Teen shines light on lupus

2019-05-20 16:54
Courteney Raeburn.

Courteney Raeburn.

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For the past five years, 13-year-old Courteney Raeburn has been living with lupus, a chronic inflammatory condition in which the body’s immune system attacks its own healthy cells and tissues.

Now, during Lupus Awareness Month, the Hayfields teenager wants to raise awareness about the disease to prevent misdiagnosis and people enduring the pain she went through before she was correctly diagnosed with lupus.

After experiencing severe and constant headaches at the tender age of eight, her parents knew something was amiss and sought medical attention.

She was repeatedly misdiagnosed and incorrectly treated for various ailments by the doctors.

By November 2013, while she was being treated for supposed anaemia. Her father, Neil, said Courteney became so weak that she would wake up in the morning, walk through to the lounge and fall fast asleep.

Courteney was finally diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus by Dr Monica Vaithilingum in Durban and she started treating her accordingly.

“Just before Christmas in 2013, Courteney came home pale, weak and weighing only 14 kg.

“There is no cure for lupus, and it took two years to fully stabilise Courteney. The nature of the beast is that she will have flare-ups and her last full flare-up was from December 2017 to August 2018,” said Neil.

Courteney’s journey of raising awareness about the disease started in 2016 when her school, Epworth, allowed her to do a presentation on lupus in the library to promote lupus awareness within the Epworth community.

From there on, the teenager has become passionate about getting her story out there so that parents can pick up on the warning signs of lupus in their children early and prevent what happened to her, from happening to others.

She has posted awareness videos online explaining how the disease works, what signs to look out for and how to manage it.“It’s quite a common disease but it can be tricky to diagnose as it imitates other illnesses,” said Courteney.

The teenager advised people living with those who suffer from lupus to offer them much-needed support.

“You have to be able to accept and understand when people living with lupus give their limitations.

“In most cases people living with the disease don’t actually look sick but they endure so much pain,” she said.

Courteney was described by her parents as a very content young girl who does not ask for much. “She is extremely passionate about all animals and she loves visits to game parks and animal sanctuaries. She regularly saves and donates large amounts of her pocket money to the SPCA and FreeMe. She has also adopted, for life, an African Wildcat called Apple at the Emdoneni cat rehabilitation centre,” said her father.

The teenager said she plans to continue spreading awareness about the disease as she grows older but has her sights set on becoming a veterinarian.

 What is lupus?

Lupus is a non-contagious systemic autoimmune disease that occurs when your body’s immune system attacks your own tissues and organs.

Inflammation caused by lupus can affect many different body systems — including your joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart and lungs.

There is no known cure for the disease.

According to The Lupus Drive, a non-profit organisation dedicated to raising awareness on the brutal impact of lupus, the autoimmune disease affects millions of people worldwide, but there are no accurate statistics for South Africa.

More than 90% of people with lupus are women, most of whom are diagnosed between the ages of 15 to 44.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  lupus
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