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Learning about lupus

REACHING OUT: Maureen Davis

IT TOOK many years for mum-of-three Maureen Davis to find out why she was constantly tired and breathless.

Doctors gave her countless blood tests, thinking she must be anaemic; she was wrongly diagnosed as being asthmatic, then a series of chest pains led medics to believe she had a heart problem.

But finally the retired nurse was told she had lupus, a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the blood vessels and connective tissues, which has led to her lungs being permanently damaged.

“It ended years of frustration because I think people were beginning to think I was a hypochondriac,” smiles Maureen, as she sits in the living room of her Wolverhampton home.

“It all started when I first became pregnant with my son James, but now all my children are grown up. I could never understand why I was always running out of breath and feeling so tired when the children were small.”

There’s a sad irony in all this as she is related to someone who possibly has one of the finest pairs of lungs – triple Olympic gold medallist and world champion sprinter Usain Bolt.

Maureen and Usain’s mum, Jennifer Bolt, are first cousins and both hail from Trelawny, Jamaica, which Maureen left as a girl of 13 to start a new life with her family in the West Midlands.

Jennifer was at Maureen’s home about 18 months ago when she visited the UK and the pair are in touch regularly.

“I hope to meet up with Jennifer and the rest of the family when she’s in the UK for the Olympics,” says Maureen. “It’s a really exciting time for us all.”

Sadly for Maureen, any exertion leaves her breathless and she has had to come to terms with the chronic condition of lupus that she will have to manage for the rest of her life. She was officially diagnosed in 2006, after years of tests drew a blank for other conditions.

As a way of trying to reach out to others she has launched a lupus blog at www.maureenpearl.blogspot.com. It’s a way of explaining her condition and how she feels to family and friends and the wider world.

“I’ve found it’s been a great help to me to be able to write down how I’m feeling – it also saves the family having to ask,” jokes Maureen, who last year endured chemotherapy treatment to help her lung condition. “Sadly, I don’t feel able to do the voluntary work and bereavement counselling I used to do, as it just leaves me too breathless and exhausted.

“This is the worst part of the condition, not being able to do all the things I want to do. I’ve always helped out with my local community but now that’s off limits. I also miss being able to dance and sing. It’s all about having to adjust to a more limited life, but I’ve been very blessed with such supportive family and friends.”

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