The invisible illness that haunted this basketball coach affects millions
Most fans probably wouldn’t guess that the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee women’s basketball head coach Kyle Rechlicz is anything but healthy. She’s a former player, she has a robust workout routine and her healthy eating would impress any dietitian.
But for years, Kyle battled an invisible illness that affects millions of people worldwide and often goes overlooked, even by doctors.
Things came to a head in 2013 as Kyle was flying to New Orleans for a Final Four coaches convention. Midway through the first leg of the trip, she woke from a deep sleep with a jolt, feeling like she was about to pass out.
“My hands and toes were all clenched up. I felt like I couldn’t breathe,” she recalled. “During the layover in Houston, paramedics came and took my vitals, which were all normal.”
But the next flight was even worse.
“I had the same symptoms again,” she said. “I passed out twice, and I vomited. There was an OB-GYN on the flight and she sat next to me the whole time checking my vitals. When we landed, she rode in the ambulance with me.”
Kyle’s care team in New Orleans ran multiple tests but everything came back normal. She was released and spent the next few days in her hotel room feeling so sick she could hardly get out of bed.
“I was terrified to get on a plane again, so my assistant drove me all the way back to Milwaukee,” she explained. “I could hardly sit up.”
In 2013, Kyle finally met with electrophysiologist Dr. Ryan Cooley at Aurora Medical Center Grafton and she was diagnosed with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS). It’s a form of dysautonomia, which occurs when there’s a malfunction in the autonomic nervous system — the part of the body that controls heart rate, blood pressure, digestion and other automatic processes.
“Getting an accurate diagnosis is such a relief for our patients because the average time to a correct diagnosis is around five years,” explained Dr. Cooley. “Patients with POTS usually have very complicated symptoms so it’s not uncommon for them to have seen five, six, seven or even ten doctors before seeing us.”
“From that first appointment with Dr. Cooley, my life changed,” Kyle explained.
And today, Kyle is thriving. She credits Dr. Cooley and the team at The Dysautonomia Center at Aurora Medical Center Grafton for her health. It’s one of only two such centers in Wisconsin. The center uses a multi-disciplinary approach to treat dysautonomia disorders including neurology, GI, rheumatology, rehabilitation, sleep medicine and nutrition.
“To have a center focused on this that can help people get diagnosed quickly can have a great impact on their quality of life,” Dr. Cooley says. “More education is needed.”
About the Author
Tami Hughes is a public affairs coordinator for Advocate Aurora Health. She attended college at the University of Miami and loves watching her Hurricanes play just about anything. She enjoys cooking and going to concerts with her husband. Her heart is made happy by her children, Neenah and Jack, and her dog child, Rizzo.