There are some moments in life you never forget. And one of mine was when my best
friend since grade school,Jill Gambardella-Peterson, called me in a panic. Jill is not oneto complain so I knew something was wrong. And it all went back one dreaded day in Boston when she felt what she calls a "pulled muscle pain"in her chest. She
had felt the pain before but if you knew Jill she is not one to bother people or
complain. This time, the pain was unbearable bringing her to her knees. She had felt
this pain before but never mentioned it to anyone as she was a competitive figure
skater growing up & blamed the pain on being pulled a lot either by a partner lifting
her or by her team skating. Well, it wasn't a "pulled muscle," It was pericarditis which
is when fluid collects in the sac around your heart compressing it and if not treated by draining the fluid off when severe enough,it can be deadly. However it wasn't the
pericarditis diagnosis that scared her. As pericarditis can be treated. It was when the MD treating told her she had Lupus. She knew in that very minute, life as she knew it would change.
She was used to the almost weekly fainting spells as she did have a previous diagnosis of angioedema (which sounds pretty nutty when you think "she was used to fainting") however this disease was vascular in nature and she, and her husband, knew fainting could be a part of it. It also causes swellings on the outside as well as inside of the
body and at times cause life threatening swellings in her tongue and throat for
which if not treated immediately, would cause suffocation. She was not a complainer, so she never wanted to scare her mom or family and didn't get into much of what was
really going on because "Her husband and her" had things "under control." However,
Jill was suffering in silence with other symptoms she didn't want to even bother her
husband with intially. Only her drs knew of the worsening exhaustion she
was feeling along with generalized chronic pain, pain in her joints (although she
though skating again), very cold hands and feet to the point of her fingers & toes
turning white at times, worsening sun sensitivity, headaches, fevers of unknown so
they knew something was wrong, but coudn't put their finger on it. Lupus is known
as the "great immitator" because it mimics so many other diseases which makes it
very hard to diagnose. However the pericarditis sealed the deal. And life has just
been getting harder and harder because of the Lupus.
Lupus is a cruel disease. And what makes it most cruel is that one minute you can be
fine & the next you are in the intensive care unit or even worse, have a stroke so
massive it will kill you. This just happened to a friend of hers, 48yrs old, who was
having breakfast with her family on a Saturday and literally fell to the floor, never to wake up leaving her husband and three young children behind.
It is an isolating disease because it is hard to make plans in advance & is a
disease people either don't know about or think it's not a big deal. most of the
time the person will look fine on the outside. What people don't know it the suffering
going on inside & that this person is hiding behind makeup and nice clothes to fit in.
Most are mothers of small children (as it is commonly diagnosed in women of
childbearing years) and most have suffered many pregnancy losses and complications
Lupus happens when your immune system, the body's protector that usually fights
germs and bacteria entering your body, sees most of your body as a
foreign object attacking everything includeing major organs. Such as the heart,
kidneys, blood and brain. Basically your body is allergic to itself. Although
not considered terminal, it will never go away, it can take your life at any moment
and their is NO cure. Public awareness and understanding of this disease is
very low as well. 1.5million people in the U.S. have Lupus (and those are only the ones diagnosed) yet approximately 2/3 of the population doesn't know what it is.
Jill was always very active. She has an infectious smile that is now lost at times
because of this disease but instead of asking why she may be sad or not smiling,
people think she has changed. I can tell ALL of you, she hasn't. She is the same girl
that would drop everything for someone in need, could almost sniff out a broken
heart that needs healing and misses her old body. She is sad because she has been
discriminated against, hurt by comments such as "she's just lazy," or "it must be nice to
have an excuse to nap." Yeah, she loves it. She has two masters degrees she fought
through to get & has worked saving kids for 25 years. An intelligent and informed
person would support her because they would understand why. She also has two
beautiful little boys who need her and for who she needs to protect as she always
have from this.But they are growing so it is difficult to hide the falls down stairs,
fainting and they don't buy she is going in for an extra shift at the hospital any longer.
Unfortunatley her Lupus it is getting worse & is not able to work at this point.
Her family depended on her income as in most families, they relied on her income as
well. She was denied unemployment because she cant work full time and denied
disability because despite her doctors documentation, she is not sick enough to
recieve it.She desperately misses caring for & saving kids from the US and from all
over the world rescued via life flight back and forth in one day if needed which she did while working at Shriner's Hospital for Children Burn hospital in Boston from where
she just moved from. Even though she woke up feeling as if she had the flu every
morning until the meds kicked in, she would wake up an hour before she needed to
get to work as taking a shower & getting dressed took much longer than the average
person & used much of the energy she had for her upcoming shift. But she is NOT & was never a quitter and loves taking care of children. And she hopes onces she gets
through her chemotherapy treatments doctors are trying on her now, she can get
back to doing what she loves. But right now this family needs your help.
Jill was inspired to make custom headbands & baby/kids items by this little girl who
was badly burned & her scalp was the best graft retrieval site. She went into the OR
with hair and came out without hair. She would put the headbands on them to soften
the blow of seeing a bald head. She then began to make custom baby/kids items for
which she gave back part of the proceeds to the hospital so they could rescue more
kids. Soon you will see a facebook site made by her to now market her items.
Below is a picture her little guy Alexander drew and the wish he made when his
teacher asked his class to pick something to draw representing a wish. He calls her
"My dove" so that's what he picked to draw and you can see what his wish was.
I pray you find it in your heart to help Jill & her family get through this awful time as
they are struggling monetarily because of medical bills in the 5 figures as well as
missing her income. they have huge co pays because the medications, such as the
chemotherapy which is being used "off label." No amount is too small. Please share
this link with your friends if possible. I posted the above picture of the two of us to
show you how great she looked (she's on the right)the night of a Lupus Gala because
she raised 5000.00 for research. We booked an extra night to catch up & have fun. But lupus had other plans & I witnessed how it took her down in front of my very eyes.
She tried hard to hide it but it was apparent she was getting sick. Our night on the
town never happened. She stayed in the hotel instead & upon arriving back to CT, she was hospitalized for 5 days. Lupus is real. And it hurts everyone around the person.
Pls, help her and her family as they are barely keeping afloat. They've helped so many when they were able. I can't think of a more deserving family. Jill's biggest concern is
her children. They have been through way too much since the move. And the guilt
she carries is just making her more sick. Please, find it in your heart to donate if you
can or share this link. ~Karen Baxter
And in closing, this was her oldest son's Christmas list this year.........
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