Hello friends! The Lupus Foundation of America is hosting their “Walk to End Lupus Now” in Farmer's Branch, TX on April 15, 2023. This year, I have decided to participate in this event and invite you to become a part of my team, Francisco’s Fighters, and join in the fight against lupus.
In June 2020, when the country was dealing with one of the most challenging and unusual times in history, I began fighting my own battle, ultimately leading to my lupus diagnosis. One day, I remember waking up with strange aches and pains throughout my body that quickly worsened, making it nearly impossible for me to move without assistance. Eventually, it got to the point that I couldn't lie down, or do much of anything, because breathing became difficult. Soon after, I was admitted to the hospital for what they thought was a bad case of pneumonia. In the ER, I sat alone in the bed in the ER drifting in and out of sleep because I was extremely fatigued. When the ER nurse looked at me and reviewed my vitals, she called additional staff and within seconds I was surrounded by a team of nurses and the ER doctor. The nurses quickly placed a PICC line in my right arm and placed me on a ventilator while the doctor inserted a central line in my right leg. Imagining tests were conducted on my chest and they discovered several ounces of fluid had collected around my heart and left lung. Two days later, doctors drained the fluid. The care team and cardiologist felt I was well enough to leave the hospital two days after the procedure but unfortunately, even though I felt okay when I was discharged, it did not last.
Four days later, I was back in the hospital with reaccumulating fluid around my heart and left lung. The original doctors that conducted my procedure decided to transport me via ambulance to another hospital in Fort Worth for a second and more complicated procedure called a pericardial window. When I woke up from the procedure, I was in the ICU with two tubes coming out of my chest; the tubes were being powered by two pumps that ran around the clock to remove the fluid from around my heart and my left lung. Although the primary concern at the time was my heart and lungs, my kidneys quickly became a concern when blood work and severe leg swelling indicated poor kidney function. The procedure was successful, and the tubes were removed a few days after. My kidneys were then being monitored intensely and once function began improving, I was released from the hospital.
I was able to recover during the days that followed, and I was assigned to work with a nephrologist (kidney specialist) and a rheumatologist. September 1, 2020, doctors conducted a kidney biopsy that finally provided a conclusive diagnosis. I was told I had class IV and class V lupus nephritis. Unfortunately, my diagnosis indicates that I have one of the most aggressive classes of lupus nephritis and being a male increases the severity of my disease.
If being diagnosed with lupus was not bad enough, I was back in the hospital within a few days after receiving my diagnosis. I was having difficulty breathing again and this time, I was suffering from tachycardia and atrial fibrillation. Once again, I was admitted and two days later, my heart rate spiked. Within seconds of this happening, I was surrounded by a medical team and immediately hooked up to a crash cart and given IV meds to slow down my heart rate. Fortunately, doctors were able to stabilize me and I was released about a week later and prescribed a high dose of steroids and Cytoxan (low dose chemotherapy).
The two years plus following my diagnosis have been very difficult to say the least. I went from being a former collegiate and professional athlete, aspiring to work in the field of strength and conditioning, to someone whose life was turned upside down. Due to the instability of my health, I have had to part ways with different employers because I can no longer manage the day to day stress and pain caused by my illness. I have had to battle with PTSD from medical trauma and deal with bouts of depression. I have not been able to do the things I love to do such as lifting weights, playing golf, or other activities that tax my endurance, or require me to be exposed to the heat for too long. I also can no longer spend too much time in the sun because that also affects my overall health. My struggle is daily, however, I continue to adapt to my situation.
I battle lupus and the effects of this illness every day. While I am constantly worrying about my health, I will never stop fighting this battle and what keeps me going is the support of family and friends. I hope you can join me in this year’s Walk to End Lupus Now.
Thank you for all of your love, strength, encouragement, and support,