Facts, an update and a thank you

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Dear Farm and Dairy readers,

I would like to thank all of the Farm and Dairy readers who sent me letters of encouragement.

Letters came in by the hundreds and I kept very busy reading them all. It goes to show that our world does still have many wonderful people that care for the common man.

It was amazing all of the strangers that would send me a letter just to make my day a little better.

I am on the right track to recovery and I’m sure my mom will keep you informed on my progress.

Thanks to all,

Cort Sutherland


Charles Dickens once wrote, “Have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts.”

These words, in any sort of random order, could be the motto that my son has come to live by.

In spite of all that he has been through since an innocent day of play back in the summer of 1998 brought a nasty tick into his life, he has remained determined not to let Lyme disease rule him.

His sense of humor still delights those who reach out to him, and he truly has a heart that never hardens

And yet, his fighting spirit isn’t giving in to any of this, either.

He is fighting with all he’s got – and counting hard on doctors to help him fight. They need to supply the arsenal, while Cort supplies the steadfast determination.

His attitude is: Tell me what to do, and I will do it.

He has hooked himself up to IV lines, flushed his treatment line daily, taken shots and pills and endured horrid tests of many types.

He never flinches, he never complains. He wants his life back.

Tenacity. We have learned an enormous amount about Lyme disease and its terrible tenacity.

If you had asked me five years ago to describe Lyme disease, I likely would have answered, “A rash that comes from a tick bite, easily treated and cured, right?”

I wouldn’t have been certain, but I would have thought I was at least on the right track. I would have been wrong.

Cort never got a bulls-eye rash, and less than half of all people bitten and infected ever develop such a rash. Those who do are actually the lucky ones, because it is visibly identified and more quickly treated.

But, still, even then, it is often not treated aggressively enough, and those people get sicker, too, in some unfortunate cases.

By the thousands. A tick is a filthy creature, and can carry thousands of strains of bacteria, many not yet identified by science, so there is no test to run to say, “Yes, you are infected with…”

So, one blood test to check for Lyme disease may come up negative, but it doesn’t mean that person isn’t infected with some tick-borne disease, perhaps not yet given a name.

We have learned that Lyme disease requires a longer treatment time than many illnesses because it has a very slow reproduction time (cell division) and periods of dormancy.

Comparing a normal strep infection, which has a doubling time of 20 minutes and is treated for two weeks to ensure complete eradication of the bacteria, a Lyme infection proportionately would have to be treated for almost 25 years, as it has an 18-day generation time, compared to normal generation time of most bacteria of 20 minutes.

Knowing more. I am sharing some of what we have learned with you, our fellow country-loving friends, because I wish we had known more on the day my son came to us and said, “I think I have a tick on me!”

He was horrified; we were not.

His instincts were wise and the adults in his life were foolish, as it turns out.

Cort has arthritic joint pain, heart palpitations and chest pains, headaches, eye pain, digestive problems, incredible fatigue and muscle weakness, sleeping difficulties, dizziness, jaw pain, ear ringing, disorientation, memory problems, an enlarged spleen, low thyroid counts, extremely high liver counts – in the hepatitis range – immune system counts that are frighteningly low, and many other aggravating, life-altering symptoms.

A change. The latest change for Cort was the removal of the PICC line recently, after having had it in place since August.

Every single day, he had to hook himself up to the IV line for infusion of Rocephin, a powerful antibiotic.

It was time for it to go, and he is now on oral antibiotics and many other medications.

Unfortunately, the removal of the PICC line did nothing to stop the heart palpitations, and an EKG showed the necessity to look into this further with an Echo Doppler of the heart, which is scheduled but not yet completed as I write this.

Disease of innocents. Lyme can do so much to damage a healthy body.

It is truly the disease of the innocent, and yet so little research is being done on this disease.

It saddens those of us who have watched beloved family members fight to get better with so little support from the world at large.

Appalling. A woman in Tennessee who has watched her daughter become completely bed-fast due to this disease, partly because she was allergic to many of the drugs used to fight it, has told me she is appalled by seemingly caring members of their community who say, “But she CAN’T be that sick just from Lyme disease!”

Though they may mean well, in their ignorance they imply that either this child isn’t really that sick, or she certainly must have something “worse” than Lyme.

Keep in mind, these people only see this young woman on her “good” days.

No one sees her on her very worst days, because she is forced to retreat to her darkened bedroom in excruciating pain.

The same can be said of anyone fighting Lyme.

Cort, who has become even more empathetic toward others through his battle, is determined to keep climbing over the boulders being thrown in his path, learning with each step.

Instead of harboring resentment, he cultivates appreciation for those who have shown support, kindness and caring.

He is amazed by it and strengthened by all of your incredible words of encouragement.

Bless you all, and we wish you the happiest of days in 2003.

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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