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South African Teen Increases Awareness Around Lupus

RM Lupus

Courteney Raeburn, 13 years of age, has been living with lupus for about five years now. The condition is a chronic inflammatory disease where a person’s immune system attacks healthy tissues and cells.

With May being Lupus Awareness Month, News 24 revealed that the teen is looking to shine a light on the illness to help avoid misdiagnosis; so that others can prevent the pain she went through during the time prior to learning she had lupus.

At the age of eight, Courteney’s parents knew something was wrong when their little girl was having constant and severe headaches. They sought medical attention; however, the Courteney was misdiagnosed repeatedly and treated incorrectly for a variety of other ailments by doctors. When November 2013 hit, Courteney found herself being treated for anaemia. She was so tired at that point, she’d wake up in the morning, walk to the house’s lounge, and then fall asleep again. It was around Christmas of that year when Courtney was finally (correctly) diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). By that point in time, Courteney was weak, pale, and a mere 14 kg.

Her journey around raising awareness for lupus began in 2016 when her school gave her the “okay” to do a presentation on the condition in the library to shed a spotlight on SLE within the Epworth community she lived in. From there, the young girl has become quite passionate about her story getting out there so that parents can hear about the warning signs of lupus and prevent all the misdiagnosis experiences she and her family went through. Courteney has also posted awareness videos on the web, talking about what lupus signs to look out for, how the disease works, and ways to manage the illness. As she states, the illness is common; however, it can be tricky to diagnose. She also offers advice to those who live with loved ones that have lupus.

Courteney’s parents describe their daughter as a happy young girl who doesn’t ask for much, is passionate about animals, and loves visiting animal sanctuaries and game parks. She tries to save regularly and donates her own money to FreeMe and SPCA. She has also adopted an African Wildcat by the name of Apple from the Emdoneni Cat Rehab Center, for life. 

Courteney has plans to continue to shed light on lupus as she grows into an adult; however, in terms of profession, she’d like to be a veterinarian. 

Over 90 percent of those with lupus are females, where many are diagnosed between 15-44 years of age.