CAMP POINT, Ill. -- Prior to August 2017, Katie Kindhart was your typical teenager.
As an incoming freshman at Central High School, Katie was eager to make a name for herself as an outside hitter for the Lady Panthers volleyball team. She had spent the summer completing a strength and conditioning program and competing in scrimmages and practices.
Katie said thanks to a schoolwide competition in preparation for the talent show at Central Middle School, she discovered how much she enjoyed graphic design and visual arts.
All of those hopes and dreams of a typical high school experience were seemingly in jeopardy after Aug. 26, 2017.
Prior to the start of volleyball practice, Katie spent time in the weight room at Central High School.
"I remember going to practice right after, and I remember going up to hit (the ball) in a back row spike position and I just felt, and heard, this pop sound," Katie said. "When I landed, I realized I couldn't move forwards or backwards. It hurt to even try to move."
While the tears began to fall, Katie said her mind raced.
"It was scary," Katie said. "This was my first injury that I have ever had in my life. I knew from health classes that the spine is a fairly fragile part of the body to mess with and knowing that I had somehow hurt my back made me really nervous and scared about what was going to happen next."
Katie was taken to Quincy where emergency room physicians began conducting various tests on her spine.
The doctor's verdict stunned Katie. She had ruptured a disc in her lumbosacral joint, also known as L5. This particular joint supplies the nerves to the muscles that raise and lower a person's foot.
"The X-ray that they did showed that it wasn't broken, so we had some relief on that," Katie's mother, Geneie Kindhart, said. "But they said it did look like there was a tear or something. They suggested that she start doing some physical therapy. Pretty quickly she started looking like she was doing good. She even went back out and played volleyball in October."
That brief return to normalcy ended in mid-November.
"One day, Katie started getting shooting pain down her leg," Geneie Kindhart said. Katie developed a limp, which puzzled her parents.
"The longer time went by, more and more symptoms kept coming up that didn't make sense for a regular back injury," Katie's father, Cory Kindhart said.
Anxious for answers Katie and her parents spent the next 10 months at some of the nation's leading hospitals, including: Blessing Hospital in Quincy; University of Missouri Hospital and Missouri Orthopedic Institute in Columbia, Mo.; St. Louis Children's Hospital, and at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
As the symptoms kept piling on the Kindharts traveled the nearly 380-mile trip to Mayo Clinic where she would stay for five days.
On the fourth day, physicians ordered Katie to take the Tilt Table Test, where she was strapped to a bed and tilted at different angles, from 30 to 60 degrees, while machines monitored her blood pressure. It revealed that Katie had postural orthostatic tacycardia syndrome (POTS).
While the condition is rarely, if ever fatal, Katie's diagnosis has led her to make several lifestyle changes. She no longer dreams of being a star volleyball player. She is instead focusing on exploring her recently found love of graphic art, music, and foreign languages. She's promised herself to focus on getting good grades in school.
While Katie's symptoms persist, she said "the diagnosis no longer controls my life."
"I have seen with this back injury and POTS, that I had a chance to take the positives out of the situation and focus on things that make me happy," Katie said.
Her parents are proud of their daughter's positive outlook.
"I remember thinking at Mayo that it didn't seem to matter what town, what hospital, what doctor, what test, whatever was going on, it didn't seem to faze her. She was just so positive about everything. I can't even tell you how touched I was by how she didn't let the circumstances overtake her personality," Cory Kindhart said.
The Camp Point community has embraced Katie as well. Residents organized a checking account to help the Kindharts handle the more than $13,000 in medical bills. The fund is at Farmers State Bank in Camp Point, 206 East Wood St., P.O. Box 20, Camp Point, Ill., 62320. Checks should be made payable to Katie Kindhart. So far more than $3,500 has been raised to support the family.