Kim Pratt, Living with Lupus
And in many ways she does. She’s beautiful, with bright blue eyes and sun-kissed skin. She has a career in marketing. She’s full of love for her 3-year-old twin daughters and for her parents, who are supportive to her and involved grandparents to the girls.
But what’s not obvious from the outside is the toughness within.
Kim was diagnosed with Lupus 20 years ago, while in college, and deals with it every day. Whether it’s a day of mild symptoms like a sore wrist and odd bumps near her elbows, to more severe health issues such as kidney disease, high blood pressure and anemia.
“There are times I get down, but I tell myself, ‘I can’t feel this way!’” she said.
Kim was 20 years old and in college in Utah when she had cold symptoms and a sore throat that she simply couldn’t shake. After consulting doctors and ingesting a myriad of medicine, she was still was vomiting, felt tired, weak and feverish.
Her parents yanked her out of school and told her it was time to come home to Colorado. Her health was so dismal, she readily complied.
“You have to have lupus to relate to the barrage of tests I underwent to figure out what was wrong,” Kim said. “That was a frightening period for me – just not knowing,” she said, “And I was so young, I couldn’t understand why doctors just couldn’t figure it out.”
Kim remembers trying to process the meaning of ‘lupus’ when doctors told her and her parents that she had the disease. “My only experience with lupus was watching the movie Gross Anatomy. The professor has lupus and dies at the end. That’s all I knew about it.”
But she quickly experienced what it meant to have lupus. “Once I realized it was manageable, I was O.K.,” she said. But like many with lupus, Kim learned she had a lot to manage: kidney disease, anemia, high blood pressure, joint pain, fatigue and other seemingly random symptoms.
What has come with experience, age and maturity was that Kim learned how important it was to take care of herself. In her 20s, Kim waited tables, stayed up too late was nonchalant about taking some of her medicines.
At one period she decided to wean herself off of the steroid, prednisone, and other medications. Although her body hurt and her range of motion was severely impacted, Kim thought the pain was better than being on all of the medicine and that weaning herself off of the medicine was “what she was supposed to do.”
“I was literally shuffling down the street. I saw a garden hose stretched across the sidewalk in front of me. I thought to myself, ‘How am I ever going to be able to step over it?’ I burst into tears,” she said.
With the help of her parents Kim said she realized that medicine didn’t need to be an all-or-nothing proposition. She also learned how important it was to take care of herself.
Most of her life has been good, most days she can do whatever she wants to do.
But without a doubt, the worst part of this whole lupus story has been losing her baby girl. Kim was in her mid-thirties, married and was in a good place health-wise. She hadn’t had problems with high blood pressure since around the time she was diagnosed. In fact, the doctors even took her off the blood pressure medicine.
All was good until she about five and a half months along. Kim was sitting in a movie theater with her husband when she felt something was wrong. Her breaths were quickening, she tried to relax, but eventually told her husband she needed to leave.
They learned Kim had preeclampsia that couldn’t be controlled. Doctors told Kim her life was in jeopardy and she needed to deliver the baby.
“I felt a lot of guilt. My baby was healthy. I was the one who was sick,” she said.
The delivery took a day and a half. The baby was born on Aug. 10. “I’m not sure if she took a breath or not,” Kim said through tears. “But I got to hold her and meet her. I have pictures of her.”
She’s worked hard to forgive herself and let go of her anger. “Losing my baby is never going to be OK. It’s just the circumstances of what has happened. But life goes on and you have to move on from these sad things.”
With the help of a surrogate, Kim now enjoys her three-year-old twin daughters. They go swimming, to the playground, and to the Farmer’s Market. “I want them to experience as much as possible.” She and the twins honor the lost baby by visiting her grave. “I tell them that my first baby brought them to me,” she said.
Though sad, and even tragic, events have occurred in Kim’s life, that’s not the extent of her story. Her story is one of a moving forward, maintaining a positive attitude and an appreciation for little – and big – things she can do day-to-day.
She works, hikes, snowshoes, skis and exercises. Kim takes her daughters out to dinner, they rush from animal to animal at the zoo, and she hopes to take them skiing this year.
“You can still live a full and wonderful life,” she said. “Attitude is everything. Mind over matter.”