PATERSON, N.J. (PIX11) — It was a day long overdue for Valaida Hall, a Paterson City employee who quietly battles lupus.
Hall vividly remembers the day she was diagnosed nearly 10 years ago.
“It was devastating,” said Hall. “You don’t expect to hear anything like that.”
It’s an autoimmune disease that attacks the body’s own tissues and organs, suffered by an estimated 1.5 million Americans and is often overlooked. But on Tuesday, for the first time, Paterson City Hall raised a purple flag for lupus awareness, a sight that brought tears to Hall’s eyes.
“I feel grateful. I feel seen. I feel heard. I feel like people understand. I feel happy,” said Hall. “We are not invisible. This is not an invisible disease any longer. That flag proves that.”
Lupus can also affect children; Elizabeth Santa Cruz is one of New Jersey’s strongest lupus advocates because of her daughter, who was diagnosed at just 9 years old. Now, she’s 16 and doing well.
“At the beginning of her diagnosis, there was a point that she was not able to walk more than 40 minutes. She needed to go to physical therapy before school and after school,” said Santa Cruz. “I want our community to learn what is lupus the symptoms because it can also affect children.”
According to the CDC, lupus symptoms can vary, including fatigue, joint pain, rash and fever. Advocates say it’s important to know the signs and get checked out by your doctor.
“We are strong, we are warriors, and we will fight through this disease,” said Hall.