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Teens Connect at New Support Groups

This summer has been a time of networking, learning and sharing for teens and their parents who took part in our new support group series from July 1 to August 12 at the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles (CHLA).

“The support group has been incredibly helpful during this difficult time in our lives. It has helped my daughter Ebony a lot. Talking to the other participants in the group has helped her come out of her shell and start to feel happy again. It’s been a blessing.” – Gumercinda Pelayo, mother of 16-year-old Ebony Castillo

Pediatric Rheumatologist Suhas Radhakrishna, MD, talked with the teens about the disease, and encouraged an exchange of tips and strategies for coping with it. “With the help of Lupus LA, our teen support group has had a tremendous impact on our patients,” he explained. “They face a myriad of challenges from the physical battle with the disease to the emotional battle of living with a chronic illness. It has been so rewarding to see tears of isolation and depression replaced by laughter, resolve, and self-confidence.”

Meanwhile, parents had the opportunity to ask questions from a panel of speakers including Dr. Andreas Reiff, head of rheumatology at CHLA, and Shammeer J. Dawson, who was recently named “Miss Black Los Angeles” while managing her lupus, full graduate school course load and volunteer work with the Center for Lupus Care.

Another highlight was when three pairs of parents with now-grown children (including Shammeer) in their 20s gave audience members immense hope for the possibilities of a “normal” future for their own children as they heard about these families’ struggles and successes. Two are now enrolled in college, and the third is in graduate school!

“It is incredibly important for both children, teen, and parents to gain not only an understanding of this disease and it's treatments but also to validate and normalize their thoughts and feelings.” – Sandra Watcher, RN in CHLA’s rheumatology division.

Lupus LA is building on the success of this series with another one this fall, for kids with lupus between the ages of 10 and 14. Please contact Elyse Reyes at 310-657-5667 or ereyes@lupusla.org for info!

Teen Group participants' self portraits, painted during "self esteem week."
Teen Group participants’ self portraits, painted during “self esteem week.”