Lyme Disease from Gardening
Lyme Disease Tick
Our Story With Lyme Disease
Who would have ever thought that time spent in the outdoors and garden I loved so dearly would have caused us all so much pain through Lyme Disease
Much is still not understood about Lyme disease.
Many health professionals are poorly trained to identify and diagnose Lyme disease. It frequently mimics other chronic medical conditions such as Fibromyalgia, Restless Leg Syndrome, autism, neurological/psychological problems (schizophrenia, bipolar disorder), pinched nerve, rheumatoid arthritis, joint pains, digestive problems, multiple sclerosis, Lupus, Alzheimer's Disease, and many other conditions. Lyme Disease is often misdiagnosed or not diagnosed as all.
Testing for Lyme Disease
Lyme Disease is very difficult to diagnose and many doctors are clueless about Lyme Disease. If you have not been checked for Lyme Disease by IgeneX labs with at least a Western Blot, using the Jones' Criteria, you have never been tested for Lyme. Routine labs are comical junk
Diagnosis of Lyme Disease
There are several tests that can be performed to help determine if you have been exposed to B. burgdorferi. But, it is important to remember that Lyme Disease is a clinical diagnosis and no test can absolutely, 100%, definitively determine whether or not you have been exposed to Lyme disease or if Lyme disease is still active.
The tests commonly performed are blood tests called the ELISA and Western Blot. Additional tests may include PCR and culturing of the bacteria, although the latter is difficult to perform due to the highly specific growth requirements of the bacteria. The are faults with all of these tests. The tests can only help support the diagnosis of Lyme disease, but should not be the deciding factor. The diagnosis should rely heavily on the symptoms and possibility of exposure to Lyme Disease from outdoor or gardening activities.
I have always been a person who loves the outdoors and gardening. I have always spent as much time in my back yard and garden as I could. So, when I was in pregnancy with my third child, it was no different. During my first trimester, I spent a considerable amount of time working in my garden at our suburban home near Albany, NY. I don't remember a tick bite. I never had the "bulls-eye" rash in my body. I just remember that one day, waking up one morning with extremely swollen glands in the right side of my neck, believing that I was going to come down with something, and then it all just went away.
A few weeks after that, I had become increasingly fatigued and everything seemed to ache in my body. I dismissed it as just pregnancy symptoms and never gave it a second thought. Then one morning I woke up with what I thought was a pinched nerve in the right side of my back. I was about fourteen weeks pregnant at the time. I had a strange, tingling sensation which extended down my leg. I was told to lie down and rest by my doctor , which I did. The tingling began to progress to all four extremities. The next day I began to lose fine motor function in my hands. I immediately went to the Emergency Room at a local hospital and was admitted to the neurology unit with suspected Guillian-Barre virus infection. During my time there, my symptoms progressed to include numbness in all four extremities, face, and abdomen, tachycardia (fast heart rate), unsteady gait and balance difficulties, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and a plethora of other bizarre symptoms. Around this time, my parent's, (who were also my neighbors), dog was diagnosed with Lyme disease. I was convinced that I had Lyme disease, but none of the physicians felt that my symptoms were consistent with Lyme. Despite my strange symptoms, my tests all came back relatively normal. I did have one positive Lyme ELISA and one equivocal ELISA and a slightly abnormal white blood cell count, but my MRI, lumbar puncture, and nerve conduction studies were all normal.
The day before my discharge, I began to experience terrible head and neck pain and the left side of my body had begun to twitch and move involuntarily. I was still discharged and returned home. A day after my discharge, I was back in the ER. I had begun vomiting and was unable to eat or stand upright due to the pain in my head and neck. I had lost ten pounds in less than a week and the left side of my body was still twitching uncontrollably. They ran more labs at the ER which showed mild hypoglycemia, but were otherwise normal. I was told that there was nothing medically wrong with me and that I should "see someone to evaluate my level of stress". I was discharged from the ER and sent home. Less than 24 hours after that trip to the ER, I found myself sitting in the ER at a different hospital. My symptoms had continued to progress and I was becoming increasingly ill. My OB admitted me to the hospital for hyperemesis. I was given IV fluids and round the clock demerol and phenergan. I was given one dose of IV rocephin because of the possibility of Lyme, but that was not continued. I was stabilized and sent home after a few days.
Things seemed to settle down a bit after that. I was still tired and everything ached and my feet were numb, but the most severe symptoms had dissipated. I was still convinced that I had Lyme disease, but no one would listen to what I had to say. I had an old prescription for amoxicillin, so I began taking it. Within a few days, I began to feel better, but that was short lived. After about a week on the amoxicillin, I began to have severe abdominal pain. Afraid that I was causing more harm than good and frightened for the well-being of my baby, I stopped the medication. The abdominal pain was gone, but my symptoms were back.
Not long after that, I saw an infectious disease doctor for possible Lyme disease. He ran a number of tests for Lyme disease, including additional Lyme tests. My Western Blot was "negative", but showed one reactive IgM band at the 23kd location. (I have since learned that this is considered to be equivocal by many Lyme literate doctors.) The lab also only listed the bands included in the CDC's diagnostic criteria, so I do not know if I had a response to any of the other bands. I did have an elevated ASO titer and was misdiagnosed with acute rheumatic fever and placed on low dose prophylactic penicillin therapy. Life was quiet for a while.
In December of 2004, I delivered my third child; a beautiful and healthy baby boy. Other than being very jaundiced for the first two months of his life, he appeared to be perfectly normal. After his delivery, I went to see a rheumatologist because I was still experiencing significant joint pain. He ran more Lyme tests, which were of course negative. He also told me that there was no way that I had acute rheumatic fever. He informed me that I "had as much muscle tone as someone who had been bedridden" and that I should "lose weight, exercise, and come back to see him in a year." Needless to say, that was the last time I saw that doctor. Since I no longer had the diagnosis of acute rheumatic fever, I discontinued the penicillin.
That June I found out that I was pregnant again. That was the beginning of a terrible turn in my health. I began experiencing severe abdominal pain and diarrhea, tinnitus, major balance difficulties, spontaneous bleeding in my fingers, low B12 levels, headaches, increased joint pain and fatigue, attacks of severe hypoglycemia, syncope, hair loss, strange visual disturbances, joint deformity in my hands, severe "brain fog", forgetfulness and word finding difficulty, and many, many more strange symptoms. I couldn't remember what side of my car the gas tank was on, how to put the words together to say "chocolate milk", and even spaced out when I was driving and forgot where I was or where I was going. I was 27 years old at the time. I was evaluated for possible rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, lupus, and pinched nerve . My tests all came back negative and my symptoms continued to progress. I spent a considerable part of my pregnancy on methylprednisolone (a steroid) and had monthly level two ultrasounds. I had to withdraw from my classes and quit working. I was barely able to take care of my children or myself. It was a terrible time in my life.
In January 2006, my daughter was born, beautiful and healthy. My symptoms never went away and I spent the next few months trying to continue with school at night, studying for the MCAT, and taking care of my children during the day, all while fighting against my body and doctors who refused to listen.
By that summer, I had gotten to the point that I was convinced that I would end up on disability for the rest of my life, or perhaps even worse. I had seen just about every type of specialist that exists to no avail. I finally saw a very kind immunology and allergy physician in Albany. After performing a number of tests, he concluded that I might have hidden Lyme disease and should go see a physician in Boston who specialized in the disease. I attempted to contact the doctor several times, but never received a call back. Desperate, I once again began self medicating with some leftover amoxicillin that I had. The response was nothing short of miraculous. Within a few days, my mind began to clear. But, along with that, the pain in my body began to change. Instead of the intense aching, the pain became "cleaner and sharper" and the pain in my head and neck that I had experienced two years prior in the hospital returned. I was experiencing a Herxheimer reaction, which is a worsening of symptoms caused by the release of toxins by the dying bacteria in the body. I eventually went to see my primary care physician who agreed with my self diagnosis and began prescribing the medication for me. I was finally, after more than two years, diagnosed and being treated for Lyme Disease.
Around this same time, my son began to display alarming developmental delays. He was started in Early Intervention when he was eighteen months old and began speech therapy and special education and later physical therapy. He had global developmental delays and hypotonia (low muscle tone). He developed reflux. He was irritable and would often scream out at night as if he were in pain, but no one could explain why. By the age of two, he could not even say "mama" and had begun to socially withdraw. His therapist would come to the house to work with him and he would lie on the floor and close his eyes. He refused to communicate with them in any way. I came across a study on Columbia's Lyme Research site and began to wonder. The study was looking at the prevalence of a Lyme induced Autism-like syndrome. The children showed developmental delays consistent with Autism symptoms, but when they were treated with antibiotics, they began to get better. Convinced that this was the root of my son's problems, I took him to see a pediatric infectious disease doctor at the local hospital. She informed me that not only did congenital Lyme not exist, but there was no way that I had Lyme disease. We left her office very quickly.
I began researching pediatric Lyme disease further and found Dr. Charles Ray Jones in New Haven, CT. I immediately scheduled an appointment with him. I took my son to see Dr. Jones and he started him on amoxicillin antibiotics. The response was once again, miraculous.
My son went from being completely non-verbal, almost non-testable, and most likely heading towards an Autism diagnosis, to virtually normal. We noticed a change almost immediately. It has only been about three months since he started his antibiotics and he now no longer qualifies for Early Intervention services. His language, which had showed profound delays, is now within normal limits. He smiles and laughs and hugs us. He is just a different child now.
So, this is our story, our truth. I know that there are others out there with similar stories. Until more research is conducted and the disease is better understood, there will be even more who suffer. These past few years have been a powerful learning experience for me. My hope now is to spread the word about the tragedy of Lyme Disease.
We are in the midst of an epidemic caused by a bacteria more sophisticated than our current technology and a disease that most doctors don't understand. I know that there are countless people out there suffering the way that we did; that are told that they are "crazy" or who simply have their symptoms dismissed as nonsense. I cannot be silent about our experience and can only hope than I can alert enough people about this disease so that they may not suffer the way that we did. Please, send this site to everyone you know. Educate yourselves. Ask questions. Don't ever doubt yourself. Don't ever give up for fighting for what you believe. If I had given up or had not had the strength to fight and question everything, my children and I would have faced a very grim fate. I know that we would not be where we are today. So, please, don't ever give up fighting and help me to spread the word about Lyme Disease .
PRINT AND CIRCLE ALL YES ANSWERS to the following Lyme Disease Symptoms ( 20 yes represents a serious potential and Lyme should be included in diagnostic workup )
Symptoms of Lyme Disease
- The Tick Bite (fewer than 50% recall a tick bite or get/see the rash)
- Rash at site of bite
- Rashes on other parts of your body
- Rash basically circular, oval and spreading out (more generalized)
- Raised rash, disappearing and recurring
- Head, Face, Neck
Unexplained hair loss Headache, mild or severe, Seizures Pressure in head, white matter lesions in brain (MRI) Twitching of facial or other muscles Facial paralysis (Bell's Palsy, Horner's syndrome) Tingling of nose, (tip of) tongue, cheek or facial flushing Stiff or painful neck Jaw pain or stiffness Dental problems (unexplained) Sore throat, clearing throat a lot, phlegm ( flem ), hoarseness, runny nose
Double or blurry vision Increased floating spots Pain in eyes, or swelling around eyes Oversensitivity to light Flashing lights/Peripheral waves/phantom images in corner of eyes
Decreased hearing in one or both ears, plugged ears Buzzing in ears Pain in ears, oversensitivity to sounds Ringing in one or both ears
- Digestive and Excretory Systems
Diarrhea Constipation Irritable bladder (trouble starting, stopping) or Interstitial cystitis Upset stomach (nausea or pain) or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)
- Musculoskeletal System
Bone pain, joint pain or swelling, carpal tunnel syndrome Stiffness of joints, back, neck, tennis elbow Muscle pain or cramps, (Fibromyalgia)
- Respiratory and Circulatory Systems
Shortness of breath, can't get full/satisfying breath, cough Chest pain or rib soreness Night sweats or unexplained chills Heart palpitations or extra beats Endocarditis, Heart blockage
- Neurologic System
Tremors or unexplained shaking Burning or stabbing sensations in the body Fatigue, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Weakness, peripheral neuropathy or partial paralysis Pressure in the head Numbness in body, tingling, pinpricks Poor balance, dizziness, difficulty walking Increased motion sickness Lightheadedness, wooziness
- Psychological well-being
Mood swings, irritability, bi-polar disorder Unusual depression Disorientation (getting or feeling lost) Feeling as if you are losing your mind Over-emotional reactions, crying easily Too much sleep, or insomnia Difficulty falling or staying asleep Narcolepsy, sleep apnea Panic attacks, anxiety
- Mental Capability
Memory loss (short or long term) Confusion, difficulty in thinking Difficulty with concentration or reading Going to the wrong place Speech difficulty (slurred or slow) Stammering speech Forgetting how to perform simple tasks
- Reproduction and Sexuality
Loss of sex drive Sexual dysfunction Unexplained menstral pain, irregularity Unexplained breast pain, discharge Testicular or pelvic pain
- General Well-being
Phantom smells Unexplained weight gain, loss Extreme fatigue Swollen glands/lymph nodes Unexplained fevers (high or low grade) Continual infections (sinus, kidney, eye, etc.) Symptoms seem to change, come and go Pain migrates (moves) to different body parts Early on, experienced a "flu-like" illness, after which you have not since felt well. Low body temperature Allergies/Chemical sensitivities Increased effect from alcohol and possible worse hangover