal McCann, an advertising agency in New York City.

“I want to be successful in advertising and hopefully rising up in my positions every year,” said Proano. “Also I want to get back in shape like I used to be and try and get back to the same tenacious go-getter person I used to be for myself, my boyfriend Matt and for my family.”