From the Archives: Spring 2007 Issue of Lupus Now
By Nick Kolakowski
For 15-year-old Iesha Wyatt, who was diagnosed with lupus when she was 12, nothing is as important as her family.
That's why the Baltimore native decided to draw a picture of herself with her mother and brother when she entered a calendar artwork competition sponsored by the American Kidney Fund.
Wyatt was one of 150 entrants to the "Kid"ney Calendar contest, and her drawing was selected to run on the November page of the 2007 calendar.
The award-winning entry shows her sitting on a couch with her mother and brother under a picture of clouds, birds, and hills. The background is filled with yellow stars, and the words "Family Portrait" run across the top of the page.
Wyatt says the picture represents how important family support has been over the last few years as together they learned to cope with her lupus. "Without my family, I don't know what could have happened," she says.
Entering the art contest came about through Wyatt's attendance at Camp All-Stars, an overnight camp in Maryland for children, teens, and young adults with kidney disease. After receiving the contest entry form in the mail, she decided to enter to "express my feelings about lupus."
The contest had been expanded from previous years, when only children with kidney failure participated. The contest is open to young people ages six to 18, and the 13 winners got a celebratory trip to Washington, D.C., last October. Wyatt was the only participant in this year's calendar to have lupus.
"We chose Iesha's drawing because it represents a family's love and support," says Tamara Ruggiero, director of communications for the American Kidney Fund. "When a child is chronically ill, the entire family must pull together for the child, and we thought Iesha's drawing perfectly captured that sense of family support."
The calendar was sent to organization donors, and can be purchased for $6 at the organization's website (www.kidneyfund.org).
"We are certain that Iesha will meet any goals she sets for herself," Ruggiero said. "She always has a smile on her face, and this positive outlook-combined with her sense of determination-will take her far in life."
Although the teenager is down-to-earth about having lupus, which has led to some loss of kidney function for her, she wishes that people understood more about the disease. Kidney involvement, unfortunately, is common in lupus, and some researchers estimate that as many as 90 percent of children with lupus will develop kidney complications. Today Wyatt deals with headaches and stomachaches, and she takes medicine to help her kidneys function better. But she's "no longer scared" of having lupus.
In spite of being honored for her artwork, Wyatt has no plans to become a full-time artist. When she grows up, she says her aspiration is to become a nurse. "I would like to help those who are sick just like me," she says. "I want to tell them not to worry about anything, and take their medicine."