A rare heart condition means 21-year-old Sarah Brautigam could just drop dead at any minute. Once she’s brought round, it could happen again. And again.
The condition – Post orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (PoTS) – means her heart can just suddenly stop beating.
Miss Brautigam often gets asked about what happens after clinical death. ‘There is definitely no bright light,’ she says. ‘Everything just goes black. You can still hear things and there is a voice in my head that is still active and still conscious and it is trying to communicate with those around me. I can remember what people are saying when I black out but have no other awareness of what’s going on.’
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The Daily Mail reports:
Sara Brautigam has regular brushes with death and in one year was pronounced clinically dead 36 times.
The 21-year-old was four years ago diagnosed with Postural orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (PoTS), a condition which makes her heart stop beating.
She experiences rapid palpitations that regularly cause her heart to stop beating and her blood pressure to plummet to what doctors record as clinically dead.
‘I can’t have oxygen because it prolongs the attack…When it happens, paramedics try and do anything to inflict pain to try and shock me into coming back to life… A lot of the time I’ll wake up with big bruises. On one occasion they ripped an acrylic nail off but that still didn’t make me flinch.’
Ms Brautigam said that she has contacted people with PoTS, but none of those people’s hearts have stopped. She also suffers joint hyper-mobility syndrome, which means her joints are more prone to injury and dislocation. The two combined resulted in her visiting A&E a staggering 64 times in one year.
‘When I was still canoeing, I had an attack in my boat and when I came around I was screaming before I knew it because I had somehow dislocated my shoulder and damaged my back while I was passed out.’
But Ms Brautigam – who has canoed for Great Britain – says she is determined not to let the conditions hold her back and is now trying to make a life as a burlesque performer. She said: ‘There are signs before it happens – I’ll feel dizzy or sick and really tired and then I feel as though I’m falling asleep.I can hear everything around me and feel as though I’m trying to shout but nothing is coming out. They say when you die your hearing is the last thing to go and that’s been my experience. After an attack I’ll wake up and my chest will be killing and I’m really tired. I get asked it quite a lot, but there is definitely no bright light. Everything just goes black. You can still hear things and there is a voice in my head that is still active and still conscious and it is trying to communicate with those around me. I can remember what people are saying when I black out but have no other awareness of what’s going on.’
She was told she could no longer take part in the sport and her dreams of joining the Navy were also left in tatters. Even getting a job and and driving were affected by the condition.
She added: ‘I had 10 years of being out every weekend canoeing and being so active and it all came crashing down. I piled on the weight because I couldn’t exercise and was really upset. All my dreams came crashing down, I can’t even work at the minute because I would need a job that could be very flexible. Then I was told I couldn’t drive, it was like everything was being taken away from me. I lost a lot of friends, in fact I only have one friend from school. Everyone seemed to be too busy with their own lives to bother with me when I was diagnosed.’
These days, as a journalist, writer and editor I write a wide variety of features, frivolous and serious. I work mainly for women's magazines and national newspapers and also enjoy writing for independent news outlets and websites - the sort that publish stories the mainstream media fail to report.