|Lyme Disease Changed My Life
Don't Let It Change Yours
By Cheryl Emery
Because of the devastating effect Lyme disease has had on my life, some days I'm hesitant to even go outside.
Living in Calvert County for the past 15 years, I have worked hard, actively investing my time and energy in the kids of our area. I am a licensed child care provider, I help run the Beach Buccaneers with my husband, Mike, and I was appointed by the governor to serve on the Citizens Review Board for Children. I also give as much time as possible to the Crusade for Children, Friday Night Live and the Boys & Girls Club of Calvert - all while raising six kids.
My activity level slowed down significantly last year. First came extreme fatigue, tingling in my hands and memory problems. I then developed a rash on the back of my knee, which was professionally treated as a skin infection. The rash slowly cleared up, but other symptoms became more pronounced.
Then my face began to tingle. Soon paralysis set in. I was diagnosed first with Bell's Palsy, then with Lyme meningitis (meningitis in this case means the inflammation of the membranes surrounding the spinal column and brain). I was placed on a 28-day regimen of intravenous antibiotics.
And that was just the beginning.
In less than a year, I have had 22 doctors' office visits, one urgent care visit and one emergency room visit. I have had two spinal taps, one EKG, one MRI brain scan and over 50 lab tests. I have taken more than 25 different drugs of varying strengths.
Except for a short period in February, I have continued to run a low-grade fever almost every day. Though greatly improved, I still have aches and pains, fatigue, memory struggles, colds, ear infections, hoarseness, poor balance, sleeping problems, face/eye twitches, thinking process "sluggishness," lower concentration level, moods, neck stiffness/cracking, eyesight problems and weight gain. Every day to reach this "level of competence," I take 15 pills.
During this year, my family has had to assist me with everyday tasks. People tell me 'You look fine, you work diligently, you accomplish much.' Yet I must fight for my old life every day. I have to remember that an extra effort may be the kicker that makes me feel like this disease is progressing rather than regressing.
I am not sharing all of this information with you to whine but to make you aware of the seriousness of Lyme disease.
Lyme season is here, and we all live in a high-risk area.
The confirmed cases of Lyme are steadily and alarmingly increasing each year. Confirmed Lyme cases in Anne Arundel County increased 333 percent in 1999. In Calvert County, confirmed cases increased 200 percent in 1999. Throughout Maryland, confirmed cases increased 40 percent in 1999.
Those statistics do not show unconfirmed, unreported Lyme cases.
Please be careful this Lyme season. An infected deer tick may be outside waiting for you, or it may be brought into your home by one of your pets. Please check yourself, your children, your family (especially the elderly) and your pets for ticks. And remember, these ticks are difficult to see.
If that tiny 'freckle' does turn out to have legs, remove the deer tick carefully so that its 'belly' is not squeezed into the blood system. You won't be contaminated by removing the tick; it usually takes at least 24 hours for an infected tick to transmit the Lyme bacteria.
Seek Lyme-educated medical attention immediately if symptoms begin. Every lost day can add more seriousness to the long-term ramifications of this disease. If caught early, Lyme disease is curable - with few, if any complications.
Please take Lyme disease seriously: It could change your life, your family's life and the lives of many others in your community.
Emery wrote about her early experience with Lyme disease last year in Bay Weekly [Vol. VII No. 27 July 8-14, 1999.] in "First Person: From Dynamo to Down and Out".
Reach Emery at [email protected]. Learn more about Lyme disease at www.cdc.gov.