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NE docs wise to lyme -- but SE docs say no Lyme

The more I learn about Lyme, the more mysterious it seems. And not the disease so much, but the approach that’s taken by our medical professionals. It is a disease with layers of complexity. You can be tested for leukemia, for example, and the results are either positive or negative. Not so with Lyme.

Awareness of Lyme and early
treatment is increasing in the Northeastern US. However, I’ve seen anecdotal evidence that patients also get Lyme disease in the Southeast. On the LDRD Facebook page, in a recent post about Lyme in Georgia, several people living in a smattering of southern states -- Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia -- chimed in to affirm that they’d been diagnosed with Lyme and had caught it at home.

In a casual conversation with an epidemiology professor and veterinarian from Georgia, I learned just last week that there is no Lyme in our region. He agreed that there are other egregious diseases caused by ticks in the SE, but “we don’t have Lyme.”

My dentist here in NC told me the same thing. I imagine most
doctors in the area would concur.

All of this makes me curious. Consider this. When we as Lyme patients approach our healing from all the fundamental dimensions that we can, from body, mind, spirit and shadow, we’re taking more perspectives than most of our doctors are (there are exceptions). Our healing is more whole, and more effective in my experience, when we work on all of these dimensions.

When the CDC declares that there is no Lyme disease in a certain region, their evidence is not, I would argue, taking other perspectives. It is overlooking some equally fundamental dimensions. Cases of Lyme that are diagnosed in the SE, for example. Can we really just ignore that? Pass it off as an anomaly?

Doctors base their conclusions on empirical, scientific evidence. And correctly so. That’s the way it should be. But when there is anecdotal evidence, isn’t that also proof? Someone is surely diagnosing some cases of Lyme in the Southeast. What is going on there? This just doesn’t square with the rational conclusiveness associated with medical people. Could it be that doctors and the CDC are simply too busy, and the catalogue of diseases is too full, to include another?

And yet, the IDSA does seem to be changing. Ever so slowly. At least, in the Northeast they’re changing their approach to treatment and diagnosis in the early stage of Lyme. CBS news in Pittsburgh ran this story recently:
Doctors Change Treatment Recommendations for Lyme Disease.

As this news clip points out, doctors in the NE region are becoming aware of the critical need for early Lyme disease treatment. Patients presenting with a bull’s eye rash, who have caught it immediately, are likely to get antibiotics right away. They have a good chance of beating Lyme in its early stages.

This is good news, because of course the not-so-good news is that Lyme cases are rising alarmingly quickly in Pittsburgh. This year 150 cases have been recorded, up from 10 or 15 last year. 70% of the
ticks in the region are believed to carry the bacteria which causes the Lyme infection.

But apparently they stop at the border. So in the Southeast, we’re not dealing with Lyme. Except of course, anecdotally.

Interesting also to note that Romney is seeking to align his campaign with ILADS. Obama has also acknowledged the disease and its enormous financial implications. Awareness in Washington, DC is steadily but slowly increasing.

Lyme is a political issue, and not simply because of the definition of politics: many (poly) blood-sucking critters (ticks).


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Lyme disease at the center of JP Morgan failures

A tiny tick can wreak big damage. We know the terrible health issues that Lyme bacteria and its attendant co-infections can cause one single person, affecting them on every level and in every aspect of life.


But people don’t exist in a vacuum. For every person suffering with Lyme disease, numerous others are affected in countless ways. They don’t have to have the disease, they may just be related to, work with, or care for someone who does: their co-worker, aunt, Facebook friend or significant other.


An interesting article in the New York Times reveals that Lyme disease lies at the center of the discord at JPMorgan. Turns out that a key leader, who evidently knew the critical importance of managing relationships, was unable to preside over meetings as usual because she got Lyme. And due to the absence of her level-headed influence, certain people lost sight of their duties. Narcissism abounds in power positions.


The NYT story reports that the bank’s Chief Investment Officer, coolheaded executive Ina Drew, had expertly handled key personnel relationships and directed the organization during peak moments of the brutal financial crises of 2008. However, her guidance was dramatically absent during 2010 and 2011.


“But after contracting Lyme disease in 2010, she was frequently out of the office for a critical period, when her unit was making riskier bets, and her absences allowed long-simmering internal divisions and clashing egos to come to the fore, the traders said.”


Conference calls between deputies in Ms. Drew’s New York and London unit “devolved into shouting matches,” according to a trader quoted in the article. Without her to expertly manage negotiations between divisive personalities, egos spun out of control and distracted everyone from their duties.


Of course, Lyme disease is not the sole cause of the banking giant’s financial woes. For our purposes here, the financial failures are besides the point. What I find intriguing is how the story clearly illustrates the power of relationships, the impact of leadership, and the mayhem that resulted because one key person in a position of leadership got Lyme disease.


The impact of Lyme on our relationships
Think of the way your own suffering has impacted your relationships, how it has colored the everyday decisions of your friends and loved ones. Chances are, you’re not at the center of a monolithic banking meltdown. But like all of us, you have duties and responsibilities. You may be the head of a family or company that depends on you financially, emotionally or otherwise. How do you manage to cope with the changes Lyme disease has forced on you? How do they manage without you, when they face meltdowns of their own?


Another key theme woven through this story is vulnerability. We work hard to make something of our lives, pour endless love and resources into developing and protecting our families and our life’s work. It’s easy to fool ourselves into thinking we’re invulnerable to disease, or to anything so small as a tick.


It comes as no surprise that ticks will bite the movers and shakers of the world as easily as the working class. Perhaps because of her notoriety, Ina Drew’s case of Lyme will serve to shed more light on the disease, the numbers of people affected, the ease with which Lyme can be contracted and the difficulties that so many of us encounter in getting diagnosed and seeking treatment.


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Educate & legislate: Sen. Charles Schumer on Lyme disease

Senator Charles Schumer in August, talking to the press about Lyme disease. His message is that we need to educate and legislate, and teach each other how to identify the symptoms early, before a treatable condition becomes a horrendous nightmare: chronic Lyme disease.

Schumer states that he is personally aware of the dangers of not treating Lyme disease immediately after contracting an infection. He says he was bit by a tick in the Hudson Valley, while inspecting a dam in the area. He sought medical treatment immediately, and says he was cured because it was caught early enough.

Senator Schumer’s comments, quoted from the Hudson Valley Insider, Aug 13, 2011:

“We need to bring Lyme disease and Babesiosis out of the weeds and better educate the public about how to keep themselves and their families’ safe,” said Schumer. “Lyme disease is a problem we’ve seen for decades, and Babesiosis is a recently growing issue in New York, but we haven’t done nearly enough at the federal level to tackle it. Tick-borne illnesses often go unnoticed for months, yet can be devastating for many victims and their families. The summertime brings about warm weather and school vacation, causing higher rates of infection in Ulster County and beyond.  The tick is a little pest that can pose a big problem, and this legislation would boost research of Lyme disease and Babesiosis and increase education and awareness in the community to better fight these diseases.”

Just for the record, Senator Schumer states that “20,000 Americans are infected with Lyme,” which is a misleading statement, and probably also a grossly underestimated number. Lyme experts estimate the number of infections to be approximately 10 times higher, more like 200,000 annual cases. Mangled facts aside, it’s always good to hear and see  an influential politician speaking out for Lyme awareness.

Educate and legislate!




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