Salute Our Heroes: Topeka woman raises awareness for invisible disabilities

Salute Our Heroes: Topeka woman raises awareness for invisible disabilities
Published: Jan. 23, 2023 at 10:30 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Topeka woman Kylie Hawes has been an advocate for what are known as ‘Invisible Disabilities’, which are disabilities that are not easily visible, since her diagnosis.

Hawes was diagnosed at age 10 with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) and Dysautonomia. POTS is the reduction of blood volume when attempting to stand up from a laying or sitting position, causing people to feel lightheaded or faint. Dysautonomia is a breakdown of the autonomic nervous system.

“When I stand up - normal people, their heartbeat, blood pressure, everything like that will stay normal or stabilize so they don’t pass out,” Hawes said. “For those with POTS, our heart rates skyrocket over 30 BPM suddenly, our blood pressure plummets, and that causes us to act like we’re seeing starts or some people pass out.”

Since her diagnosis, Hawes has used multiple platforms to raise awareness for ‘Invisible Disabilities’. She first decided to raise awareness when she found out that only 1 in 20 physicians knew what POTS was.

Hawes was involved with FCCLA in high school, started multiple fundraisers and has been featured in magazines. “By raising awareness and sharing my story, it makes other people feel less alone with these conditions or symptoms,” Hawes said. “It can also help a medical writer. I know that I’ve met multiple medical providers in my life, whether that’s at an ER visit or something like that, where they didn’t know what Dysautonomia was. I got to share my story and they were like, “Oh!” and that changed their perspective of, “Okay, how can we treat other patients better so they don’t have to go through what this patient had to go through?”

Hawes is studying criminal justice at Washburn. Recently, she was selected as one of five students to a board at Washburn looking to make their campus more handicap accessible.