Tuesday, September 28, 2010

23 Doctors & 23 Opinions--Lisa Buffaloe

My journey into the Lyme wars started in the summer of 1999. After a hike through the woods I found a tiny tick. Without any thought, the little nuisance was removed and life went forward. Soon a horrible itching rash developed on my back. Thinking it was only a bad heat rash, we ignored the problem.

My health began to decline, and in October of 2000 I found myself in the emergency room with vertigo. During the dizzy spells, my eyes literally moved up and down at a rapid speed much like a television horizontal control gone haywire. For a year and a half the spells came and went leaving me unable to do anything other than sit or crawl. Doctors pronounced my illness first as Labyrinthitis, then autoimmune inner ear disease. Steroids and medications helped get me back on my feet until the next round of problems began.

Over the next few years, my body went in self-destruct mode. I had kidney infections, kidney stones, hearing loss, tumors, cysts on kidneys and liver, uterine tumors, numbness, migraines, bleeding problems, eye problems, Charlie-horse cramps that lasted for hours, arthritis type pains in joints, dizzy problems came and went, nerve damage, horrible fatigue, and the list goes on and on.

Twenty-three doctors searched for reasons, and every one had a different opinion. Tests showed markers with the early stages of MS or Lupus. Six surgeries repaired areas where my body had attacked itself. Hospitalizations, numerous procedures, scans, x-rays, blood tests, and nerve tests finally led to an official diagnosis of Lyme disease in January 2006.

Once diagnosed, treatment began with IV antibiotics for thirty days. After that point, I assumed I would be well and ignored ongoing symptoms.

Fortunately, I met Natalie Nichols, who referred me to a Lyme disease specialist. For the next year, continuous antibiotics and supplements were used—switching from drug to drug to combat the ongoing symptoms. My white count plummeted and my blood thickened, which necessitated the use of Heparin blood-thinner shots to my regime. When health didn't improve, IV antibiotics were resumed in April, 2007 using a picc line. 137 days later, a blood infection forced the removal of the line. A temporary IV line was used to fight the infection for the next month. Oral antibiotics and an anti-malaria drug were used until January 2008.

A brief respite from medications caused a downturn in health, and antibiotics were resumed mid-March of 2008. Other than fatigue and deteriorating discs in my neck, 2009 was relatively quiet health-wise. Another bleeding problem surfaced in March 2010, and an ultrasound and mammogram warranted the need for my seventh surgery.

A month after surgery, my symptoms were reasonably quiet. I continued to use supplements, monitor my health, and continue to pray for healing. Then my health started to steadily decline once again. Fatigue was building and every joint and bone hurt. Finally I had to go back on antibiotics. I'm so disappointed my health has gone back down again, but very grateful I had such a long, good season.

I give God the credit for keeping me going all these years. He is the only reason I have done so well. My strength and hope is only in Him. He walks me through the fires, cleans off the soot, and sets me back on my feet.

-- Lisa Buffaloe, Idaho

Friday, September 24, 2010

Every Day I Feel Like I'm Going to Die--Brooke Linville

I was bitten by a tick when I was ten. It's the only tick bite I remember, though a large number of those with Lyme don't remember a tick bite. There's no way to know if this bite or another was the culprit. I do remember a rash on my hand the summer I was pregnant, and I now wonder if it was from a tick, but there is no way to know. I always had weird medical things happen as a kid though, so we have wondered if maybe it's been dormant for many years. Your immune system has an amazing ability to keep things in check (even if you've been given a taste of that forbidden formula). And your immune system is amazingly susceptible to stress, which arrived on my, well, ashy, crumbling doorstep when I was eight months pregnant.

I had Kellen and went into my six-week checkup, where they did a pap, which came back abnormal (yeah, my fall pretty much sucked), and gave me a flu shot. Four days later (and four days after returning to teaching) my face stopped working. I was home nursing Kellen (or trying) and tried to smile at him, at which point I realized I couldn't move the right side of my mouth. Earlier in the day I had noticed that it felt like I was talking with braces on, like my lips were having to make way for an obstruction on my teeth, despite not having had braces in well over a decade. That morning I drank orange juice that tasted dull as well as had a Starbucks sandwich that made me question their place as a food establishment. It turned out that my taste buds were not working on the right side. After I finished nursing Kellen I decided to go back to school to finish teaching. I was really scared but didn't want to deal with it at the moment (because the only two options I could think of were a stroke and brain cancer). As I was driving down the road I lost my ability to blink my right eye. I turned around, and we went to the hospital.

The good news is that it wasn't a stroke or brain cancer, though the way the Dr. told me it was "just" Bell's Palsy made it seem so benign--as though I hadn't just lost full functionality of one side of my face and now looked like this:

"Are you sure nothing else is wrong?" I asked the ER doc. I just couldn't fathom that the nerves in my face would stop firing just because they felt like it. The doctor assured me that nearly all cases of Bell's Palsy are spontaneous and have no other underlying cause than a small virus. (Had I lived in the Northeast, it is likely I would have been tested for Lyme then, as Bell's Palsy is common in Lyme and the first symptom of it moving into your brain, when things get really dicey.) They gave me anti-virals and steroids. (It was because of this I stopped breastfeeding.)

Dan and I decided to head down to San Diego. I had taken a leave of absence from work because I was overwhelmed. The stress of our house burning down in a fire and the rebuild was compounded by this new development, and I knew that I was spread too thin. It has always been hard for me to walk away, and while it was sad, I am proud of my ability to say, "I can't." We left the day after Thanksgiving, a trip that was nearly thwarted by an incredible and overwhelming sense of anxiety. I couldn't sit down at all because I felt so antsy and uncomfortable. It was one of the only times I've ever had the urge to scrub a floor. It's unknown if this was a natural progression of the Lyme or because I had been prescribed Zoloft to deal with the PTSD. It's been posited that SSRIs (selective seratonin reuptake inhibitors) may actually exacerbate Lyme symptoms in some people (many also find them helpful).

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Decade of Symptoms--Suzi Overstreet

In the Spring of 1999 I was first exposed to Lyme (so the doctor thinks). The bite was on the top of my head, and when I went to remove the tick I was not able to get the head. In fear of Lyme Disease or infection I went to my doctor immediately to get the tick removed. What a process. It took 3 nurses and a doctor to scrape my scalp in an effort to remove the tick's head. I didn't notice any symptoms for about 6 months.

My husband and I were married in October of 1999 and soon thereafter I started having severe stomach problems. I was sent to the hospital a few times for extreme pain, and the diagnosis was pretty grim. I was told that I had a very severe case of Endometriosis and that it would be potentially difficult to have children. That diagnosis was very difficult to hear.

I began to work for a chiropractor in the Spring of 2000, where I was given consistent adjustments. The x-rays showed severe misalignment of my neck to the point where the vertebrae were bending the wrong direction. The x-rays also showed Scoliosis progressing in my lower back. The adjustments helped my pain tremendously.

Friday, September 17, 2010

God is Greater Than Lyme--Gail Pallotta: Part 2

“You can go the medical route, combine the therapies, or go only holistic. It’s your body, so it’s your choice.”

When I saw Sally, she explained a few specifics of bio-feedback testing. “On the Spectra Vision we like to see the thyroid, the adrenal gland, etc., function at least at fifty-one percent.” My organs registered at eight to fourteen percent. One visit I needed support for my thyroid, the next, my pancreas. It was as though Sally and Dr. Lee were chasing this disease all over my body, routing it out of one place only to have it move to another.

I still only drank water and ate small amounts of sweet potatoes and bison burgers, which were the meals I’d chosen earlier when I flushed out my system. Varying my diet brought on the horrible indigestion and shaking, so I was afraid to consume even the few foods listed on the Schwarzbein sheet. Each week Sally made suggestions of something new for me to eat and encouraged me to nibble just a little.

But not being able to eat without having a violent reaction was only part of the problem. Unfortunately, after I received the supplements that would make me better and tried to take them, the symptoms worsened. I had the fever, the racing inside and the shaking sweeping over me every few minutes all night long. I called Dr. Lee and said, “Thank you for seeing me, but I can’t do this.”

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

God is Greater Than Lyme--Gail Pallotta: Part 1

“Rick, look at that big red spot on my leg,” I said.

“I used to get those all the time when I cleared land to build houses. Don’t worry. It will go away,” my husband said.

That was five years ago. Rick and I were in Williamsburg, Virginia, on the trip we’d looked forward to for a year. I had a virus, but went anyway. In spite of the July heat we’d walked through the village. When I stayed awake shivering that night, and felt weak and nauseated, I attributed it to the hot sun and the virus.

It wasn’t until one month later, when we flew to Los Angeles, California, at our daughter’s request that I knew the lethargic feeling that had stayed with me since Williamsburg might be serious. Too tired to stand when we got off the plane, while we waited for the car we’d rented, I sat on top of my suitcase. After our sedan arrived, and we got to the hotel, I forced my feet to walk until I fell on my bed. But soon we left to eat.

At the restaurant I was so sick to my stomach I barely could get down my food. After we finished rather than go out and look around as we’d planned we all went back to the room, so I could lie down. A few hours later I developed severe indigestion. I’d brought along my peppermint tea, which I had used before for stomach problems, but when I took a sip of it, I started shaking uncontrollably. This went on all night.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Only Thing Normal is My Test Results--Shannon Goertzen: Part 2

The pain is unbearable, unrelenting in my collarbone and neck. Sharp, arthritic-like pain.


MRI results are in. I meet with my neurologist. I do not have MS. That is good news. A relief. But what is it then, this mysterious anomaly, this cavalcade of symptoms slowly taking over my life and radically altering my ability to do the simplest of tasks? I have been continuing to track them.

Here, Mr. Dr. Neurologist, here is my list again. He briefly peruses it. "Oh, they are just too vague and non-related to mean anything." "WHAT? Hold on a minute, if these symptoms are so vague how come they are interfering with my ability to live my life?"

"Well, I am concerned about a couple of your complaints. Your weight loss, night sweats and migraine. I’m going to advise your family doctor to test you for Lupus and Skeletal Rheumatoid Arthritis." Back to my family doctor.