2016 Year of the Patient: Nicolle Kempe
My Mom Nicki by Jeanette Kempe
Sitting in the luminous room on the awkward paper covered bed staring at posters that demonstrate the body or a disease while waiting for the doctor to return with results. Not knowing what is going on with her body was something that Nicolle Kempe struggled with since the age of 11. Doctors would often be unconcerned for the actual cause of why she was in their office, but for what they thought she was there for: drugs. She finally reached a doctor that was going to help her discover, and fight, her biggest obstacle. At the age of 26, my mother heard the words, “Nicolle, you have Lupus.” Now at the age of 42, and as happy as she is pictured above, she is currently fighting with 8 different illnesses; Lupus has affected her the most. My mother has fought many odds by remaining strong and choosing who helps her along the way.
Sometimes doctors do more than help their patients. When my mother was 12 a doctor from Mayo told my grandmother and mother that she could possibly have Lupus, but neither my mother nor my grandmother thought anything of it because they did not know what Lupus was. The reason they were told this was because her hands turned blue when she was 11, which is an early symptom of Lupus. When my mother was 15 she started feeling pain in her abdomen which jumped from joint to joint. At the age of 17 my mother self medicated with over the counter pain killers because ER doctors labeled her as a drug seeker. She knew that something was wrong with her body, and she was not going to stop until she found someone who was going to listen to her. Being labeled as a “drug seeker” did not stop my mother from searching for help from those who could.
When she turned 19 she started having medical emergencies where they had to help her. She had a stillborn child four month before his due date; a side effect of Lupus is the inability to carry a healthy child. A week later after having the child she suffered from a mini stroke and had no side effects from it. At that same time she had congestive heart failure, and she was later diagnosed with the cardiopulmonary myopathy. “I had 20% chance of living through the night. 33% die and out of the ones that do not die only 20% percent of them do not need a heart transplant. Those who do need a transplant, most of them die waiting on a heart.” My mother held herself as part of the slim chances to make it out of her heart failure alive, which was better off than most. Around the time she was 23 years old, like countless doctors before him, Doctor Bird told my mother that the pain she was feeling was all in her head. “Doctor Bird was supposed to be my primary care doctor. He flat out called me a liar.” When my mother was 26 years old she went to yet another doctor; her last chance. “The first time in his office he knew that it was Lupus, but he could not tell me without test to back his statement.” She still continues to have troubles with certain doctors, but she does not return to those that she thinks will not help or communicate with her.
Even though my mother received the news that she had Lupus, Fibromyalgia, Asthma, and Osteoporosis, she never quits what she wants to do. She always tells how my great grandfather got the news that he had Multiple Sclerosis and how he failed to live his after his diagnosis. He lived a miserable life and that also made my grandpa’s life miserable. My mother never wants to be like her grandfather, waiting for death and making her child’s life miserable. She has me to take care of and a life to live. She loves to camp, snowmobile, go four wheeling, and go on the trike. In the beginning of January 2016 she broke her leg in two places. Doctors look at her walking into their office, with a brace and crutches, and are often amazed on how she can walk without crying. Her pain doctor once told her after the event, “You impress me with all that is wrong with you; you still keep going. The Lupus and Fibromyalgia and you continue with your life. Most people would have quit.” My mother helps others more often than she helps herself.
My mother helps and talks to people about their problems, and she often uses her experiences to help them make their decisions. She has many friends that come to her for advice, or comfort, to make them feel better about what is happening in their lives. Very few people know the life that my mother has gone through, except her close friends and family. One friend that my mother has known for a short while has talked about how my mother has helped her. Nancy Turner became friends with my mom through coincidence; they met when my mother’s boyfriend was buying a trailer from Nancy’s husband. They talked and found out that the both of them have Lupus, and they have talked over Facebook for a while. Nancy described “Your mother is an impressively strong woman that always has time for other’s needs, well above her own. In the short time that I have known Nicki, I am proud to call her my friend. Nicki was happy to share her knowledge of doctors in Des Moines as well as introducing me to the Iowa Chapter of The Lupus Foundation of America.” She is good at helping others forget what they are going through.
My mother describes her first visit with Doctor Burdt as a better experience than all the others before. She was relieved, but still scared at the same time, as he explained what Lupus was and how they were going to deal with it together. My mother now has a team of great doctors, that communicate with each other and with her. “Nicolle, this is not the end. Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes the body to attack the healthy cells rather than the cells it should be fighting. We will work through this.” Sitting on that awkward table with posters of bodies on the walls was no longer the focal point of the room.
The Clinic Highlighted in the photo below and where Dr. Burdt currently practices medicine in now called Iowa Arthritis!