Tina Wiseman sat in her wheelchair at the base of her driveway, Kleenexes in hand and tears in her eyes.
As one motorcycle and vehicle after another went by, with American flags billowing from the back of bikes or passengers decked out in purple—the color of lupus awareness—Wiseman found herself so overcome with emotion that she couldn’t make out all the faces of those she saw.
“It was incredible. I couldn’t stop crying and I’m so glad that they went up to the cul-de-sac and turned around so I could see more faces on the opposite side,” she said. “They didn’t have to do that and take time out of their weekend, their summer, their plans. That just shows me how fortunate I am to have them all in my life. They’re just amazing people.”
Friends of Wiseman, her husband, Gary, and daughter, Brittany, say the same about her.
“She’s just a very kind and selfless person,” said Pam Mills, a friend who helped organize the recent drive-by for no other reason but to show support for the family.
In better days, the Wisemans, who live in Spotsylvania County, would have been part of the motorcycle ride. Whenever there was a need in the community, “they were the first ones to step up and help out with anything,” Mills said.
That’s why she felt the need to rally the troops for Tina Wiseman, who’s 48, and has been battling various disorders most of her life. In 2004, she also was diagnosed with lupus, a chronic condition that can cause inflammation—and pain—in any part of the body. Instead of fighting infection, the immune system of a person with lupus attacks healthy tissue in the skin, joints and internal organs such as the heart and kidneys.
“It has really kicked this girl’s butt,” said Kristin Nash, another friend and local radio personality. “It’s heartbreaking.”
The same group of friends who offered drive-by support on June 27 also has donated about $10,000 over the years in Tina Wiseman’s name to the Lupus Foundation of America, which estimates that at least 1.5 million people in the United States suffer with some form of the disease.
Tina Wiseman hasn’t wanted any money—or attention—for herself.
“She doesn’t want any tears, she doesn’t want sympathy, she just wants a cure, she wants awareness and she wants everybody to know how debilitating this is,” Mills said, adding the Wisemans “never asked for any financial help, nothing at all.”
Tina Wiseman didn’t want to be singled out, made to look like she was the only one in pain.
“There’s millions of sufferers, not just me,” she said. “It’s just important to me to get more awareness out with autoimmune diseases, people suffer so terribly with pain and fatigue, and lupus is one of the biggest diseases and strongest ones out there.”
She believes it’s often the underlying cause of deaths, which are recorded as heart attacks or kidney failure.
Tina Wiseman has had severe fatigue, joint pain and stomach issues since she was a child and was diagnosed with her first autoimmune problem when she was 8. But she says the worst symptoms have come from the lupus. It causes a nonstop burning sensation in her nerves as well as aches in her joints that feel like she’s being stabbed with an ice pick.
Another condition causes her legs to swell and turn red and purple. Tina Wiseman uses a cane to get around in the house and a wheelchair “only when I have to,” she said.
Even though she’s fought diseases most of her life, her health has declined dramatically in the last three years.
“Being away from everybody has really been emotionally hard on me,” she said. “Being in my home and my room most of this time, looking at these four walls is very hard. If it wasn’t for this group and the support they have given me, I wouldn’t be able to handle it as well as I have. I am one of the very blessed ones that I have my family and I have them. Support is so very important for people with this disease and other diseases as well.”
Gary Wiseman, who owns Platinum Auto World in Spotsylvania, said the same in an email. He had asked Mills to speak on his behalf about other aspects of his wife’s situation because it’s so emotional for him.
“The event was unbelievable, I can’t even begin to thank everyone enough,” he said. “We have done a lot of rides ourselves and this was one of the biggest I have seen.”
Nash said she wasn’t surprised by the turnout for her friend.
“Tina is so loved and we need to do something to stop this illness. Research, awareness, donations to lupus awareness,” she said. “Anything to help find a cure for this silent disease.”
Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425