Zandrea's lupus fight
Have you ever seen someone with tears streaming down his or her face, gasping for air, and clutching their chest while he or she struggles to utter a word? This is not an asthma attack or some form of respiratory illness, it is the laugh of Zandrea Bailey. She is always a good sport who puts a funny twist to every story. Literally, the life of the party, she puts a smile on the face of everyone she comes into contact with.
In 2012, Bailey was diagnosed with Dengue Fever and instructed by doctors to take leave from her job, drink lots of fluid, and get some rest. Three weeks passed with no improvement. Instead, she started to get worse, losing control of her lower limbs. As is the norm, doctors ordered tests to try to determine what the cause was. "There was just no blood," Bailey told Flair as she recalled her experience.
After numerous visits to various hospitals, Bailey was admitted to the Kingston Public Hospital when doctors realised that her kidneys were failing. Upon admission, she was pumped with liquid steroids, which she said saved her life.
Three weeks later, she was diagnosed with systemic lupus.
SYMPTOMS OF LUPUS
According to Dr Stacy Davis, president of the Lupus Foundation of Jamaica: "Lupus is an autoimmune disease which may present itself in a number of ways. It may affect different parts of the body and commonly affects the skin and or joints and organs. When lupus affects the skin alone, it is known as cutaneous lupus. There are different forms of cutaneous lupus. When it affects other parts of the body, it is usually referred to as systemic lupus."
After many blood transfusions and several other modes of treatment, Bailey was released from the hospital. She was unable to walk but was cared for her by her father, who never left her side. "He would sleep on my bed at nights to help me go to the bathroom," said Bailey as the tears streamed down her face. Bailey and her father had formed a tag team to support each other after her mother died from the same disease in 2014.
"Like most other autoimmune disorders, no one knows what causes lupus. Investigators believe that persons are born with genes that make them susceptible to developing lupus and something over time triggers symptoms to be expressed. Some known triggers include sunlight, infections, injury, emotional and physical stress, as well as certain drugs, for example, sulfa drugs and some antibiotics," explains Davis.
After several months of medication and TLC (tender loving care) from her father and friends, Bailey bounced back. She was able to lead an independent life and even qualified as a Miss Universe finalist in 2014. "I lost 60 pounds that I had gained due to the steroid medication. I auditioned for Miss Universe, and I qualified and was a top-10 finalist," she revealed, beaming with pride.
A SECOND CHANCE
Bailey said that she made a commitment to herself that she was going to use her second chance to do all she wanted. For two years she lived her dreams, being a voice for others with lupus and spending quality time with those she loved and cherished.
On November 29, 2016, Bailey was again admitted to hospital, where she did a kidney biopsy and found that her kidneys were completely scarred. They are now at 10 per cent functionality, causing her to be on a continued treatment plan that includes dialysis, and in the future a kidney transplant.
Despite the discomfort and the mounting medical bills, Bailey is grateful and hopeful that this is just another hurdle that she will overcome.
The 27-year-old is driven by the fact that she is not just fighting for herself, but for so many who are looking to her for strength for their journey. She shared that at one of her lowest moments, a friend said: "I know it's hard, but you can't give up. A lot of people are rooting for you. And I know your mom would be proud." This, she admitted, gave her a sudden boost of energy.
According to Davis, some of the symptoms of lupus includes fatigue, fever, and weight loss. Fatigue is quite common and may be caused by lupus or by other associated issues such as depression, anaemia, lack of exercise, and difficulty sleeping.
Weight loss may be directly related to lupus, causing gastrointestinal problems and loss of appetite, or may occur secondary to other factors such as medications leading to nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea.
Joint pain, stiffness, and swelling may occur. Skin manifestations are very variable with a malar rash, which is a red rash in the formation of a butterfly, affecting the face in the area of the cheeks being the most classic one. Another common one is lesions, which are usually round and which heal with scarring and which change pigmentation.
Hair loss also occurs as does sensitivity to the sun. Raynaud's phenomenon, which results in changes in the colour of digits in response to cold, stress, and cigarette smoking is also seen quite often in lupus.
Lupus Foundation Jamaica
Address: 7 Barbados Avenue, Kingston 5
Tel: (876) 754-8458
Fax: (876) 754-8458
Help and Info: (876) 778-3892- (voice/text message)