Lyme Disease: County woman urges people to be pro-active

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For years, Denise Crawford “didn’t feel right”.

She usually passed it off as getting older; but doctors told her that she was suffering from a wide range of issues, from fibromyalgia to bladder issues.

“A few years ago I was feeling horrible, still,” she said. “Tired. Achy. No energy. Just real puny all the time. I had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, but that didn’t seem to encompass it all. I went back to the doctor, and he had become part of a practice that focused on wellness. He said that when he was treating me with hormones and things, he was missing the ‘bigger picture’.”

Denise Crawford said that a lot of blood work followed, including a ‘Western Blot’, which tests for, among other things – Lyme Disease.

“Mine came back negative, but he had done enough blood work to see that those antibodies were in my blood system,” she said. “So he started me on an antibiotic – I was on an antibiotic for over six months, pretty rigorous, and then also they gave me homeopathic drops that I took.”

After those treatments, she began to feel quite a bit better.

“There were other things, too,” she said. “I had an ameba in my body, they took care of that. There were just so many things wrong with me. Now, I just have normal things to worry about.”

Denise Crawford said that she hopes by telling her story of discovering that her health issues stemmed from Lyme Disease helps others. She said that she knows other people here in Switzerland County who have been given the same diagnosis that she had, everything from fibromyalgia to forms of bladder disease, but eventually find out that they too have Lyme Disease.

“It takes more than two hands for me to count the people,” she says, “And they all seem to be women. I don’t know if men don’t pay attention to the signs, or if they’re just not as prone.”

With Spring here and many people getting out in their yards and in the woods, this is also the time to pay particular attention to the carrier of Lyme Disease – ticks.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta:

Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system. Lyme disease is diagnosed based on symptoms, physical findings (e.g., rash), and the possibility of exposure to infected ticks. Laboratory testing is helpful if used correctly and performed with validated methods. Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with a few weeks of antibiotics. Steps to prevent Lyme disease include using insect repellent, removing ticks promptly, applying pesticides, and reducing tick habitat. The ticks that transmit Lyme disease can occasionally transmit other tickborne diseases as well.

As for how the disease is transmitted:

Ticks can attach to any part of the human body but are often found in hard-to-see areas such as the groin, armpits, and scalp. In most cases, the tick must be attached for 36 to 48 hours or more before the Lyme disease bacterium can be transmitted.

Most humans are infected through the bites of immature ticks called nymphs. Nymphs are tiny (less than 2 mm) and difficult to see; they feed during the spring and summer months. Adult ticks can also transmit Lyme disease bacteria, but they are much larger and are more likely to be discovered and removed before they have had time to transmit the bacteria.

The CDC says that confirmed cases in Indiana have risen steadily over the past decade, from 32 cases in 2004 to 101 confirmed cases in 2013.

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Now that she’s successfully battled Lyme Disease, Denise Crawford can recall different circumstances where she battled tick bites.

“I can remember many times that I had ticks on me as a kid,” she said. “My mom and dad would pull them off of me, but we never went to the doctor for it. You just didn’t do that. You went to the doctor for a broken bone or appendicitis.”

She also remembers one particular day in high school.

“It was the very first Earth Day, and we could go out and help with the clean up out in the county,” Denise recalled. “I remember coming back to the restroom of the restroom of the high school and picking ticks off of me. I counted 22 ticks. That’s a big recollection right there.”

She said that other symptoms, such as the “bull’s eye” rashes, is something that she doesn’t really recall having.

“If I did, maybe they were so minimal that I didn’t notice them,” she said. “But they’re pretty typical.”

And those experiences still impact her today.

A teacher at Switzerland County Elementary School, she said that anytime a staff member sees a child with a tick on them, they send them to the nurse’s office so that not only is it properly taken care of, but they also want the parents to know so they can be watching for symptoms.

Although Lyme Disease is something that isn’t chronic, Denise Crawford says that she’s always aware of her surroundings when she’s outdoors, because another tick bite from an infected insect can mean a reoccurrence of the issue.

“It’s my understanding that if I would be bitten by a tick that carries the disease I could get Lyme again, but I’m going to be a lot more pro-active,” she says. “If I go to a doctor and he does a blood test and says don’t worry about it, I’m still going to be pushy about it, because having been through all of that, it just kind of messes up your life. I still worked during that time. How I got through it, I don’t know, but I did.”

And her advice to others?

“I guess be pro-active with your health,” she said. “If you go to a doctor and you don’t get a diagnosis, or if you walk away and you still feel bad, you need to do research and pursue it. I was very lucky. Don’t try and diagnose yourself, but be pro-active.”