Laughter is good medicine, but lupus is no joke. Still, I laugh hard and smile when lupus is used as the punchline in a TV comedy. I will never forget and still chuckle at the rerun of "Seinfeld" when George Constanza says "Lupus? Is it Lupus?" Everyone knows that "House" used lupus as a possible diagnosis many times; it was finally lupus in Episode 408, aptly titled "You Don't Want to Know". Lupus was still used on the show and I am grateful because the show raised awareness. Lupus is more common than cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, leukemia and cerebral palsy, but suffers more than any of these diseases from lack of awareness. "Lupus Awareness is Fun!" so let's begin...
I would submit an idea to Shonda Rhimes to do an episode, or even better a story arc, featuring characters with lupus. The question would be which show--after all, Shonda Rhimes is Executive Producer of three current ABC dramas. The obvious choice would be to ask her to include lupus on "Grey's Anatomy". While I know that "Grey's" has "used lupus" previously, I would suggest a few storyline options. One idea has Dr. Christina Yang meeting a cardiac patient, a young black woman whose positive attitude and lupus diagnosis has encouraged her to create and participate actively in an online community (support group) of lupus patients. When her online friends travel across the country to have an IRL "MeetUp for Amanda" (shameless plea for the lupus advocate/patient/activist to be named after me!), Christina's usually stoic demeanor is softened and she realizes that healing the heart can be done with more than a scalpel. Or Bailey could have a lupus patient whose mother is not the "health proxy", as the patient has decided to elect a non-family member to make decisions in the event that she cannot. The issue is that currently the patient is making EOL and QOL life choices that the parent and family disagree with and the lupus patient just wants to know that her wishes will be fulfilled if and when the time comes. Another idea for "using lupus" could be that Meredith has a lupus patient who was on a trip to Seattle when the stress of travelling caused the patient to "flare" and there is difficulty attempting to get her patient records--it is a long holiday weekend or legal holiday. When the patient hears of this, she pulls out her tablet and has her complete EMRs and other health apps online that have monitored her medications and lab results for the last two years. All of the resources and information are available to Meredith who without this information would have done a "invasive and unnecessary" procedure. Instead, after IV fluids and rest,the patient is back to normal; well, normal for a lupus patient on vacation in Seattle who spent half her trip in the ER of Seattle Grace!
I had always hoped that Shonda's soon-to-be canceled show "Private Practice" would have had a storyline on the benefits of alternative therapies used to help control and manage the chronic pain associated with lupus (and other conditions). It would be an educational and entertaining way to raise lupus awareness. The "Private Practice" episode (or story arc) would have demonstrated the benefits of combining acupuncture, "talk therapy" and the use of herbal supplements to control and manage the pain in a patient suffering from mild lupus symptoms This would have provided a new resource for those that suffer needlessly because their Health Care Provider is unaware of how these treatments can relieve pain and help improve the Quality of Life in patients lives. Showing how the alternative therapies work on an individual patient on a single episode (or storyline) would have raised awareness for alternative methods of controlling chronic pain.
However, I would love it if Shonda found a way to incorporate lupus into my new favorite drama, Scandal. As a lupus patient/advocate/activist and "Warrior", I enjoy being a "Gladiator" (what "Scandal" fans call themselves) and would find incredible joy and satisfaction if Shonda and the team of Scandal writers worked "lupus" into the storyline. One suggestion I would offer them is to "use lupus" as a way for a member of Congress who is caught "having an affair" with a prominent DC physician by a TMZ-like journalist. Perhaps the journalist who captured the compromising photos in the hospital conference room has a young daughter who suffers from lupus and Olivia Pope comes to the rescue, telling the slimy paparazzo that both the Congressperson and physician will do more to help the future of lupus research if their reputations are not hurt by the scandal that releasing those photos would cause. The photographer needs the money to pay for his daughter's rising medical bills and Olivia Pope and her team manage to have the physician and the Congressperson create a foundation for lupus patients who cannot pay for treatment. The Congress member joins and supports the Congressional Lupus Caucus. If dreams could come true... there is a PSA at the end of the "Scandal" episode, asking all members of Congress to join the Congressional Lupus Caucus and all Gladiators to join the fight to cure lupus by supporting the Alliance for Lupus Research.
Please join me and tweet @ShondaRhimes ask her to "use lupus!" Please tweet @ScandalWriters and ask them to pitch and "use lupus!" Whether or not, @ShondaRhimes and the @ScandalWriters "use lupus", you can ask your member of Congress to join the Congressional Lupus Caucus.
written for Day 24 of WEGO Health's National Health Blog Post Month.