By Liana Jacob
MEET THE woman who experienced severe HEADACHES just weeks before her wedding and was eventually left unable to WALK or TALK after a delayed LUPUS diagnosis – but despite having to reschedule her honeymoon to Disneyland THREE TIMES is finally living out her dream trip.
Just six weeks before her wedding, former fashion consultant, April Mouton (31) from California, USA, began having bad headaches that she initially passed off as stress and didn’t think much of it. So, in March 2016, she got married to her now husband, account manager, Shane (36).
Her headaches got progressively worse, so she ended up quitting her job, working out and running and was hospitalised four days after they got married. One day she woke up and her arms felt weak and she lost the ability to talk and walk.
She was then transferred to a different hospital and after a year and a half of trying to find an answer to what was happening and being accused by some doctors of faking her symptoms, April was officially diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), a long-term condition causing inflammation to the joints, skin and other organs.
She became wheelchair bound and all of her hair fell out within the space of a week. She attended physical therapy sessions three times a week to learn to walk again and by the time of her diagnosis she learned how to talk again.
For years she was on 25 different medications to alleviate her symptoms, including high doses of steroids for two years. She has recently reduced them to 15; she gives herself an injection of chemotherapy once a week and she has medicines for her heart, bladder, brain, skin and kidneys. Over time she has gained 5st 10Ib, going from 7st 7Ibs and UK size four to 13st 3Ibs and a UK size 16.
The one event that was keeping her going was her planned trip to Disneyland for her honeymoon and after having to delay it three times due to her condition getting worse and being in and out of hospital, April and Shane both achieved their dream honeymoon in October 2018.
April has since learned to manage her symptoms by getting sufficient rest prior to any events or nights out with friends or family and wearing sunscreen, a hat and an umbrella, whenever she is exposed to the sun.
“It was only six weeks before the wedding, when I started experiencing bad headaches. I thought it was stress,” April said.
“I was eating Tylenol like crazy. Even on my wedding day, I remember thinking ‘just get through the wedding, brain. Please don’t be in too much pain’. At the time, I wasn’t thinking much of it.
“I was hospitalised four days after we got married, because the headaches got so bad. I couldn’t stand it; I had to quit working, I quit running and working out.
“I couldn’t function with that kind of brain pain. Then July 6 I woke up and my arms felt very weak. It took everything in me to get myself home.
“I went to the hospital, where I was transferred to another hospital and by the next day, I lost all the use in my legs. I could barely take one stupid step. I was then transferred to a third and a fourth hospital.
“On July 2, 2016 I stopped walking completely, and I was in a wheelchair for eight months. I woke up once more and my arms felt weak.
“I went about my day and left my house and by that afternoon my arms were so tired that I had to prop my arms up by my legs to drive.
“I had to learn to walk again; I went to physical therapy three times a week. I also swam once a week. It took eight whole months, and a whole lot of falls, but damn it I was going to walk again if it was the last thing I did.
“It took a year and a half to figure out that it was the Lupus causing neurological issues. By the time it was figured out, I was already talking again.
“There is no cure for Lupus yet. Also, there are no two treatment plans that are exactly the same. Lupus can come out in various ways.
“I have heard multiple doctors say they’ve never seen it do what it has done to my skin. How my SLE is treated now is through a cocktail of medications.
“I have been on over thirty different prescription medications. For a long time, I was on twenty-five. Now I am on fifteen and they’ve ruined it.”
Despite the pain and sudden lifestyle change she has experienced; April says that it was better for her to know what was going on.
“When I got my diagnosis, I was just happy that there was a name to it. I knew something was wrong. So, to me the name meant treatment,” she said.
“Once we knew what was wrong, it was one step closer to starting the process to fixing it. That has always been the goal; diagnose and treat.
“Since I got sick right after we got married, we were unable to go on our honeymoon. I was actually in the hospital and not walking for the first week, the week we were supposed to be at Disney for our honeymoon.
“Once I learned to walk again, I planned our dream trip. The week we were supposed to go, I ended up in the hospital; All of a sudden, I was unable to use the restroom.
“It turns out, the Lupus attacked my bladder, and it stopped working. I underwent two surgeries and spent two weeks in the hospital. Two months later, we took a limo to the airport, and flew to Disney.
“I hadn’t been feeling well, so the week before our trip I had kept telling all my doctors. Before we even got to the Disney hotel my doctor called me; I had an infection.
“It went into my blood; I was septic and had to rush to the hospital. I spent twenty days at the hospital right by Disneyland fighting for my life. We had to change our flights three times.
“Once I flew home, I was only out of the hospital for one day before I was in for another week. I spent one-hundred-and-sixty days in hospital between 2017-2018; we decided to save our Disney trip for the third time and we finally went in October 2018.
“Even though I had to use a wheelchair, it was the best time of my life. I was so happy to be there. Disneyland literally is my favourite place in the entire world.
“Lupus brings challenges every day, and you never know what they will be. All I know is that I will tackle them with a smile. I just take them as they come.
“My family and friends have been especially happy lately; everything has kind of stabled out and I’ve been able to walk the dogs every evening.
“I’ve lost thirty pounds so that’s huge; I eat mostly vegan food right now. There is an autoimmune protocol diet that is low inflammation. I have been doing it a really long time.
“Shane has helped me more than he knows. He is way more logical than I am; I am the emotional one, while he stays strong.
“He stepped up immediately to support the family, as I am unable to work. He always makes me feel stable. Never guilty. He has always shown his love. I really couldn’t ask for more support.”