For those of you that don’t know my background, I started as a nurse aide on OB/GYN unit at Washington Regional Medical Center In 2000. As a very young child I always wanted to be a plastic surgeon. I joined the healthcare academy in high school and that’s how I got involved in nursing. One of my very first mentors professionally was a nurse who taught at my high school. She helped me get my CNA license. I then worked through college at an outpatient surgery center and immediately after graduating became an ICU nurse. I worked as an ICU nurse from California to Florida. I only cared for people who did not know if they would live or die that day. I recovered open heart surgery patients and neurology patients. I took care of people on life support after traumatic injuries. Some of the medications I gave people would be keeping them alive. If I made a mistake it could literally kill someone. I loved that work and I was successful in that field. When I graduated with my Nurse Practitioner license I was offered jobs by neurosurgeons, cardiologist, cardiovascular surgeons, emergency rooms and hospitalists. All doctors who had learned to trust me and had seen my skill set over the years. So when I took a job in Dermatology you can imagine what some of my colleagues said. “Why are you going to waste all your knowledge in Dermatology?” Or “Have fun popping zits all day” and maybe the most annoying “You will be so bored there”. But I knew in my heart the reasons I wanted to be in Dermatology with Dr. Brad and Dr. Sandy as my mentors (I had only met Honey briefly at that time but she has become one of my biggest supporters and mentors me still daily). I knew that I wouldn’t have to wonder if those people who moved out of ICU ever lived a fulfilled life. I knew that I wouldn’t be shocking hearts into normal rythym but that I would be changing lives. I knew that I would be working for a company that cared about their patients more than their numbers. I knew that I would be valued as a provider. I knew that I would get to know my patients and learn what was important to them and be able to help them reach their skin health goals. I made the right decision. I have never looked back. I am blessed. One of my beautiful patients wrote something to talk about how Johnson Dermatology and the medication dupilimab for atopic dermatitis has changed her life. Here is her story. I hope you read it and all understand how Dermatology saves lives.
By the time I was 2 weeks old my parents started to notice my skin was a little different. They never imagined this would be the beginning of a very long road.
It started with patches and cracks , from there it began to get infected. After months of trying to find therapies that healed my skin I was officially diagnosed with Atopic Dermatitis ( Eczema). Mine was considered severe, so I was started on steroids very young. At that time that really was the only treatment they could offer. Due to my severe case I was on a strong steroid called prednisone 2 to 3 times a month after I was a year old. This therapy was after trying betamethosone and topical steroids. I was also kept on antibiotics to help keep the infection down. I had a very strict regimen of 20 minute baths to soak my skin . I would then have to be covered from head to toe in steroid ointments and creams. By morning my skin would be dry so we would have to repeat this. This has been my life since I was born. Not only was this emotional for me but for my parents, sister, and family. These treatments were so painful because my skin was open. My parents told me as I got older I used to scream everytime we had to apply medicine. I remember it felt like my body was being lit on fire. I was prescriped atarax and benadryl to help me sleep and comfort the pain . This treatment did end up being unsuccessful because it caused night tears. I continue to use benadryl as a treatment when needed for itching .
As I got older I started to really realize how different I was . No one else had to pay attention to their skin like I did. No one my age felt pain like I did or had to have help from my parents in the morning opening their arms or legs. This was due to pus from my skin being cracked open and scabbing over. The creases in my arms and legs behind my knees would stick together. These were daily struggles for me that no one could sympathize with . There were times I felt very isolated and had to hide my skin from embarrassment. Due to my eczema being so severe I also developed severe Asthma. This led to more medication and years of trying to find inhalers that controlled it. I honestly felt like I was always sick and missed out on so much as a kid .
After years of being made fun of and constantly being asked “ what’s wrong with your skin?” I started to accept myself and realized this is a strength , not a weakness. I started to take real interest in my disease instead of despising it. I quit wearing hoodies to hide it and started being okay with explaining what I have. I started to explain to people that my disease does not make me ugly and that yes it hurts but I will not let it get the best of me .
Eczema not only affects your skin and body physically it is an emotional disease. It has caused me alot of anxiety especially with bad flare ups. It has made me feel alone. It made me worry no one would ever want to hold my hand or accept that my body was covered in this rash. There has been alot more to my eczema than I ever thought imagineable .
I was diagnosed with an allergy to the cold weather. I have grown up with severe allergies specifically pollens and grasses, dust and animals. I also had food allergies to eggs and peanuts. I was prescriped an Epi-Pen for my peanut allergy because of anaphylaxis . needless to say I was no stranger to allergies. But…. this was definitely new to me. How could you be allergic to the weather? Well I am . The cold really started to affect me. My legs were covered in so many hives you could see them through my clothing . My hands swelled so bad I could not make a fist. My joints started to be affected as well . These were new symptoms to my eczema I had never experienced. After moving to New York with my husband I started to experience severe joint pain . My hands started to curl up to the point I could not use them . This was the most difficult experience I ever had with my eczema. I never had to deal with this much pain.I went through multiple tests from rheumatology and dermatology I kept getting the same answer, “we have never seen this with eczema”. It was really discouraging and exhausting. I’m a very athletic person. I am optimistic. I was in school to become a nurse and help others. This was very discouraging . It was hindering my career, my life . For once my skin was stopping me. I continued to be told that it was environmentally induced. This gave me hope that when we moved back to Arkansas my skin would get better. I would stop having the severe joint pain . We did eventually move home and my skin did not get better. This was probably the lowest point for me. I didnt know how I was going to continue my life like this . I was in so much pain. I am a nurse so it was affecting me at work as well not being able to use my hands. I could barely walk due to my severe bone pain in my feet and ankles. I finally decided to start a medication called cyclosporine in hopes this would help. This and prednisone did help for about a month . After that month I started to get severe infections. It was one after another for about the next 6 months . I finally decided I could not take the cyclosporine . I was told there were no other treatments for me at that point. I was truly so sad. My skin was at its worst and there was no hope. I had so many cracks in each knuckle my gloves at work were inbedded every time I tried to take them off. My back was so raw my scrubs stuck to it every time I got up. I had a severe staff infection on my scalp . I never could have imagined I would be this bad.
I finally got a glimpse of hope soon after all of this . I was told there was a new drug being approved called Dupilumab . It was an injection for people suffering from eczema and asthma. In trials people had experienced great success. I was so happy and could not wait to try this medication. I ended up being apart of a clinical trial for this through Johnson Dermatology . I have always wanted to use my Eczema to help others with research and I was finally getting a chance to do that. After just a month my skin started to improve with Dupilumab. This meant so much more to me than just my skin looking better. This treatment and the support I received from Johnson Dermatology gave me quality of life back I had been hoping for. This injection gave me the hopes that I could have a successful pregnancy in the future. This treatment was and is a true blessing .
If I can say one thing about my eczema its that it is a gift. It has taught me so much and continues to teach me about my self and others. It has given me the strength I need to be a compassionate daughter, sister, wife, and nurse . When people ask me now “ what’s wrong with your skin?” I proudly say I have eczema. I am not ashamed. Its something I have to live with every second of every day. I still have a strict regimen every night and every morning. Our skin is our largest organ. Most people do not even think about it daily. My skin is different, it is dry, scaly and cracked . I have to really take care of it but it makes me who I am . I have learned I am not alone, I am not isolated, I am not ugly . I am strong. I am a person, beautiful inside and out.
Thank you so much for this inspirational story from our JD patient. I thank God that I was a patient in that clinic that day and she was my nurse. As soon as we met, I knew she was a perfect candidate for the clinical trial. This is how Dermatology saves lives. If you or someone you know is interested in participating in a clinical trial then e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Stay Skintastic and don’t let anyone talk you out of your dreams or tell you that what your choices and missions are in life are less than theirs. Always go change lives the way you know you should. Nina