Saturday, June 25, 2011

Lyme Disease

A 38-year-old Corunna woman, who says she is fighting for her life with Lyme disease, is blaming her plight on a lack of public education and a lack of physician education about the fastest growing infectious disease in North America.
And, after sharing her story with Huron County council, councillors voted to support a petition from Sarnia Lambton MPP Bob Bailey asking the Ontario Minister of Health to direct the Ontario Public Health system and OHIP to include all currently available and
scientifically-verified tests for Acute and Chronic Lyme diagnosis, to do everything necessary to create public awareness of Lyme disease in Ontario, and to have internationally developed diagnostic and successful treatment protocols available to patients and physicians.
Christine Heffer said she is hoping to visit county councils throughout Southern Ontario to spread the word about Lyme disease, a tick-borne infection suffered by 400,000 people per year in the U.S. and increasing in southern Ontario.
"It took me four years to get diagnosed. Doctors in Ontario did not know what was wrong with me. I suffered many unnecessary tests, procedures and even a major surgery due to faulty testing and general lack of knowledge about Lyme disease in this province. To say this experience has destroyed my life would be an understatement," she told Huron County councillors.
Heffer said the disease, which becomes incurable and fatal if not caught in the early days after a tick bite, is often misdiagnosed since it mimics so many other diseases such as MS, Parkinson's, fibromyalgia, ALS and many more. It took four years for Heffer, who now spends $1,000 a month on various antibiotics, to be diagnosed and she said she was so disabled by the disease at one point that she was unable to speak and was bedridden.
"With a disease that is spreading so quickly I was surprised that there is little being done by Public Health to educate the public about a deadly bacterial infection that can be contracted in their backyards, even though in 2000 the Canadian Medical Association advised that Lyme disease was spreading in Ontario particularly in Southern Ontario," she said. "I believe that had Public Health made Lyme disease education a priority I would not be fighting for my life now."
Heffer, who is being treated in Ohio because there are no experts on Lyme disease in Ontario, said patients in Ontario who contract Lyme face an uphill battle since the present testing for Lyme is faulty and thousands of Canadian patients suffer for years before receiving a diagnosis. She said the current testing produces a false negative 45 to 95 per cent of the time – she was tested three times and all three times came back negative. She finally found a Toronto doctor who agreed to treat her with antibiotics and her reaction to the antibiotics resulted in a Lyme disease diagnosis.
"To be ill with a life threatening disease is difficult enough but when all of the safeguards and protections of society disappear, it is shattering to say the least. When I speak to people about Lyme disease, most are unaware and shocked to discover what a tick can do," she said.
Comparing her experience with Lyme disease as similar to having AIDS because it attacks the immune system and all systems throughout the body, Heffer said Lyme is spreading seven times faster than AIDS.
"We're all at risk but our children are at the greatest risk and that risk is increasing yearly," she said, adding that the ticks, which are the size of a poppy seed, are being spread throughout Southern Ontario by birds.

I hope that the council will support this petition on behalf of the citizens of Huron but even more important than that, after learning about Lyme disease I hope everyone here will educate your families, friends and neighbours. This disease is insidious and horrific," she told councillors.
She added that Lyme disease is curable if caught early and treated with antibiotics.

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