“If I could only find enough pills to swallow – I wouldn’t have to do this anymore!”
I was in the depths of despair. Just a few years earlier as a teen, I seemed to be on the fast-track to a life of success as a musician and speaker. But then my life turned into a nightmare.
In 1991, at 20 years old, I was a Senior honor student at Baylor University, a musician, and a motivational speaker. In a matter of weeks, an undiagnosed illness suddenly progressed, taking me on a downward spiral. Finally in 1996, through out-of-state medical care, a correct diagnosis was made – late-stage Lyme disease.
By this time there was little left that resembled the teenager who had begun the journey. What began with a flu, fatigue, stiffness, and pain had progressed until I had spent ten years confined to a wheelchair, seven years confined to bed, and three years confined as a prisoner within my mind as the infectious disease caused severe cognitive destruction.
Losing my health was difficult. Losing my independence was devastating. Losing my cognitive skill, my personality, my emotional health and my mind was torture.
During the years of debilitating illness, I saw over sixty doctors (and in the process received over twenty incorrect diagnoses) before finally being correctly diagnosed and treated. The financial toll was massive. The emotional toll was incalculable.
As a Senior honor student, my options were unlimited and the years ahead held great potential. Instead those years were spent housebound, bedridden, unable to even feed myself. They were years descending into a dark abyss. A descent that was medically avoidable.
Lyme Disease is completely curable if detected early and treated adequately. My symptoms could not have spelled Lyme Disease any clearer, but at the time, the medical establishment of Texas insisted that Lyme Disease did not exist in the state. They also falsely believed that the diagnostic tests were 100% accurate. (I was tested for Lyme early in my illness, but the tests were negative. Thus my disease was not diagnosed but was instead allowed to advance. A culture later provided proof positive that I did indeed have Lyme Disease.)
Tragically, there is still a misperception that Lyme does not exist in Texas, or if it does, the problem is small and easy to cure no matter how long-standing and advanced the disease. A misperception about diagnosis and the reliability of tests also still persists in the medical community.
Although my health is greatly improved, because my disease was not caught early, I continue to require daily, aggressive, expensive medical treatment. What could have been cured early and inexpensively has altered my entire adult life and cost almost a million dollars over the twenty-four years of my illness.
Given the prevalence of Lyme Disease in Texas, this same physical and financial descent awaits another young Texan…unless we give Lyme the boot in Texas!
Prevention and physician awareness can spare countless Texans the hardship endured from tick-borne diseases. Texas is in dire need of physician training and public health education devoted to preventing and curing this devastating disease.
Lyme disease is the greatest public health threat next to AIDS, and only TXLDA is bringing accredited CME courses on Lyme to Texas. If any one of the physicians I had consulted would have attended such a course, perhaps my entire future would have been different.
Countless young adults’ futures could be given back to them through something as simple as their physician attending a CME course on tick-borne diseases.