PAINTING from the heart has taken on a whole new meaning for a Thornbury artist with a debilitating cardiac condition.

Sophie Ploeg, 38, suffers from Postural Tachycardia Syndrome or PoTS, an abnormality of the nervous system which causes her heart rate to race when she stands up and makes performing the simplest task a constant struggle.

Her condition, characterised by nausea, dizziness, palpitations and muscle pain, went undiagnosed for 16 years, depriving her of a normal active life and often making her feel inadequate.

Now a mother-of-two, Sophie said: "Regularly I would have an episode where I felt as if I was about to pass out. I had so many symptoms – impaired vision, severe shaking and sweating. "I could not move and struggled to talk, but was still conscious. It was very frightening. I had seen every consultant, but no doctor could help; I was exhausted and felt terrible. Finally in 2011, the painter whose work has been exhibited at the Royal West of England Academy in Bristol, was diagnosed with PoTS by a Bristol specialist.

"After 16 years of hitting a brick wall of misunderstanding, unwillingness to understand, ignorance and helplessness, it seemed he had found the answer," she said.

Having a better understanding of her illness, she decided to help others plagued with the strange and debiltating symptoms, by donating the proceeds of the sale of her latest work, The Blue Dress, to the Syncope Trust and Reflex Anoxic Seizures (STARS), the charity that helped her find a doctor who could diagnose her illness. The painting was inspired by the dizzy spells she experienced for years and the feeling of being trapped in her own skin.

"My career as an artist is growing and I am excited about the future,"" she said. I’m delighted to share profits from my painting between such worthy causes." Prints of The Blue Dress have been produced and will be sold to raise more funds for both STARS and PoTS UK. For details of how to buy the prints visit