Natalie K. - Diagnosed Age 26
I am 30 years old and I was diagnosed at age 26, but my rheumatologist believes that I was born with lupus. My mother says I have had the butterfly rash since I was at least 2 weeks old. When she pointed it out to my pediatrician, he said I just had rosy cheeks. My first memory of pain was when I was 5 in my left wrist, the doctor told my parents it was just growing pains and would go away. For years whenever I would complain of pain my parents would say not worry about it, when I became sluggish and couldn't keep up I just needed to exercise more.
When I was 15 my skin began to break out in open wounds, that's when my parents finally took my suffering seriously. But it didn’t matter because no one could tell me why I had these sores or how to get rid of them, some doctors accused me of self harm. My body began to weaken, my bones hurt, my muscles were disintegrating and I was bleeding from the wounds. When I was 20 I started to need a wheelchair and by the time I was 22 I barely left my house.
When I was 26 and in between doctors I started to bleed nonstop from stress. I went to the ER with a hemoglobin of 2 and I was septic. After blood transfusions and antibiotics I was sent home with a wound doctor and a at home nurse. The home nurse was an angel and noticed signs on my body that pointed to my immune system and suggested I see rheumatologist.
From my first visit with Dr. Valenzuela I started to feel a huge difference, he started me on prednisone and suddenly my sores were healing and I was able to use my body again. It has been over 3 years and a lot of ups and downs, trial and error with medications, and dealing with the side effects. It took 2 years of physical therapy where I strengthen every part of my body especially my spirit. My physical therapist encouraged and supported me, gave me a shoulder to cry on and even helped me fight an eating disorder I developed from one of my medications.
I know that everyday is a blessing, and I am lucky and I am loved and that’s what keeps me fighting.