was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (S.L.E) in 1994, after so many tests and analyses. S.L.E. is very difficult to diagnose. It is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the body’s own healthy tissues. This causes inflammation. Certain zones of the skin or joints begin to hurt, redden and are inflamed. Also, inflammation can affect other parts of the body like the muscles, kidneys, the nervous system, blood, lungs and the heart.
Primarily, the doctors diagnosed Maria Elena with arthritis. They prescribed medication for rheumatism and arthritis. Subsequently, other medication was also prescribed, but they could not find the correct medication for her condition. The doctors did not know that the condition that Maria Elena suffered was lupus.
Two years later, Maria Elena’s lupus affected her arteries and veins. Her blood circulation began to deteriorate and she developed thrombosis on her fingers. She had surgery on her left hand due to terrible circulation in her fingers.
Maria Elena explained that the thrombosis in the fingers began with a black mole; the mole was growing, burst and got infected. As a consequence, a finger on her left hand had to be cut. At the time of this interview, doctors wanted cut another finger in her right hand because of an infection.
Maria Elena is a very strong woman and she does not let her condition depress her. Every day she goes to the gym to do exercise. She says that when she exercises, she feels a lot better. She also eats food that are essential for her health.
Maria Elena’s full-time work requires her to be standing eight hours a day. Frequently, she has to take breaks and says that she has been blessed by having a supervisor that supports and understands her condition.
Maria comments that at the beginning when she was diagnosed with lupus, she provided her supervisor with medical articles about lupus. She helped in educating her supervisor and in understanding the health issues that are caused by this disease.
Her husband and her three daughters have also supported her unconditionally. They join Maria Elena in the support group offered by the Lupus Foundation of Northern California at the Kaiser in Santa Teresa. In addition, they obtain information at the libraries to be able to understand and support Maria Elena. She feels very fortunate and blessed to have a family that provides the affection, understanding and support which have made a remarkable difference in her management of this horrible disease.
Maria Elena offers the following advice to other lupus patients: “People that suffer from lupus always have to think positively. Thinking positively does not mean that they are not going to have difficult moments, frustrations, or challenges in life. There is not a person who goes through life without having to face challenges.
Maria Elena concluded: “I feel so happy to have contacted the Lupus Foundation of Northern California. I do not feel alone. There is always someone to talk to who can provide important information. The organization has done a lot for me and my family with the education they have provided. I am very thankful and proud to have the ability in giving back by participating in the 5K Run and Walk for Lupus, health fairs, etc. LFNC has allowed me to be a part of helping others, and helping them in their efforts.” She adds: “When I help others, I can face my life with more success."