‘I have been to death’s door and back’

I would like to thank the ‘CBS Stitch EmbroidIT’ company for being the first to share my story on social media and playing a part in assisting individuals living with lupus. They informed me that, currently, my story has reached over 100,000 people via their post, and for that I am grateful.

Sharing my story is not an easy task as it takes much courage and even more selflessness to do it. However, there are people out there who need me as much as I need them, and I am confident that together we can overcome this disease.

My name is Danielle Samantha Hall and I am 25 years old. I was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus at age 21. However, I was hospitalised on my 18th birthday for bacterial meningitis. Life for me before was pretty normal. I was just going through the motions of a teenager. I attended St Andrew Preparatory School where I did very well in my academics and also in service clubs. I served as the president for the Builders Club and also held leadership roles in other clubs and societies. I graduated from St Andrew Preparatory and started Excelsior High School in 2001, where I continued to do well in academics and participated in several extra-curricular activities (Peer Counselling, Inter-School Christian Fellowship, Environmental Club, Girl Guides, Tourism Action Club, and Key Club). I served as a junior prefect from grade nine then went on to become a senior prefect in grade 11. I left high school with eight CXC subjects with distinctions in English language and French. Throughout my life, I had always found it necessary to be an active participant in school activities and also maintaining a good average.

A part of my childhood and teenage years had been impacted greatly because my mother had been seriously ill throughout my school years and had to be hospitalised on several occasions. I am the only child for my mother, and this resulted in me having to stay with several people, including teachers, while my mom was in hospital.

I left Quality Academics in June 2007 and went on to work at the Office of the Cabinet in September of that year. This was my first and only permanent job after performing exceptionally well as a holiday worker. In February 2008, the office transitioned and joined the Ministry of Finance and Planning, where I am currently employed. In April of that year, on the weekend before my birthday, I started experiencing several symptoms which resulted in a seizure that eventually led to my hospitalisation.

Before lupus, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, pyelonephritis and rheumatoid arthritis. My situation only worsened as the years went by, and, to date, I am being treated for a number of autoimmune-related diseases.

Hearing of my diagnosis didn’t come as a shocker to me, given that I was diagnosed with other diseases two years before. However, I was still reluctant in sharing that bit of information with my friends and family. My parents, on the other hand, had a bittersweet reaction because after three years of being back and forth, they finally got a concrete answer. It was also very depressing because they knew the effects of lupus and life for me would never be the same. My support system comprises of my parents — Mr Desmond Hall and Miss Rosalind ‘Pat’ Maragh — my extended family (inclusive of my neighbourhood), my friends, church family, work family, school family, and of course my Lupus Sisterhood.

Since my diagnosis, I have been enrolled as a part-time student at the University of the West Indies, pursuing a BSc in sociology and a minor in human resource development. I have been absent in several semesters, and due to this I am yet to complete my studies; but, I press on nonetheless. I am now in my final year. I was granted seven months of study leave to complete my studies.

I take great pleasure in assisting students studying English language, Spanish and French. I am a certified make-up artist and also an event planner. I participate in motivational talks where necessary, and avail myself to opportunities that arise whether in my job, school or church. I also serve as the treasurer for my church’s youth fellowship committee and volunteer my service to just about anyone or capacity needed. For me, I don’t have titles of achievements but I have lived a life that I never knew I could and by the grace of God I will continue.

Life is very challenging and I’m faced with a lot daily, but I have learned to cope with being in pain and discomfort every single day. I have more than 25 symptoms that sometimes act up at the same time. I live a much unexpected life and at any point, as I have experienced many times, anything can happen to me. I have been to ‘death’s door’ and back.

August of this year marked my 10th hospitalisation, where I was being tested for a heart condition. Through it all, I have become a very strong individual who is greatly admired by those around me and it has really strengthened my journey. I have used my story many times to encourage individuals that life is just for living and we are to make each day count as anything can change in the blink of an eye. Throughout the years I have never really feared anything from living with these illnesses — not even death. I consider being baptised as one of my major achievements in life, which was my 23rd birthday present to myself, as I found a deep love for God and committed my life to Him. I am a child of God and I believe in healing and I believe that if I am not to be healed, the Lord would have it that way. Sometimes our healing comes through dying.

My greatest strengths from lupus is being able to encourage the lives of others and even using the many transitions of my body to inspire others. I often say I will write a book entitled From Injury to Inspiration. It is really hard to sum up, on paper, the extent of everything I’ve been through, but all in all, lupus may have a great impact on my mind, bodily changes and even my personality, but I have accepted it and I use it to build me as an individual.


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