Tracy Talks: Teen faces Lyme disease with courage
by Anne Marie Fuller / For the Tracy Press
May 17, 2013 | 5830 views | 7 7 comments | 118 118 recommendations | email to a friend | print
• Editor's Note: Anne Marie Fuller comes to us from the Bay Area News Group, where she had a regular running column since 2005. Fuller has strong ties to the Tracy community and is an advocate for the new animal shelter. She is the chairwoman of the Tracy Arts Commission, television host of “Helpful Hints with Anne Marie,” holds the title of Mrs. Central California and runs the community Facebook page “Tracy Talks.” Her column will appear weekly in the Tracy Press.

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 annemarie@columnist.com.

Comments
(7)
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klv
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May 18, 2013
One can only hope for a return to normalcy for this young girl and her family plus the open discussion re: Lyme Disease is most beneficial. The article leaves me perplexed.

“After ruling out other causes, Samantha was tested for Lyme back in December of 2011 and that first test came back negative."

-So at some point in 2011 she became infected from a tick bite, which went undiagnosed until 'June of '2012'? We are now nearing June 2013... And apparently another family friend has the very same diagnosis.

-So where and when did this actually occur in '2011? And what took so long to have this disease accurately diagnosed. (A Lyme literate doctor???)

-Are there ticks which carry Lyme disease here in Tracy? And knowledgeable, competent local medical staff which recognize it's symptoms?

Sadly, so many unanswered questions.

PoetDad
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May 18, 2013
Kiv, thank you for your questions. We believe that Samantha was first infected in 2008 while camping in the Sierra's. Her symptoms became alarming in Feb of 2011 but she was already seeing a GI Dr. for some symptoms. The Dr.s just don't have the training and experience to put all the symptoms together to recognize it as Lyme. You can learn more about LLMD's on ILADS.org Yes, the ticks that carry lyme in Tracy and Yes our regular MD's need more training.
thatswhatshesaid
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May 21, 2013
Even the classes needed to become an RN teach one about Lyme disease and its causative agent. Its hard to believe that a doctor wouldn't have the knowledge or training, especially in Northern ca. I wish your daughter a speedy recovery and a quick return to normalcy.
shellyworrell
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May 17, 2013
Samantha and her family have been friends of mine for many years (her dad and I were in church youth group)and watched her go through trial with grace and joy. I have learned much about Lyme disease and the dangers of "just a tick bite" and Lyme testing. Thank you for this article and for helping raise the awareness of this potentially deadly disease.
mamalita6
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May 17, 2013
Thank you for this article to spread awareness. The more people that know about this the quicker they can get help. Thank you Tracy Press!
samanthaheinrich1235790
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May 17, 2013
Ruth 1:8

... May the Lord reward you for your kindness ... (NLT). Thank you for helping spread awareness and help many people get help. <3
PoetDad
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May 17, 2013
I am Samantha's dad and I want to thank AnneMarie for writing this article. I also want to thank the City Council for the declaration it will be making Tuesday night. People need to be aware that most doctors, even good ones don't know what to look for when it comes to Lyme and will tell patients that there is no way that they can have lyme, We heard this with Samantha many times before her diagnoses was confirmed. I pray that no one else has to go through the struggles that we have.


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