Corona del Mar resident Bridget Hood has lived with lupus for more than two decades. In honor of Lupus Awareness Month, she is sharing her story in hopes of helping others cope with the life-changing disease.
Hood, 42, first noticed something was wrong with her health while preparing for a family vacation to Hawaii when she was 17. After a trip to a tanning salon, she she developed a rash on her face and flu-like symptoms.
"It was very apparent that I had something serious going and I was diagnosed within one month," Hood explained. "Then it started attacking my kidneys."
Hood has lived with Systematic Lupus Nephritis ever since, battling ups and downs. She is currently featured in the online movement, Lupus Out Loud, to help encourage people to speak out about their symptoms. The online video was sparked by the results of a recent Roper survey that found 52% of lupus patients reported they experience minimized symptoms after speaking with their doctor.
"The symptoms come and go, one day you are fine and the next day you can barely get to the bathroom," Hood explained. "You have to keep everything you feel in a journal because it changes often. You might have a symptom that you might not think is a big deal, but it may be and that's why it is so important to tell your doctor about everything."
Lupus changed Hood's life forever. At the time of her diagnosis, she was a junior in high school and was no longer able to be an active cheerleader. Her symptoms were often relentless.
"It was really hard for me, I was put on a high dose of steroids and it affected my cognitive abilities. I also gained a bunch of weight, lost some hair and I was about 20 pounds heavier," Hood said. "When I went back to school everyone wondered what was wrong with me."
In January 2006 after living with lupus for 19 years, it got so bad that Hood's kidneys started to fail. But her younger brother, Nick, was a perfect match. Hood says he gave her a kidney and the courage to continue to cope with her illness.
"He's my hero and I cannot thank him enough," Hood said. "Lupus is very alienating because you tend to feel like you’re the only one who has it, but I want others to know they are not alone."
To find out more about Lupus Out Loud, visit http://www.lupusconnect.com/lupus-out-loud. Hood hosts a Lupus support group the first Monday of every month at 7 p.m. at University United Methodist Church in Irvine.