Collins, a junior, will compete in the 400 meters and the 1600 relay in the Class 4A regional at Royal Valley on Friday. Collins qualified for the 4A meet as a freshman, but she has since been diagnosed with POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome), which increases the heart rate dramatically when not lying down. Yet she still competes in volleyball and basketball, too.
How does having POTS affect you in sports?
“When I was a sophomore, I was taking about 11 pills a day and I’d pass out every day at practice. There was no question it was going to happen. This year I’m handling it a lot better. I only take five pills. I haven’t managed to run a 400 this year without passing out at the end, but I am running it.
“… When I cross the finish line, I usually jog for a second and I get really bad tunnel vision, and then I can’t see anything. I faint, I fall backwards. I always have people around me who catch me. I start hyperventilating and it takes me a while to get my breathing back and my vision gets hazy. There are times I don’t pass out. In practice I just see fireflies around me.
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“Mostly it revolves around my blood pressure — my blood pressure can plummet or it can skyrocket.”
Is it the same when you play volleyball and basketball?
“I’ve gotten a lot better health-wise, treating myself, and it’s more helpful to my condition if you stay active. I played volleyball and there are drills that I can’t do. If we do burpees, get down and get back up, I can’t do that.
“Basketball was definitely a lot harder. Defensively you slide and get down and run, run up and down the court so many times.”
How are you able to handle the discomfort?
“Obviously it’s uncomfortable hyperventilating when I can’t catch my breath. It takes me 20, 25 minutes to completely recover most of the time. It’s not horrible, though.
“I have to wear compression sleeves. They go over my calves and I wear them for every sport. In basketball I hated wearing them — ‘everyone’s staring at me. This is weird. I don’t like them.’ They’re black, knee-high socks and they’re really tight around my calves. It helps push the blood back to my head. it helps me to not see stars or fireflies around my head.”
Why do you continue to play three sports?
“Sports have always been my life. I grew up in a basketball gym watching my brothers (Blaize and Brady Foltz) play basketball. I can’t imagine not doing sports. It’s my life. My whole fall is spent either playing volleyball or going town to Texas to watch my brother play football (at TCU).
“I’m not going to lie. Obviously I could live. I could find other things to do, clubs to join. But I could never fill this hole in me that wants to get out and be competitive and hit a ball and make a shot. It’s not the same.”
What keeps you going as you deal with having POTS?
“My support system is fantastic. My teammates, whatever season that it is, have always, always been there for me. Not a day goes by that they’re not asking, ‘how are you feeling today? Do you need this? Can I get you this?’
“My mom (Heidi) is my rock. Without her I would still be laying on a table doing heart tests. It’s crazy how much she has done for me in this. She likes to take things into her own hands. If she hadn’t have done that, I probably still wouldn’t have a diagnosis. If I had never gotten that diagnosis, I would have to join chess club, anything that doesn’t involve running.”