Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois congratulates Colleen McCracken from Edwardsville, Illinois for becoming a Gold Award Girl Scout—a designation she earned by addressing a widespread lack of awareness about Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS). POTS is a form of Dysautonomia, or disorder of the autonomic nervous system, that affects one in every 100 teenagers, but is misdiagnosed frequently – an experience which Colleen endured.
“I came up with the idea for POTS education after struggling to get an accurate diagnosis to my ongoing health problems,” she said.
Colleen realized that current and future healthcare professionals needed more education about POTS, so she delivered a series of presentations in the community. She addressed emergency medical technicians at Edwardsville Fire Department, nursing staff at the Madison County Health Department, school nurses at Edwardsville Community District 7 and students in kinesiology class at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. During her presentations, she explained how to identify, diagnose and treat the disorder. Afterwards, she held an open discussion, where she found many of the medical professionals believed they may have encountered someone with the POTS, but could not find a diagnosis at the time. After her lesson, the kinesiology course added a unit on POTS to the syllabus permanently.
To spread awareness even further, she collaborated with Edwardsville City Council to have October proclaimed Dysautonomia Awareness Month in the city. When the proclamation was presented at the City Council Meeting, she gave a speech. In addition, Colleen used social media to reach a global audience. Her accomplishments were even featured by the advocacy organization Dysautonomia International.
“I have had other POTS patients who have seen my advocacy work reach out to me both for advice and in gratitude,” Colleen said.
Gold Award Girl Scouts change the world for the better, and they change it for good. The Gold Award is earned by girls in grades 9–12 who demonstrate extraordinary leadership in developing sustainable solutions to local, national and global challenges. Since the highest award was established in 1916, Girl Scouts have answered the call to drive lasting, impactful change. The Gold Award is the mark of the truly remarkable. Along with making a difference in her community, Colleen also gained confidence in her ability to change the world.
“Through my Girl Scout Gold Award project, I have learned how to make an effective presentation to educate people and how to make a difference in their lives,” she said.
Colleen is a Trifecta Award Girl Scout--a designation she received by earning the Girl Scout Bronze Award, Girl Scout Silver Award and Girl Scout Gold Awards. Colleen is the daughter of John and Stacey McCracken. She is a member of the class of 2020 at Edwardsville High School in Breese. After graduation, she plans to attend Lamont School of Music at the University of Denver to study flute performance.