By Cara Hunt
Tribune Features Writer
Life during lockdown is challenging enough for most healthy people, but for those living with lupus it can be even far more difficult.
The lupus community is in the high-risk category of individuals who should remain in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Cut off from their usual in-person support at monthly meetings and socials, and facing the fear of contracting the coronavirus themselves, means this is a time when lupus patients need more reassurance than ever.
May is recognised worldwide as Lupus Awareness Month. And with the social distancing measures currently in place, the local support group Lupus 242 will host a series of virtual events to stay connected to its members and the general public.
“While we are adhering to the advice of medical professionals as it relates to social distancing, our goal is to remain connected to our members and to continue the mission of breaking the silence surrounding lupus,” said Shonalee Johnson, vice-president and public relations officer of Lupus 242.
“Lupus fighters are among the high-risk persons living through this pandemic. This is a scary and uncertain time for many. We want to provide opportunities for members and the wider public to have the right information about the lupus as well as tips for managing the illness during the COVID-19 period.”
Every Friday in May, the group is encouraging people in the Bahamas to “put on purple” and post photos to raise awareness (#POPAtHome).
On the first Friday in May, photos started popping up on social media with runners sporting purple face masks, make-up artists posting creative face art, and others wearing the colour at home to show support.
Starting this Saturday, May 9, Lupus 242 will host the first in a series of virtual health talks live on the group’s social media platforms.
Presenters include rheumatologists Dr K Neil Parker, Dr Aniska Rolle, Dr Noelle Rolle, and pharmacist Chargrega McPhee.
Group members are also releasing daily video facts on lupus, and local dentist Dr Shamika Strachan will share tips on oral health and lupus.
Lupus242 officially launched eight years ago as an avenue for information and support. The group hosts monthly meetings, awareness events, and is a resource for patients and supporters dealing with the illness.
The chronic, autoimmune disease affects an estimated 5.5 million people worldwide. Studies show that lupus is caused by several factors, including genetics, environment and hormonal imbalances in the body. Lupus is often hard to diagnose, with symptoms ranging from severe pain and fatigue to unexplained flare-ups impacting random parts of the body, especially internal organs. There is no known cause for the disease and presently statistics on the number of individuals in the Bahamas living with lupus are limited.
To participate in Lupus242 virtual awareness events, follow them at Facebook.com/Lupus242 or Instagram @lupus242, or visit www.lupus242.org and call 525-9967.