Mt. Equinox, VT – 2004 Gear Up For Lyme Rotary Bike Climb

Mt. Equinox, VT – Gear Up For Lyme Rotary Bike Climb

Mt. Equinox, VT – Gear Up For Lyme Rotary Bike Climb

Mt. Equinox Bike Climb Manchester VT August 7, 2004
Pat Smith, President, Lyme Disease Association, Inc.

I want to thank the Holzmans and the Rotary for organizing this wonderful event here today. For many of you, today is a way to contribute to a worthy cause, enjoy yourselves, and also to maintain your health.

This last area is extremely important to all of us in today’s society, and no one values that more than people who have been unfortunate enough to contract the most prevalent vector-borne disease in this country today, Lyme disease. The case numbers are rising, tick habitats are increasing and in many areas, tick infection rates seem to be on the rise.

Different types of ticks are carrying the disease, and with one bite you may contract not only Lyme disease but also diseases with ominous sounding names like babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, bartonella, tick paralysis, and tularemia. Each has its own symptoms, each has its own treatment, and unfortunately, each may complicate an already difficult diagnosis and treatment regimen.

Ranging in size from a poppyseed to a large sesame seed, deer ticks, the main vector for Lyme disease, can wreak untold havoc on the infected individual and his/her family. Dozens of doctors, years of treatment, piles of unpaid medical bills are only part of the scenario. The other part can be equally devastating, the lack of emphasis placed on Lyme disease.

It is serious. It can enter the central nervous system within hours of a tick bite, it can hide in your cells, mutate, change forms unrecognizable to conventional antibiotics, and even perform a star wars maneuver: it can enter your cells and come out cloaked in the body’s own membrane, unrecognized as the enemy it is. It can cross the placenta, it can cause birth defects and death of the fetus, and it can kill those infected.

One of my friends was a biker like you, a brilliant environmental scientist. He traveled across the northeast and participated in a vast amount of biking activities. Today, at 43, he is barely able to drag himself to work, he is gradually losing the use of his arms and legs, and he has had white matter lesions on the brain, no, not from MS, but from Lyme disease. When I spoke to him about this event, he was very sad, despite the monies that will be generated here for the creation of the center for chronic Lyme disease at Columbia University. Now, he has no life, only an existence.

I have lived vicariously with Lyme disease for many years, two of my daughters have it. One lost her childhood, four years out of school, three years with temporal lobe seizure activity which lasted sometimes 15 hours a day, 6-7 days per week. A journey through Dante’s Inferno in the bowels of Hell could not produce more unspeakable horrors than I have witnessed. She has little memory of those times, nature was kind to her in that regard. I, on the other hand, remember it like it was yesterday. When I thought I would lose her, I made a promise to myself that if she ever recovered, I would never allow any family to suffer alone through what we did, and I would devote myself to finding a cure.

The answer to this disease lies in research. The technology is available to pull this bug apart, LDA is funding a project right now that is mapping the genome of different Lyme disease strains and funding others with Dr Fallon looking at the brain affected by Lyme disease with state of the art imaging to unlock the secrets of this complex organism. Research requires a monetary commitment. Your being here today helps, and I should add that over 98% of Lyme Disease Association funds go directly to programs, we are all volunteer.

Lyme disease: Yesterday, it was my children; today, it is yours, tomorrow, it is our grandchildren. Together, we can stop it. Thank you.