By Kristin Boza
Breann Carroll founded the Middle Bee Foundation for Lupus in 2018 in memory of her sister, Brandi, who died from the chronic illness. What began as a Facebook support group eventually turned into an official non-profit organization in 2021. Now, Carroll and her neighborhood-based organization can assist individuals and families affected by lupus and bring awareness of the devastating, chronic condition to others through services, events, and advocacy work.
Lupus is a chronic disease affecting both men and women, some as early as 10 years old. It is an autoimmune disease in which a person’s immune system attacks their own tissues and organs, which can also cause inflammation. There is no known cure for lupus, which Carroll says makes it extremely difficult for people to live with from a mental health perspective.
Brandi Carroll was diagnosed with SLE, or systemic erythematosus lupus, at the age of 15.
“It is extremely difficult to get an accurate lupus diagnosis because it mimics so many other diseases,” Carroll said. “Brandi’s lupus attacked all of the organs in her body, and at the age of 22 her body just couldn’t handle all of the medications and chemotherapy sessions. She’d take 25 to 30 pills a day and have multiple doctor’s appointments in one month; in one month she had 25 appointments. How can any person live a normal life when having to go to so many appointments?”
Carroll explains that Brandi couldn’t get a job that was willing to approve so many days off each month. Brandi was unable to finish school, and her relationship with her boyfriend didn’t last.
“She couldn’t get approved for disability right away. With lupus, you can either live a normal life span with the disease, or sadly you can die from it. My sister was already in stage 4 lupus when she was diagnosed. I encourage everyone to get tested and talk to your doctors about it.”
“At The Middle Bee Foundation, we envision a life with ease for all people affected by lupus disease through support, education, and advocacy services,” Carroll said. “We are community-oriented and provide personalized resources for the Chicago lupus community.”
The Foundation is able to provide wellness care packages, financial assistance for living expenses, and monthly support group meetings to those affected by lupus. It also offers volunteer opportunities, community outreach, free group fitness classes, an annual awareness walk, and educational information and webinars provided by volunteer doctors and social workers.
Carroll says she noticed a great need for resources, services, information, and assistance in the lupus community. “I advocate for the people I love while also helping spread awareness about the disease. I receive tons of support from my family and friends every year,” Carroll said.
Growing up, Carroll was an avid volunteer and overall helpful and caring person. After graduating with a degree in business and working in the healthcare field as a sterile processing technician, Carroll realized she had the necessary skills to make the Middle Bee Foundation successful.
“My ultimate goal is to create more partnerships and collaborations within multiple Chicago communities and start up transportation services for lupus patients,” Carroll said. “We envision a life with ease for all people affected by lupus through support, education, and advocacy services.”
Those in financial need can apply for the Brandi’s Lupus Relief Grant, which can be used to pay rent/mortgage, utilities, transportation, medical expenses, food, and other essential living expenses. All funds raised through the Foundation go to support this grant.
To learn more about lupus, go to TheMiddleBeeFoundation.org and look under the “lupus” tab. Follow them @MiddleBee17 on Facebook and Instagram. The next monthly support group meeting is Sat., Oct. 22, 1 p.m. via Zoom; anyone interested can reach out to Breann Carroll at email@example.com. Join the Foundation for a free cycle class on Sat., Oct. 29 at 1 p.m.; registration required and open on their website.