TOUCHED BY LYME: “The Red Ring” takes a global look at Lyme disease
In 2011, Finnish filmmaker Joonas Berghäll was living his dream, making films about important topics. He went to Kenya to direct a documentary about women’s rights in that country. “I was working outside for three weeks and I felt good and strong,” he remembers.
That changed dramatically when he returned to Finland. Within days, he started to experience a cascade of symptoms that hit hard and kept going—for weeks, and then months, and then years.
Pain, fatigue, insomnia, muscle weakness, digestive problems, losing his balance, memory lapses, brain fog…among others.
“I felt like there were snakes and fishes living in my stomach,” he said. By the end of the first year, he had over 20 symptoms.
In a scenario that’s painfully familiar to anybody with chronic Lyme disease, he went from doctor to doctor, desperate for someone to help him. He saw 82 practitioners, with no answers.
Finally, six years in, he located a doctor who tested him for Lyme disease and co-infections. Berghäll tested positive for three species of Borrelia (Lyme), as well as Babesia, Bartonella, Ehrlichia, Rickettsia, Mycoplasma, and several viruses. As the doctor noted: “Borrelia seldom comes alone.” Yet, although he was finally diagnosed in Finland, he could not obtain treatment there, and had to look elsewhere.
All this is the setting for a remarkable new film called “The Red Ring.” Being a filmmaker, Berghäll documented his circuitous journey from the very beginning. Eventually, he teamed up with producer Satu Majava, to create a film that raises bigger questions than just about his personal health. Questions like: Why is this illness not taken seriously—all over the world? Why are there hundreds of millions of people suffering? Why isn’t the World Health Organization willing to address this? (He called the WHO over 50 times, seeking an interview. No dice.)
Berghäll attended a medical conference in Europe where he met and interviewed American Lyme doctor Richard Horowitz, former ILADS president Leo Shea, and other experts. In time, Berghäll spoke with patients, doctors and researchers from many countries, with differing points of view on the topic. One, a prominent infectious disease doctor in Finland, insists that testing is perfectly fine, and that chronic Lyme simply doesn’t exist. (Aarrrrrrgghh!)
The filmmaker even traveled to New York to start treatment with Dr. Horowitz. In March 2020, after coming to New York for a follow-up appointment with Dr. Horowitz, he had to scramble to get out of the country before international travel shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The Red Ring” is both riveting and educational. I urge you to watch it when you get the chance. It was briefly available on Vimeo, which is how I saw it. Stay tuned for details of when it will be widely available to view online.
Click below to watch a preview of the film.
TOUCHED BY LYME is written by Dorothy Kupcha Leland, LymeDisease.org’s Vice-president and Director of Communications. She is co-author of When Your Child Has Lyme Disease: A Parent’s Survival Guide. Contact her at email@example.com.