In December 2016, Hudson resident Bethany Teriaca received an unexpected gift from her husband: a new Fitbit, a tracking device that counts miles walked, measures heart rate and includes other health and fitness analytics.

It wasn't something she said she expected or, initially, even wanted.

"I'm not a fitness buff, but I did like running a couple times a week," Teriaca said. "I decided to use it so his feelings wouldn't be hurt. But I instantly fell in love with it."

Little did she realize that unexpected gift would wind up alerting her to unusual heart rate symptoms about a month later.

It all started with a head cold, said Teriaca, the mother of three children, ages 4, 3 and 2. This time, however, she had some unusual, even unsettling symptoms.

She noticed on her Fitbit monitor that her heart rate in "fat burning mode," even though she was just walking around the house. "One day, I'm just standing at the counter making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich," she said, "and I look at my Fitbit. I look at the number and think 'woah.’"

Around this time she exhibited other worrisome symptoms: chest pain, shortness of breath, tiredness, and a tingling sensation in her hands and feet.

"I was so exhausted all the time," she said. "It wasn't just a tired feeling. I felt like I had worked out all day."

She decided it was time to call a doctor. But when she did, they refused to see her.

"They told me to go straight to the ER because it sounded like I was having a heart attack," Teriaca said.

The medical staff in the ER had a hard time treating her because her heart rate kept fluctuating.

"My blood pressure had always been 120/80," she said. "I was healthy as a horse. I told them about the readings I was getting on the Fitbit."

Ultimately, she was given an antibiotic and told to come back if she wasn't feeling better.

She didn't feel better, so she went to a doctor's office. The doctor there gave her a chest x-ray and a prescription for another antibiotic.

"I asked to see a cardiologist," Teriaca said. She said the doctor was reluctant to do so, and told her to come back in a week should things not improve.

Things didn't.

"It was so bad," she said. "I couldn't go to the grocery store because I didn't have the strength to lead and unload three car seats. I was 29 years old, that should not be happening."

Finally in January 2018, one year and nine doctors later, she finally was diagnosed with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, a condition that causes reduced blood flow while standing up. Teriaca said that she's been told a diagnosis like hers could have taken much longer, as long as five years, had she not had the monitoring information from the Fitbit to show her doctors what was going on.

"I wouldn't have had the proof on hand to show them," she said. "If I didn't have the Fitbit, Id be having a completely different story to tell you."

Today, she uses her device to monitor her heart rate and manage her POTS.

Teriaca said her doctors have told her that her POTS is most likely genetic.

"I was told I'd have periods where I'll be OK, then I'll have flareups," she said. "I take two different medications to help maintain water in the blood to increase blood circulation. I have to increase salt and water intake. I drink about 10 glasses of water and I salt everything I eat."

Today, Teriaca, who will have lived in Hudson with her family for one year in August, said she has "a pretty good system now." She has to break up her schedule to keep herself from becoming overly fatigued. Still, life has improved.

"I feel really great," she said. "I went from running pretty frequently to not being able to get off the couch, to now being able to run on the elliptical for 20 minutes."

Reporter April Helms can be reached at 330-541-9423, ahelms@recordpub.com, or ??@AprilKHelms_RPC??