The Georgia Chapter of the Lupus Foundation of America has been so impressed with the work done here by Detra Holloway and others that staff members have decided to lend a big hand in growing the annual Columbus walk.
The organization's signature event in Atlanta, the Walk to End Lupus Now, is one of the largest for Lupus in the country and featured more than 9,000 walkers this year.
Holloway, the Columbus walk's founder and chair, said the local event has grown in four years from about 20 participants, primarily her family and friends, to approximately 300.
Maria Myler, president and CEO of the Georgia Chapter, said support will be given in finding local people whose lives have been touched by Lupus.
Myler and others from Atlanta will in town Thursday for a 2015 Columbus Walk Committee meeting. It will be 6-8 p.m. at the Columbus Public Library on Macon Road. The goal is to form a strong local committee to promote and grow the local event with support from the Atlanta office in fundraising and promotional materials, team building and logistical planning. Myler said help will include finding corporate sponsors, which is not easy to do even in Atlanta.
"We are going to do some brainstorming," Holloway said.
Anyone interested in finding out more about the walk or about lupus may attend.
Myler said the next walk in Atlanta is scheduled for May and the next Columbus walk in April.
Myler praised Holloway who said she wants to bring local lupus awareness from a whisper to a shout.
"Detra Holloway is a true treasure," Myler said. "She is an amazing lady."
The Lupus Foundation of America says there are about 55,000 people with Lupus in Georgia.
It is a chronic, autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body. With lupus, something goes wrong with the immune system, the part of the body that fights off viruses, bacteria and germs.
Normally, the immune system produces antibodies that protect the body. But with Lupus, the immune system can't tell the difference between invaders and healthy tissue and creates autoantibodies that attack and destroy healthy tissue. The autoantibodies cause inflammation, pain and damage to the body. One in four people with lupus has major organ damage and one in five is on disability.
It is a disease of flares and remissions.
A person's symptoms may include extreme fatigue, painful or swollen joints, fever, anemia, swelling in feet, legs and hands, chest pain, sensitivity to sunlight, abnormal blood clotting and hair loss. Lupus may result in kidney or heart disease.
Holloway, 43, works at TSYS and is the married mother of two daughters. Holloway said she was diagnosed in 2009. There was swelling in her legs and her physician suggested there could be a kidney problem. Tests showed excessive protein in her kidneys and that led to the lupus diagnosis.
She said a lot of doctors don't suspect lupus as being the cause for a problem.
Her symptoms include fatigue, joint pain and some chest palpitations. She is sensitive to sunlight and tries to avoid it as much as possible. "Sometimes, I feel like a vampire," she said.
Holloway leads a monthly support group at the library, but it usually has no more than five people attending and she knows there are many more people with lupus in the local area.
"You don't hear much about it, but it is a serious illness," Holloway said.