Nadine Kidd's Lupus Journey: Navigating Discrimination and a Path to Healing
This Black History Month, we are focusing on individuals’ lupus stories and how this ‘invisible’ disease affects people’s outward appearance with skin issues and hair loss.
Nadine Kidd's lupus journey serves as a powerful narrative shedding light on the struggles of living with lupus, particularly the impact on hair loss and the discrimination faced, not only in the medical system but also within Black communities.
Nadine was diagnosed with lupus at the age of 21, though she experienced symptoms as early as the 3rd grade. Initially misinterpreted as an allergic reaction, her journey through various doctors and tests highlights the challenges of getting an accurate diagnosis, especially for people of color. The aggressive nature of her lupus and her appearance led to mistreatment, exposing racial biases in health care.
For example, Nadine faced extreme mistreatment during medical emergencies. With one of her first major flares, she was taken in an ambulance to the hospital for a supposed migraine. She was transported on a gurney to a dark hospital room and later passed out for hours from the pain. She was never asked about her medical history or properly treated.
“They just looked at me like I was just another fat Black girl exaggerating her pain.”
Once her sister arrived, she immediately took Nadine to another hospital, and they discovered that the first hospital negligently discharged her as a “crack addict,” never bothering to acknowledge or treat her lupus flare. The first hospital disregarded her symptoms, leading to delayed treatment for a brain hemorrhage. She was placed in the ICU for a month.
She states that “I was accustomed to mistreatment because of the color of my skin, and normalized it. I was used to being ignored.” Nadine's resilience and self-advocacy became crucial in navigating the challenges posed by both lupus and racial discrimination.
Nadine emphasizes the importance of having a supportive doctor associated with a reputable hospital. Being one's own advocate, finding doctors who listen and believe, and seeking referrals to specialists are vital steps in navigating the complexities of lupus. Her advice stems from personal experiences that have saved her life and the lives of family members’.
Today, Nadine has a strong support system with her large family, friends and diverse healthcare providers. Lupus has forced her to live a healthier life, both physically and mentally. “You don’t want to wait for your body to put you in your place,” she says. But living with the endless list of lupus symptoms has not been easy – from arthritic pain, fatigue, nausea, stroke, sepsis, stage 4 kidney disease and more. It can be additionally challenging when this often invisible disease begins to affect your outwardly appearance.
“My toxic trait is making lupus look easy.”
Nadine's journey with hair loss, exacerbated by lupus medication changes and the stress of the pandemic, reflects the additional struggles faced by people of color. Societal standards around "good hair" have historically affected Black communities, adding another layer of complexity for people living with lupus.
Unrealistic beauty standards, deeply rooted in history, still impact individuals today. Nadine tells us that she was trying to keep up with the life and hair that she used to have – the hair that society told her to have. Breaking these stigmas requires understanding their origins and embracing cultural diversity. While hair loss has been difficult for her, Nadine encourages self-reflection and acceptance, emphasizing that natural beauty comes in many forms.
Nadine advises those experiencing hair loss to explore the reasons behind their discomfort. Understanding the origins of stigmas helps individuals navigate the emotional aspects of lupus-related hair loss. The shift towards embracing natural hair in Black communities is a positive step forward. Coping mechanisms – such as “the big chop”, hair wraps, naturally textured wigs or even bald styles – empower Black men and women to define their own standards of beauty and use these styles as a form of self-expression.
Focusing on her personal accomplishments, accepting her limitations, and being patient with herself have been crucial to helping Nadine rebuild her confidence amidst lupus symptoms. Her journey highlights the importance of self-reflection and maintaining a positive mindset to overcome the challenges posed by chronic illness.
Nadine Kidd's lupus journey serves as an inspiration for those facing similar challenges. Her story sheds light on the intersection of health, racial discrimination and cultural expectations within Black communities. As we celebrate Black History Month, let Nadine's resilience and advice remind us of the importance of acknowledging and addressing the diverse struggles faced by individuals in their health journeys.
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