Have you ever been bitten by a tick? If the answer is yes, there may be a chance that you have contracted Lyme disease.
Sadly, many people have not heard of Lyme disease, and numerous cases go undiagnosed. According to WebMD, Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted by a tick and was first recognized back in 1975.
Tracy teen Samantha Heinrich, 16, is undergoing treatment for Lyme disease after testing positive in June.
Her first symptoms mirrored those of a bad case of the flu that wouldn’t go away.
“It took us awhile to realize Samantha’s symptoms were that of Lyme,” explained Tim Heinrich, Samantha’s father. “In February of 2011, her G.I. track began to be paralyzed, and by June she was unable to eat or drink. Between 2011 and 2012, Samantha spent 15 weeks in and out of the hospital and was on IV feeding.
“After ruling out other causes, Samantha was tested for Lyme back in December of 2011 and that first test came back negative. The doctor used the Western blot test, and we now know those results are only 30 to 50 percent accurate.
“In June of 2012, Samantha had another blood test done with Igenex Lab in Palo Alto, and this time it came back positive for Lyme.”
According to her father, as a result of Lyme disease, Samantha Heinrich has developed convergence palsy — double vision — and has to have special glasses in order to read.
In addition, she developed multiple-chemical sensitivity, forcing her to wear a mask while out in public. Certain smells, such as perfume, hairspray, and even scented hand lotions, can send her into a seizure.
“I have been out of school since October of 2012 so that I can be treated by IV medications,” Samantha Heinrich said as she spoke at a recent council meeting in regard to Lyme disease awareness. “I want to try to raise awareness about Lyme so that others don’t have to go through what I am going through. Because it took so long to be diagnosed, it will take a long time to treat my Lyme disease. We are praying that it goes into remission soon.”
After hearing Samantha’s story, family friend Kelli Goble went for Lyme testing.
“I first thought I might have Lyme disease after hearing about similar symptoms between Samantha and myself,” Goble said. “My first test for Lyme came back negative. That was last November. In December, after being seen by a Lyme literate doctor, I was retested and came back positive with late-stage chronic active Lyme.”
The California Lyme Disease Association has declared the month of May as Lyme Disease Awareness Month and is asking people to place green bulbs in their porch lights to help bring awareness to this debilitating disease.
According to WebMD, early symptoms can include a rash at the site of the tick bite, flu-like symptoms, chills, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, joint pain, muscle aches and headaches. Later-stage symptoms, as the disease spreads through the body, can affect the heart, nervous system, facial muscles and joints. There can also be memory loss and pain or weakness in the arms and legs. Late-stage symptoms can include arthritis, confusion, an irregular heartbeat and inflammation of the heart muscle.
In an effort to spread the word about Lyme disease, Goble has started a Facebook page called “Lyme Queen.” She has received feedback from people in 11 countries, as well as here in the United States.
Mayor Brent Ives will present a proclamation on Lyme Disease Awareness Month at the next City Council meeting, at 7 p.m. May 21.
For more information about Lyme disease, you can visit www.lymedisease.org or www.IADLS.org.
• Columnist Anne Marie Fuller is the television host of “Helpful Hints with Anne Marie,” which can be seen on Cable Channel 26 at 7 p.m. Fridays. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.