My name is Jeremy Paredes, and I am an eczema warrior.
I was born with severe eczema. For as long as I can remember, my body has been covered with red rashes, scabs and dry skin. Kids would ask if my eczema was skin cancer or if it was contagious. Kids would try to stay away from me and not touch me because I didn’t look like the rest of them.
In the middle of my junior year of high school, I hit the lowest of lows. My skin was in an endless cycle of itching, scratching, bleeding and pain. I wasn’t able to go to school or focus on studying, and I couldn’t play soccer because my skin hurt so much.
Throughout my struggle with eczema, I hadn’t let it stop me from what I loved doing. I’ve played soccer since I was three years old. When my family moved to Atlanta, Georgia, I started playing club soccer year-round. My favorite position has always been left-back or left-wing, since my older brother always played those two positions.
But last spring, the pain from my skin became too overwhelming; it was complete agony and misery. This is so hard to talk about. My suffering was so severe, I just wanted to end my life.
A little over a year ago, I was stuck at home on the couch. I was barely moving and my skin hurt so bad I could barely even talk. My skin was cracked and so dry. My mom was worried because my skin was becoming green and colorless. She called my doctor, described my condition, and my doctor told her to call an ambulance; that was the day I was rushed to the E.R. in an ambulance.
At the time, I didn’t know how dire my situation really was. My eczema was so severe, it had put my body into septic shock.
I was later informed that if I wasn’t brought into the ER that night, I would have died.
I was in the hospital’s intensive care unit for six days. In the midst of immense pain and suffering, it’s easy to lose hope of getting better. However, what I learned through my worst experience with eczema is that for every low moment, there’s a high moment waiting in the future.
While I was in the hospital, my close friends, soccer teammates and film classmates came to visit me, bringing food, games and positive vibes that completely changed my mindset.
I wasn’t only pushing through my toughest time for myself; I was determined to get through the worst of my eczema in order to be there for my family, my friends and my teammates. The support of my soccer coach and teammates especially encouraged me to stay positive and remain hopeful. For an athlete, getting good at your respective sport takes patience, practice and determination. I felt very disappointed, sad and angry that I wasn’t able to play soccer due to my eczema. Not being able to play due to my eczema was a huge weight I hated having.
But without my eczema, I wouldn’t be the same person I am today.
I wouldn’t have the same battle scars, compassion for others and positive outlook on my everyday life if it wasn’t for my up and down battle with eczema. The staff and teachers at my high school have been amazing in their support. From my counselor Dr. Higgins, to my teachers and coaches, Coach Bowler and Coach Tim, they have all checked up on me throughout the previous year to make sure I was feeling okay.
Just as eczema never defined me when it was at its worst, it doesn’t define me now.
I’m still the person I’ve always been: one who would not quit, who’s ready to take on the next challenge. I recently began taking a newly approved drug which has been a game changer. I’m now playing soccer again with my club team. I’m back to creating and producing videos every week, filming football games, and I’m back hanging out with my friends.
I graduated from high school, and in the fall I’ll be attending Georgia Tech and joining the Georgia Tech Football Creative Media Team. I’m very grateful to say I am the first high school content creator to be recruited by Georgia Tech Football. I’m super excited to continue my passion for filmmaking, as I will be helping film, edit and produce a range of sports media content for the football team. I’m ready to put the spotlight on our Georgia Tech athletes!
I want to share my story because there’s always going to be a way to overcome any obstacle that you face. I want to thank my parents, Rob and Maisie, and my older brother Josh, for always sticking with me through the highs and lows.
My journey with eczema still continues. But the worst is behind me.
Author Jeremy Paredes is a NEA Ambassador. Learn more and join NEA Ambassadors.
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