Celebration at the Sutherland home

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We are celebrating at our house! After a long stretch of treatment for Lyme disease my son is ready to move on.

On Friday, the home health nurse came and removed the I.V. treatment line from Cort’s arm, then helped us begin the official celebration with his favorite dessert, German chocolate cake.

Daily treatment. Each week day since our January trip to the Lyme Disease Treatment Center in Hammonton, N.J., Cort would be hooked up to an infusion treatment of Rocephin, taking about 60 to 90 minutes. His daily pill intake has been pretty hefty, too, as have the medical bills to go along with it all. He’s handled it all with a great attitude. “I will do whatever it takes to get better. I want my life back,” Cort said. While treatment progressed, he showed slow and steady improvement: his pain let up, his sense of humor and zest for life returned.

Now, we wait. And hope. The spirochete bacteria that invades the body with a tick bite can hide in deep tissues and even lie dormant, making it resistant to even the best course of treatment. Knowing that Cort had been bitten by a tick in the summer of 1998, we were unfortunate that none of the medical specialists in Ohio paid attention to that fact.

He worsened with each passing year. As another body system was invaded, we would be sent to yet another specialist. None were familiar with Lyme disease, it seems, so they tested him to death, eventually offering a new medication to treat the symptoms, but nothing helped for long.

Tough years. As months turned in to years, the spirochete bacteria set up shop in his body, causing everything from severe joint pain to debilitating gastrointestinal problems, crushing chest pain, eye sensitivities, ear aches, sleep disturbances, night sweats, rashes, sore throats, jaw pain, stiff neck and back, dizziness, heart palpitations, muscle weakness, numbness, disorientation and seizure-like body tremors.

Before the tick bite, Cort had been a healthy kid with a huge appetite for sports, hitting home runs, pitching in his summer baseball league, and in seventh grade played his first season of football under his dad’s coaching. He was suffering stomach and chest pains at that time, and a leg injury in practice really de-railed him. One doctor told him to “toughen up” and lectured us on school attendance “no matter what.” Cort was in so much pain on that particular day he had been unable to bend over to tie his own shoes.

Growing epidemic. In a book authored by Denise Lang, Coping with Lyme Disease, she notes that this tick-borne disease now surpasses AIDS as one of our nation’s fastest growing epidemics. Her son Chris was 15 when he suddenly became too ill to participate in track. Advanced math and science courses became difficult for the first time in his life.

Chris had been diagnosed with “summer rashes” (we were told the same), while also suffering sore throats, swollen glands and achy joints. Dizziness and sleeplessness followed, then behavior changes.

When he began having tremors, tests for brain tumors and MS were negative, and the school demanded this once bright and promising student be tested for drug use, which was negative.

His mom demanded a Lyme test, which proved positive. He received two months of intravenous therapy for Lyme, during which all of his symptoms let up. Afterward, however, all his symptoms returned, including the tremors.

After ten months of antibiotics, Chris stopped treatment and began rebuilding his body with nutrition and exercise. Some days were good, some very bad. He went on to college, worked through a couple of relapses and still must pay more attention to keeping his immune system strong than most young men his age.

Undiagnosed. We’ve heard hundreds of stories like this one, and yet people are still going misdiagnosed or undiagnosed and untreated, worsening as time passes. We were blessed to have a nurse practitioner who finally diagnosed our son and sent us in the right direction for treatment.

We are celebrating at our house. Thanks to all of our Farm and Dairy friends who joined us in the journey.

About the Author

Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college. More Stories by Judith Sutherland

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