With social distancing measures in place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, local support group Lupus 242 is hosting a series of virtual health talks to help its members stay connected during May, the awareness month for the chronic, autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body.
“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, Lupus 242 vice president and public relations officer.
“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 lupus, as well as tips for managing the illness during the COVID-19 period.”
Dr. Anishka Rolle, an internal medicine specialist and rheumatologist, will address Lupus 242 members via Zoom on Saturday, May 16, the group’s second virtual meeting. She will speak specifically on lupus and pregnancy, a topic that Johnson said is important to lupus patients.
“It’s important because lupus impacts women of childbearing age, and so considerations have to be given for persons when thinking about starting families and managing the illness,” she said.
“In essence your rheumatologist has to work hand-in-hand with your gynecologist, and that’s true for lupus sufferers with any women’s issue.”
Lupus is more common among women of childbearing age (ages 15 to 44 years).
The virtual health talks will continue every Saturday for the rest of the month. Rheumatologist Dr. K. Neil Parker is expected to address the topic of managing lupus. Dr. Noelle Rolle, another rheumatologist, is expected to speak on lifestyle and lupus.
Pharmacist Chargrega McPhee spoke at the first virtual support meeting held via Zoom, which Johnson said they will use going forward, as Zoom allows them a private but open event. She said that made participants feel comfortable enough to feel free to ask questions.
“The thing is to stay connected, even with the distance,” said Johnson. “I think the month is always important, not only for the awareness, but for the members to connect.”
For their first virtual meeting, Johnson said, they had about 15 participants going in and out.
Group members are also releasing daily video facts on lupus and dentist Dr. Shamika Strachan will share tips on oral health and lupus.
As in previous years, Lupus 242 encourages people to #POPAtHome (put on purple) – and post photos to raise awareness and show support.
Eight years ago, Lupus242 officially launched as an avenue for information and support. The group hosts monthly meetings and awareness events, is a resource for patients and supports dealing with the illness.
Lupus affects an estimated 5.5 million persons 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, fatigue and 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 people in The Bahamas living with lupus are limited.
To participate in Lupus242 virtual awareness events, follow them at Facebook.com/Lupus242 or Instagram @lupus242, visit www.lupus242.org or call 242-525 9967.