Bay Port's Hess has been an inspiration to her team
SUAMICO (WLUK) -- Erika Hess has been impressive this season and not just because she's leading the Fox River Classic Conference in goals scored.
It's how the Bay Port senior is doing it.
Hess deals with an opponent every day when she wakes up and it has nothing to do with soccer. Last August, Hess was diagnosed with POTS, which stands for Postural Orthstatic Tachycardia Syndrome.
It's a condition that she had been dealing with for quite some time and it affects her early in the day.
"It kind of just means I have a fast heart rate from a laying down position to an up position and then my blood pressure drops," said Hess. "I'm sick a lot, I'm dizzy. Sometimes I feel like I just can't get out of bed and it's really difficult and sometimes I can't think right."
Hess' condition was confirmed in August, but after traveling to Children's Hospital in Milwaukee didn't help her cope with the condition, she traveled to Dallas in January and that's when a treatment was discovered that would help her.
That came after testing revealed her blood pressure dropped to 58 over 38 and within 10 minutes after standing up her heart rate increased 60 beats per minute.
Since then she has improved but still only takes two classes a week at Bay Port. She takes the rest of her classes online from home and then comes to practice or games after school.
"She wouldn't come to practice and it was kind of hard on the team," senior Sophia Draghiccio said. "We were all concerned of her and when she started coming to practice we were like, 'Yes, Erika's back,' but then the next day she'd be gone and we were like, 'What happened?'
"When she finally found out what she was dealing with, I think it helped."
Because of how Hess has dealt with her condition it has left her team impressed.
"I'm so proud of her," coach Brook Mraz said. "I'm so proud of how far she's come, not just with soccer, just with everything. I sent her a text the other week and said you truly are an inspiration, you really are."
"We never really knew what was going on with her, she always kind of had this going on," senior Autumn Lakari said. "So now that we found out it was nice, but seeing her like that is rough; but she comes out here every day, she plays hard. She gives it all she's got and it's actually pretty inspirational. It's cool."
"You can definitely see she's playing for something," senior Alexis Brunette said. "She's improving and she's doing her best and she's really working hard; harder than most people on this team because we aren't going through what she's going through, so I think it's very impressive."
Hess' recovery hasn't been all about treatment either. Mraz believes being part of a team, where Hess is surrounded by friends and teammates, has helped in her recovery.
"She's just not only a strong soccer player, just a good, good human being," Mraz said. "She, I think finds comfort here."
While most kids say they don't like going to school, Hess admits she misses it. She misses seeing friends in the hallway and being around other classmates.
"I am trying to make the best of it," said Hess, who will play soccer next year at Carroll College and room with Draghiccio. "It's kind of frustrating seeing everyone else at school. I never thought I would be like, 'Oh, I wish I was at school.'"
But for now she's following a formula that is allowing her to live her life as normal as possible. She takes salt tablets in the morning for treatment and sometimes during games she takes a sport drink with salt.
It hasn't slowed her down on the soccer pitch, but wants to some day beat POTS just like she beats goalkeepers.
POTS is not life threatening, but it is life changing. More than a half million people in the United States are affected by it and Hess hopes some day she's not one of those people.
"I'm hoping in a couple years I can get rid of it," Hess said.
Based on how she is dealing with it so far, expect that to happen.
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay