As an ambitious and disciplined athlete, 19-year-old Nikki Waitt won national collegiate championships and aspired for a future as a professional water skier.
When she started having inexplicable fainting spells, she wondered if it was stress-related. Then she lost her appetite and began having dizzy spells at night. Nikki was losing on average of 10 pounds each week as her symptoms continued, multiplied and worsened. She was experiencing loss of sleep, lack of energy, joint pain, fatigue – yet her doctors could find no cause after numerous blood tests.
Nikki knew it wasn’t stress and her concern grew as her symptoms became unrelenting and overwhelming. As an athlete, she was acutely aware of her body and the warning signs tormented her. She was in and out of the hospital, but her doctors couldn’t provide answers.
She was tested for autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular diseases and saw three different rheumatologists. Nikki’s health was worsening each day as doctors raced to diagnose her.
Her declining health forced Nikki to leave school and move back in with her parents. Shortly thereafter, a doctor in Orlando tested her for lupus. After nearly a year, Nikki finally had her answer.
Now 23, Nikki has used her drive and determination to carve a new path by pursing her Master’s Degree in Special Education at the University of Florida. She continues to water ski, although her lupus prevents her from competing.
Nikki’s sister Julie – also a competitive water skier – worked with D3 Water Skis to custom design water skis with a lupus theme to raise awareness. D3 had been sponsoring both sisters since 2007 and when Nikki was diagnosed, the company wanted to do something to show their support. Julie now skis in Nikki’s honor.
Lupus changed the course of Nikki’s life forever, and she is determined to share her story and inspire others to persevere. Both she and her sister continue to talk to sporting goods companies to produce products that raise awareness for lupus.
Nikki has adapted to her health challenges with strength, grace, and wisdom – all the skills she learned as a top athlete that she applies to her journey with lupus.