Danielle Hall: Living with Lupus - Part I
“I live as if I would die tomorrow; I live as if I could live forever.”-Danielle Hall
Sounds contradictory right? But that is the mantra that guides Danielle Hall as she is living with lupus.
According to Lupus Foundation of America, lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body whether it is the skin, joints, and/or organs. Our immune system creates antibodies which protects the body from things that do not belong, but with lupus, the immune system cannot tell the difference between the bad tissues and the healthy tissues and, as a result, it creates antibodies that attack and destroy the healthy tissues. These usually cause inflammation, pain, and even worse, damage in various organs or parts of the body.
In as little as four months, two prominent Jamaicans have died from this illness; comedienne and media personality Elva Ruddock died on October 7, 2018 and Miss Jamaica 2014 finalist, Zandrea Bailey died January 13. Both of whom did not allow the illness to take over their lives, but like Hall, has aimed to live a fulfilling life despite the often debilitating symptoms of lupus.
Hall shared with The Gleaner that she was diagnosed with lupus after she had an infection.
“I was officially diagnosed with lupus in 2011 after contracting meningitis in 2008,” Hall stated. After treating the meningitis, she had kidney infections and seizures which included severe pain. “I had back-to-back kidney infections following the meningitis and was later told that I have fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis because they did not know what was happening,” Hall stated.
She explained that she started to experience almost all the signs and symptoms of lupus, except the butterfly rash, but it was not until a second antinuclear antibody (ANA) test-the first test was negative- was done, that she got the confirmation that she has lupus and her life changed since then.
“I remember when I was at UWI-at the time I was a part-time student- and I was working while studying,” she stated, “I would go to work from 7:00 a.m. and leave at 8 a.m. for my class at 9 a.m., only to leave UWI at 11 a.m. to go back to work until 4:30 p.m. when I would leave for classes until 9 p.m.,” Hall said.
As a result of this, Hall had a seizure and had to sit out the remainder of the semester due to stress and being overworked.
She further explained that surviving lupus is about support and knowing one's condition.
“No lupus case is the same so what affects me, may not affect someone else,” she said, “But having someone to talk to, someone to be there for you through the small things, it makes a world of difference.”
Hall’s main support system was her mother, but tragedy struck in 2016 when her mother died.
“My mother was my rock through my diagnosis and the ups and downs of my illness,” Hall explained. “I remember coming out of the hospital January 2016 after a huge flare up and by February my mother was admitted.”
She said it was difficult making several trips to the hospital to visit her mother, while she juggled everyday life with lupus. Her mother died a week after Hall completed her final exams at UWI.
“I remember that I was diagnosed with the Zika virus during the days leading up to my mother’s funeral and I didn’t go to the hospital because I couldn’t picture being at the hospital and my mother wouldn’t be there to visit,” Hall recalled.
She is grateful for the support from her immediate and church family and close friends, along with groups that she is a part of because they have helped her to cope. She looks to the Lupus Foundation of Jamaica, but mainly depends on the ladies in her WhatsApp group to encourage her while she does the same for them.
“We started with approximately seven persons and now there are over 20 of us in the group, but we lost four people between 2014 and now,” Hall explained.
According to lupus.org at least five million people worldwide are affected by lupus and 16,000 new cases are reported each year.
Hall stated that sharing her story is not for pity, but to encourage others who are living with lupus, and motivate them.
If you are willing to share your story of living with lupus send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.