Mercy Medical Angels Helps Woman Battle Lyme

Suzanne Rhodes | 10/18/16

by Stephanie Singer, Intern, Virginia Wesleyan College

Cheryl and her dog Pascal enjoying a sunny day

Cheryl and her dog Pascal enjoying a sunny day.

Cheryl worked as a carpenter and contractor. She had an interest in sustainable building and planned to attend architecture school. A resident of beautiful Washington state, her favorite activities involved the outdoors. But one day, a tick bit her. This small parasite caused more than one large problem. Among the most serious was Lyme disease.

Tick Bites and Murphy’s Law

Lyme disease is caused when a tick feeds on blood from a mammal such as a deer and then bites a human. Ticks are small and difficult to spot. Worse, symptoms can emerge within varying periods of time. Early treatment is critical, but if there aren’t any obvious signs, the disease is often left untreated.

Lyme is often multi-systemic, affecting the brain, central and peripheral nervous systems, the heart, muscles, and bones.

Cheryl experienced another problem—an absence of medical treatment. The doctors she saw gave her the worst possible answer: to wait and see what happened. Her symptoms only got worse as time went on. She couldn’t keep her job and had to live on disability income. Architecture school was out of the question. Her social life suffered, and she could no longer participate in her favorite activities. “It was eroding my life,” she said.

Medical Controversy

As if living with Lyme disease isn’t hard enough, the medical community argues about the condition. Many are still adhering to earlier claims while ignoring new and emerging research. Worse, new research is hard to conduct. There just isn’t enough funding.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 300,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. That statistic doesn’t include people who suffer from Lyme but haven’t been diagnosed.

Some doctors ignore the possibility that a patient could have Lyme disease. Others give patients a short-term supply of antibiotics and stop there. Cheryl states otherwise: “If you’re not targeting the illness, you can’t get better.” 

One Door Closed, Another Opens

Cheryl went to the Northeast for treatment, with Careforce providing transportation. Careforce is a program of the now defunct Continental airlines. The doctors in that region were experienced in treating Lyme disease.

Later, needing transportation again, Cheryl looked online and realized that Careforce had been canceled. Instead of giving up, she did more research. During that time, she found out about Mercy Medical Angels.

“I immediately trusted that they could help.” said Cheryl. Her trust was not misplaced. Mercy Medical Angels helped her get to the northeast to visit the right doctors.

Beyond Surviving

“I climbed out of a very deep abyss.” Cheryl said. She is gradually building her life back up.

Cheryl has learned to manage her activities so she can minimize fatigue. Sometimes this means leaving a party earlier or turning down an invitation to lunch with a friend. This may sound difficult, but it helps her to find more energy.

While the improvements seem small, Cheryl believes that some improvement is better than none. She always asks herself two questions: “Do I have gains in my health? If so, how can I get there?” She realizes that radical gains rarely last; sometimes they do more harm than good. A doctor told her the truth: slow and steady healing is true healing.

The prognosis is often unknown for victims of Lyme. Many afflicted patients dedicate most of their energy on just surviving. It’s almost as if their lives are focused on death. Cheryl is the opposite. She continues to fight her illness and keeps in mind that a small victory is still a victory and that life is ongoing.

Helpful Hyperlinks

International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society

Lyme Disease Association (LDA)