Nearly two decades ago, Lovette Russell, a senior consultant with Coxe Curry & Associates, realized her fingertips burned with pain whenever they touched something cold, and her thick, curly hair had begun shedding. At first, she brushed off these symptoms—until she felt unusually weak and short of breath after a routine workout. Following three years of medical appointments, she was finally diagnosed by the Mayo Clinic with scleroderma, a rare and often fatal autoimmune disease affecting connective tissue, mainly seen in women.
Though the diagnosis was far from good news, Russell isn’t the type to wallow. The marathon runner and triathlon competitor was determined to face her illness with courage and tenacity, flying quarterly to see one of the best scleroderma doctors in the country at Johns Hopkins and not crumbling when he told her she would need new lungs in 10 years. Russell spent eight years on oxygen, taking the tanks with her whenever she left her house. When the time came for her lung transplant in California, she moved in with a cousin and bravely awaited surgery; the match took almost 18 months. Today, Russell’s new lungs could still be attacked by scleroderma, but this only fuels her resolve to live life to the fullest and give back to the community—and even compete in races.
“I felt like my clock was ticking, and I needed to jump in feet-first to do all I can in my community,” she says. Passionate about philanthropy, Russell embraces her role at the consulting firm helping nonprofits fundraise. “I’m blessed to know my superpower and use it,” she says. “I connect people with their own passions and move them to become community advocates and philanthropists.”
Russell, who is a Spelman College trustee, is dedicated to her philanthropic endeavors and continues to volunteer with multiple organizations, particularly those pertaining to health and children. She recently joined Grady Hospital’s Health Equity Diversity Council and was especially honored in 2016 when Children’s Hughes Spalding Hospital unveiled the Lovette Twyman Russell Emergency Department.
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She doesn’t let her diagnosis stop her from living life to the fullest and giving back.
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