Standing up can mean passing out for airman
The Daily Star-Journal, Warrensburg, Mo.
WHITEMAN AFB, Mo. – Kelsey Lehenbauer, 24, does not plan to spend the left of her life passing out from standing up.
Whiteman Air Force Base Visitors Center’s assistant supervisor, Lehenbauer is affected by a rare disorder, postural orthostatic syndrome. POTS can make her heart rate to speed up rapidly when she rises, causing her to faint.
Before the syndrome, Lehenbauer led a squad in physical training and became the E-4 supervisor. She worked in security. The disease changed her life.
“There is no cure for that, but there is treatment where you can basically cope with your symptoms and if you are passing out or fainting then they will be able to help you catch that before you pass out, unlike me, right now,” Lehenbauer said. “I’m at the point where if I do stand up, I make it about eight seconds and become unconscious, and I have no warning or anything like that.”
Sitting up or brushing teeth can be a chore for Lehenbauer. The syndrome confines her to a wheelchair.
“I started having some issues a couple years ago,” Lehenbauer said. “I would say 2010 or 2011. After I got my gallbladder removed in 2010, I started having a lot of digestive issues, where I couldn’t keep a lot of food down, lost about 40 pounds, was really clumsy, and went to the ER a couple of times in 2010 and 2011 due to falls. I was never a real klutz or anything.”
University Hospital, Columbia, diagnosed Lehenbauer with POTS in April. Few places treat the illness, she said.
“I have all the strength I could have, but whenever I do stand up, my heart rate will skyrocket, sometimes my blood pressure will go so low that it will try to compensate, and then it will jump and go really high, and I pass out from that,” Lehenbauer said.
Shanon Chaput, Mason, Ohio, found out about Lehenbauer through the 3rd HOOAH Co., which helps military personnel who have been overseas on active duty. Lehenbauer has not been deployed, but the foundation has helped her, too.
“I really want to be a part of (them helping me out) if I could, and I donated to several events that they have, and so when I just needed someone to talk to they put everything down and said, ‘Hey, you know what? She is not overseas. She is not deployed right now, but she is still with the United States Air Force.’”
Lehenbauer met Chaput at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Hospital.
“I was there for basically a second opinion for the Air Force to kind of confirm that what all the other doctors were saying is true, and they just kind of wanted to rerun all the tests, and make sure everything was the same as the civilian doctors,” Lehenbauer said. “So, I met Shanon there.”
Lehenbauer said Chaput helps.
“She is a go-getter,” Lehenbauer’s mother, Janet Lehenbauer, said. “She puts things on Facebook, and on the Youcaring site.”
Janet Lehenbauer said the syndrome has been bitter for her and husband Bob Lehenbauer.
“It has been stressful, but we feel like we have gotten closer to her,” Janet Lehenbauer said. “We knew that we needed to help her and we didn’t have jobs that we could jeopardize, as we were already retired.
“It makes me thank God for my good health, but I wish this would have happened to me, and not my 24-year-old daughter.”
Kelsey Lehenbauer said her parents helped her and traveled to different facilities to be with her.
Wright-Patterson AFB Hospital transferred her to Mid-America Rehab, Overland Park, Kan.
“It was my saving grace, I have to tell you,” Kelsey Lehenbauer said. “They allowed my left side to gain full strength. They worked with me for 2 1/2 weeks intensely.”
Lehenbauer said she will be out of the military in six to eight months and in the meantime seeks treatment for POTS.
“I am really hoping to be out of a wheelchair at that point because they do retrain your nervous system,” Lehenbauer said. “That will help me very, very much because stress and anxiety has a lot to do with this, because I was such an active military member.”