TOUCHED BY LYME: Her son’s “nightmare of illness” led her to path of helping others heal from Lyme
Ann Corson, MD, one of the speakers at LymeDisease.org’s Jan. 22 Lyme patient conference in San Francisco, knows what the parents of her young Lyme patients go through. Back in 2001, she was working as a family practice physician in Chester County, PA, when her son was bitten by a tick—and their whole world changed.
The following is taken from an article Dr. Corson wrote for the Lyme Times in 2006. Its message still resonates today.
My son came to me one night in April of 2001 with an engorged deer tick on his left ear. I removed it carefully and cleansed the area. Then, as I had been taught, I did not treat but watched and waited for signs of disease.
If only I had known the consequences of that one tick bite. If only I had known that I could send that fat juicy tick off to a lab to check for the presence of four different tick-borne diseases.
Watchful waiting only allowed the nightmare of illness to grow. My son never had a flu-like illness or an EM rash. He just became ill insidiously over many months with a sore throat here, a headache there, and with lots of abdominal pain. I took him for second opinions and was told more than once that nothing was seriously wrong, that he had irritable bowel syndrome or emotional problems.
Then, in January of 2002, he had a severe five-day illness with fever over 105 degrees that wouldn’t break, mild hepatosplenomegaly (enlarged liver and spleen), abdominal pain and headache. Other doctors said it was the influenza virus. In hindsight, I think it was Babesia.
After that illness, he was always fatigued and couldn’t tolerate aerobic exercise anymore. He slept a lot and was extremely difficult to get up for school. In December of 2002, my son had his lower two wisdom teeth extracted one day after contracting a severe head cold. He never recovered from that insult. He was in bed, unable to function. Throughout all this time, he had had three negative ELISA tests for Lyme disease.
In March of 2003, a friend handed me the pamphlet distributed by the Lyme Disease Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania (www.lymepa.org). I devoured the booklet, then printed off and inhaled Dr. Burrascano’s treatment guidelines.
My son woke up on the sixth day of antibiotic treatment complaining that his fingers were so sore he could hardly open them. He had never complained of joint pain before. I knew then that he did indeed have Lyme disease, as he must have been experiencing his first Herxheimer reaction. Subsequent testing revealed infection not only with Borrelia burgdorferi, but also with Babesia microti, Bartonella henselae and Mycoplasma fermentans.
Despite aggressive treatment, my son missed the first half of 11th grade and the last three quarters of 12th grade of high school. After improving through the spring and summer of 2004, he suffered another clinical collapse in the fall of 2004. He started with new anxiety, depression, complex auditory, visual and olfactory (odor) hallucinations, and demonstrated inappropriate social behavior. His fatigue was overwhelming.
Testing revealed that despite being treated the year before, Babesia microti was back. Borrelia burgdorferi was also still very active. He lost his ability to do schoolwork. He couldn’t read or gather thoughts to write. He couldn’t do math. He couldn’t type on the computer keyboard.
A SPECT scan of his brain in November of 2004 showed marked hypoperfusion (low blood flow). After months of aggressive treatment, a repeat SPECT scan in May 2005 showed marked improvement in the blood flow to his brain.
As a mother, my child’s illness was and still is a misery I wish on no parent. As a doctor, I am grateful that my son’s illness has led me on the path of helping other parents and their children. I will never forget when one mother reported to me that her delightfully precocious and personable six-year-old boy said one day, “I don’t have holes in my brain anymore.”
Dr Corson provided me with the following update on her son:
Joseph is now 24 years old. He graduated from Franklin and Marshall College with a BA in philosophy, and then spent a year at St. Andrews in Scotland doing post-graduate work in Analytic Philosophy. Currently, Joseph is working for an equestrian facility applying the principles of classical horsemanship, the foundation of modern dressage, to the training of horses, and expanding his skills as a rider.
Dr. Corson now specializes in treating Lyme and tick-borne diseases in her Chester County practice. She has worked closely with Lyme experts Drs. Joe Burrascano and Charles Ray Jones. She’s a member of ILADS and helps train LLMDs. She has a special interest in the use of integrative medicine to treat Lyme disease, including German biological medicine. She’ll be visiting the west coast this month to speak to medical professionals at the BioResource conference in San Francisco. She has graciously agreed to stay over an extra day to address our patient conference.
“Getting Healthy Again: Using Integrative Medicine to Heal from Lyme Disease,” will be held Sunday, Jan. 22, at the Westin Hotel, San Francisco Airport, 1-4:30 pm. Pre-registration is $40 per person, though Jan. 18. Registration at the door is $45.
Click here for registration information.
To read Dr. Corson’s whole article from the Lyme Times 2006, click down below where it says “download attachment.”
TOUCHED BY LYME is written by Dorothy Kupcha Leland, LymeDisease.org’s VP for Education and Outreach. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.