MSU student launches nonprofit for rare disease

 

Amanda Swanton, left, talks about her nonprofit, A85 Cure, during a ribbon cutting ceremony at Mississippi State University's Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach. A85 Cure focuses on raising awareness about a rare heart condition.

Amanda Swanton, left, talks about her nonprofit, A85 Cure, during a ribbon cutting ceremony at Mississippi State University's Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach. A85 Cure focuses on raising awareness about a rare heart condition. Photo by: Alex Holloway/Dispatch Staff

 

Jeffrey Rupp

Jeffrey Rupp

 

 

Alex Holloway

 

 

Amanda Swanton always thought she was a normal 16-year-old. 

 

That changed one day when Swanton, while singing with her high school show choir, abruptly fainted.  

 

"I thought 'Great! This is never gonna happen again. Glad to get that over with,'" Swanton said. "That turned into about 25 times of that happening." 

 

After several trips to the doctors, the emergency room and misdiagnoses, Swanton finally learned she has postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, or POTS.  

 

POTS is a cardiac condition that, according to the National Institute of Health, is characterized by too little blood returning to the heart when moving from a lying down to standing up position. 

 

The syndrome's cause is unknown and its severity varies from person to person. It is, Swanton said, a chronic condition and has no cure. 

 

Swanton was heartbroken after receiving her diagnosis and said she spent about a month researching the condition online. That, she said, was when she realized she could use her knowledge and her passion to try to help others. 

 

She told her mother, Linda, she wanted to start a nonprofit for the cause. By October 2016, she officially launched A85 Cure, 501(c)3 focused on raising awareness for POTS and funding research for a cure. A85's headquarters is in Swanton's hometown of Wheaton, Illinois. 

 

A85 Cure's name includes Amanda's first initial and references a fact that 85 percent of POTS victims are at first misdiagnosed.  

 

 

 

Spreading to Starkville 

 

Now Swanton, a 20-year-old freshman studying business administration at Mississippi State University, has opened an A85 Cure satellite office in Starkville. It is currently located in the Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach in the College of Business. 

 

Swanton said the E-Center caught her eye when she toured MSU in April. On her second day of school in the fall semester, she visited the center and filled out paperwork to get involved with the center.  

 

She pitched her nonprofit to a student advisory board and was awarded $500. She then secured $2,000 after pitching to another E-Center board. 

 

On Thursday, the E-Center hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony as A85 Cure joined the Greater Starkville Development Partnership. 

 

"The E-Center has really been the best thing that's happened to me here at Mississippi State," Swanton said. "I love having this place to go and having the support every single day." 

 

Jeffrey Rupp, director of outreach for the E-Center, said Swanton is unique in that she went to the center for help with a nonprofit. Hers is the first nonprofit, to Rupp's knowledge, to be funded through the E-Center. 

 

"We really had some soul-searching and had to debate, do we fund nonprofits?" Rupp said. "Is that what entrepreneurship is? We were so impressed with her determination and her intelligence and the work she had already done to lay the groundwork for this. And we thought we need to set an example to our entrepreneurs that giving back is part of being an entrepreneur because it's all about the community. 

 

"We thought we'd set an example and everyone was in agreement to fund it," he added. 

 

For this year, Swanton said she wants A85 Cure to raise $100,000 for a new POTS clinic. She said though a final location for the clinic hasn't been nailed down, talks are in progress for one in Jackson. A85 Cure will also host a fundraiser next month, in partnership with Kendra Scott Jewelry. 

 

"We're just trying to raise awareness and we'd love to be known in the town so that when people see our car magnet on the back of someone's car they can say 'That's A85,' or if they see a shirt say 'Oh, that's Amanda's charity,'" she said. "We're really trying to do as much as we possibly can." 

 

 

 

'It's incredible, really' 

 

Swanton's parents, Sal and Linda Swanton, attended Thursday's ceremony. Both said they were proud of Amanda for taking her diagnosis and using it as a positive force. 

 

"She took a bad situation and turned it around," Linda said. "She does not want to be a victim. She's very passionate about this not being about her. She wants it to be about the cause." 

 

Sal also said he was grateful for the support the community, both at MSU and in Starkville, has shown for Amanda's efforts. 

 

"It's incredible really," he said. "It's strangers embracing your vision and showing you compassion and love and empathy for what you're going through. In the nonprofit world, it's very comforting to know that there are other people out there who can sympathize and relate and offer strength through support and encouragement."

 

Alex Holloway was formerly a reporter with The Dispatch.

 

 

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