Wittenberg University professors take seriously their mission to inspire students to serve. Sometimes that inspiration rubs off on the children of Wittenberg professors, too, as evidenced by Lily Pederson, daughter of Professor of Biology Cathy Pederson. At only 13, Lily has already authored a book and been featured on the cover of Thrivent Magazine for her efforts to help others.
Diagnosed with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) at age 10, Lily saw her relatively normal childhood completely change. POTS is the failure of the automatic nervous system to regulate the constriction of blood vessels; when the blood vessels don't constrict as they should, blood pools in the legs or abdomen. For Lily, this means that not enough blood flows to her heart or brain, which in turn causes fatigue, lightheadedness and pain in her legs.
Cathy Pederson, a 1991 graduate of Wittenberg who specializes in neurobiology and physiology, realized that many families who have children with POTS feel alienated as they face their diagnosis. In an attempt to raise awareness about POTS and bring families together, she created the organization Standing Up To POTS.
"Being a mother of a child who has POTS is a very helpless feeling," she said. "You want to do everything possible to try and help that child feel better.
"The POTS community as a whole really is unknown, and the treatment options that are out there are really individual," Pederson added. "What works for one person may not work for another. So to get more information out there that's accessible to people, that they can understand, was really important. But the social connection is important as well."
Lily also wanted to spread knowledge about POTS and let other children know they are not alone in the fight. She decided to reach out by writing a book about her experience with the disorder. The book, My Life with POTS, is written in Lily's own words and covers the first two-and-a-half years of her struggle with POTS. While Lily wrote the book, her younger sister, Kate, illustrated the pictures.
Sales from the book have raised more than $4,000 for funding additional research for the syndrome. Thrivent Financial also supported the publishing of the first 100 copies of the book.
In the December 2015 edition of Thrivent Magazine, Lily was featured on the cover and appeared in the "Meet the Member" section. The magazine is delivered to 1.2 million homes in the United States and will hopefully spread additional awareness about Lily and her story.
The Wittenberg community has also rallied around Lily's cause through the creation of the Standing Up To POTS 5K. The race took place on Wittenberg's campus last year and was one more way that people helped to raise money and awareness for POTS. This year, the event will take place on April 9. For more information on the race go to http://standinguptopots.org/welcome/5k-walk-run-2016
For more information about POTS, to make a donation, or to purchase a copy of Lily's book, go to http://standinguptopots.org.