School starts: Cort stays home again


“In autumn, we work to prepare for a quieter season, a more introspective time, a more peaceful time as a family. On our farm, autumn is the end of one year and the beginning of another. We count our harvest as our blessing of another year done, another accomplishment, another reason to be glad that we have each other. The children hurry off to school and home again, knowing there is much to be done.”

– Anna Wright, from Glowing Landscape

One evening last week, as I watered the plants and flowers, I watched a huge flock of geese flying overhead. Their cries and chatter filled the sky, along with the smell of smoke from a neighbor’s leaf pile. This, along with the slight chill in the air as the skies began darkening earlier than usual, reminded me that summer is over. Again.

At this time last year, we were feeling hopeful as yet another treatment was beginning for our son, Cort. He had spent a harrowing day in the hospital to have another I.V. treatment line placed in late August and began receiving daily infusions of the potent, very expensive antibiotic Rocephin.

Landmarks. This year, as the school doors opened to another year, he is still not well enough to attend. Next month he will turn 17, and he still is not well enough to drive a car as he had such hopes of doing by now.

A month ago, he watched his younger sister head off to her first day of high school. “I was hoping I would be the one driving her to her first day at the school as a freshman,” he said. The regret and frustration becomes harder to bear with each passing landmark.

Reclaiming health. We are learning as we go in this unfortunate fight to reclaim our son’s health. He was bitten by a tick in the summer of 1998 — the same summer that he was chosen to play on an all-star baseball team.

The photograph taken of him and his dad on the day of the big game of that summer shows a vibrant, healthy, hearty boy with a big smile and a well-worn baseball glove.

What we didn’t know then, and didn’t learn nearly soon enough, is that after he found the tick on himself that summer day we should have insisted on testing the tick for not only Lyme disease bacterium, but any number of possible tick-borne pathogens.

The tick was thrown away and we were told that we had nothing to worry about.

What we have learned is that not only does our son have Lyme disease, but he was infected with babesiosis by that tick, as well. When treatment for this malarial-type of disease was started in recent months, his drenching night sweats began to let up, and slowly his deep muscle and bone pain is beginning to lessen, as well.

The crushing fatigue continues, as well as cognitive difficulties from neurological damage. He has heart damage and endocrine system damage. The road back seems increasingly long and difficult.

‘A big deal.’ Cort just told me that he remembers heading off to the sixth grade in 1998, and telling his art teacher that being bitten by a tick was the only big deal he could remember from his summer.

“For the longest time, I’d had had this horrid, unexplainable fear of being bitten by a tick – after it happened and I didn’t get sick right away, I sort of felt like I was off the hook. No one seemed to be worried about it, so I wasn’t either.”

Within a few short weeks, the worry began. Joint pains, then stomach troubles, followed by crushing chest pain and night sweats, dizziness, headaches and confusion all began to plague our son who absolutely hated missing school for anything. It has been an ongoing, consuming, expensive, challenging search for answers ever since.

Another summer ends, another school year begins. Life is not at all the way that we had pictured it….


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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, and three grandchildren.