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Overcoming The Autoimmune Curse

As I look back and realize the steps that helped me regain my health I feel energized and hopeful for others. This year I want to share my journey with the autoimmune curse. As an emergency room nurse I was very busy and energetic. Long shifts and critically ill patients were a daily occurrence. If that was not enough I worked as an emergency medical IC for the state of Tennessee and made hospital rounds for a cardiologist. The going joke was I had three boys and it required three jobs to feed them and put them in trucks. I had this life for over twelve years and then slowly began the journey which changed my life.

It began with a simple day in the emergency room, while picking up an unconscious patient I moved the wrong way and tore my lumbar disc. It must have looked bad because Ed a nurse I worked with walked me to a chair and produced Tylenol and ice. I remember a loud pop , weakness and nausea. As time progressed the injury caused pain and inability to do the things required of me, I begin each day with max dose Motrin which eventually impacted my kidneys. As time went on I became stiff, my feet hurt so bad when I got up that I walked on them sideways. Nausea filled my days which turned into continuous abdominal pain. After a few years my though process was impacted. I was not as sharp as I was, each day was a battle just to get up and go to work. Depression set in because I could not explain what was going on and no one else could help.

A few more years passed and I found myself sicker. During this time I completed my masters in acute and critical care while working full-time as the emergency room clinical specialist. During this time every 90 days I lost a family member to death – my brother in law, my aunt, my brother and then my father. I continued to push forward.

As time progressed I transferred to Germantown Hospital and begin the Medical response team . At this time I had more bad days than good. A few more years passed and I found my self working for a local cardiologist at Sutherland. That is when I begin to notice I was short of breath, hurt all day and overall had lost the energy and stamina I had. When I could no longer run on the back trail behind the office I decided I must do something. I completed an echo and it illustrated a pericardial effusion. Dr. Danley called to inform me. The blood work I did was positive for what appeared to be lupus. My ANA , SSA, SSB and Rheumatoid factor was all positive. I was referred to Rheumatology which was going to take a year. The week I was suppose to go the the Rheumatologist the office called to cancel the appointment , I was in tears. One of the physicians I worked for contacted another Rheumatologist and was able to get me in to her in a matter of weeks.

Once I saw the Rheumatologist ,she felt like I had the beginning of an autoimmune disease process. The question was which one lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. She ran more lab to compare to the lab I had done but it provided no answer . I completed x-rays which was consistent with degenerative joint disease. It could take years to know exactly what this was. Autoimmune disease is very illusive and difficult to define, it can take a life time before it presents fully exposed. A life time of feeling this way. I was depressed and overwhelmed that I may never feel well again.