Bryanna B. - Diagnosed at age 22
I completed my undergraduate degree in May 2018. I had noticed as early as January that I was beginning to feel more tired, and have more trouble walking up the hill to my apartment, but I just chalked it up to the stress of my senior year and laziness. I worked full time for the summer immediately after graduating. I noticed pretty early on that summer that I was having a lot of joint and muscle pain, in my hands, ankles, and knees. It made walking very difficult but mostly it hurt to sit or stand...well, to move in any way. But my mom and I concluded that I was too young for arthritis and there was no other possible reason for this so maybe I was just tired and it would go away in time.
While working full time, I was preparing to move from New Mexico to Pennsylvania to start a graduate program. I was extremely stressed about this. I moved in early August, still having this extreme joint pain. I tried some salves and creams and also tried taking cinnamon pills and other things I read could help joint pain, but nothing was working. The humidity in my new city was overwhelming. I was in a bedroom upstairs and getting up the stairs multiple times a day was impossible. I was extremely stressed about money so I began eating less and less and not drinking enough water. I was also growing incredibly depressed, being in a new city where I couldn't get my bearings. So, my joint pain increased and my health in general deteriorated.
I saw a doctor who prescribed me medication, but didn't tell me how to use it, so it did little for my pain and also made me paranoid. It was only after a month of this, after days of vomiting, that I finally went to an urgent care. There, they told me I was severely dehydrated, had a high fever, and needed to go to the ER. In the ER, they put me on fluids, told me I had pancreatitis, and gave me a blood transfusion. My fever wasn't breaking. They sent me to a bigger hospital, where I almost immediately had seizures. My kidneys weren't functioning well and my heart was failing. They thought I was going to die, and it took days before they diagnosed me with lupus.