Help Ana battle Lyme Disease
In the spring of 2013, the life of my best friend and wife, Ana, would change in a radical way by a mere bite of a deer tick. Having been a dancer and athlete for most of her life, she enjoyed being active and long distance running.
Unbeknownst to her, while training for a half-marathon in the wooded trails along the American River in Folsom, California, Ana was bitten and infected by a blacklegged deer tick carrying the Borrelia bacteria that would eventually render her disabled and in need of a cane.
Absent the classic “bullseye” rash that appears within days once infected, Ana had no clue she was in need of antibiotics to kill the infectious disease in her body.
Soon after she developed flu-like symptoms she attributed to a bout of influenza; though given her history of a robust immune system and infrequent colds and flus, she was surprised to be sick and, in particular, by the severity of her symptoms.
After a week’s recovery, Ana felt herself again and eventually happily ran her race. However, it wouldn’t be long before she began experiencing debilitating headaches that were diagnosed as migraines.
Later came a chronic itchy rash on her arms, chest, and legs that tested negative for allergens and was diagnosed as folliculitis.
In the fall 2013, Ana’s vision changed and she experienced floaters in both eyes. An ophthalmologist found a rare eye infection called Uveitis; though the origin of the bacteria was unknown.
By November Ana’s symptoms ran the gamut of palsy, headaches, rash and fatigue. Then a lump was found in her lymph nodes. Biopsy results were inconclusive because of mostly dead cells in the specimen.
The lump grew exponentially over the next few weeks and by Christmas doctors recommended surgery to remove the lump and examine the tissue.
Again results were inconclusive because of necrotic (dead) cells. Signaling infection, the surgeons ordered blood tests for Lyme disease, Lupus, and other diseases with symptoms similar to the ones Ana was experiencing. All came back negative.
Without any answers, our family did our best to go about our lives. With a 5 year old and 3 year old, life was busy and she needed to focus on being a mom and wife. Fatigue and headaches continued to plague her but for the most part most other symptoms subsided.
In spring 2016, she began experiencing numbness in her legs and debilitating back, pelvic, and hip pain. All imaging (x-rays, ultrasound, etc.) and blood work ordered by her primary doctor came back normal.
She went to a rheumatologist with a desperate plea for answers who diagnosed her with Fibromyalgia.
Relieved to have a diagnosis to begin treatment and recovery, she went to a pain management clinic and started an expensive intensive outpatient therapy which included yoga, cognitive behavioral therapy, art therapy and naturopathy.
But improvement was insignificant. Later, physical therapy would prove to have minimal effect.
With chronic symptoms ranging from severe headaches, debilitating back and hip pain, extreme exhaustion and cognitive/memory issues, the summer of 2017 found Ana unable to function.
It was in August with persistence from my colleague, Teresa, who feared Ana’s symptoms pointed to a tick-borne disease, that she went to a Lyme disease specialist. Teresa herself had gone undiagnosed and battled with similar symptoms for years and was later diagnosed with Lyme disease.
Ana’s tests results confirmed she was misdiagnosed and has Lyme disease. Given the amount of time since she was first infected, she now has chronic Lyme disease that has spread to her brain and nervous system.
Chronic Lyme disease at this stage is complex and difficult to treat. Mainly because the cork-screw shaped Borrelia bacteria evades treatment by burrowing, hiding, and forming protective shields (called biofilms) making it resistant to antibiotics; but also because ticks often carry other bacteria transmitting more than one disease during the bite called coinfections.
Because treatment is long term and complex for chronic Lyme disease, health insurance does not cover it. There are lobbyists presently trying to get laws passed in Massachusetts to require insurance coverage for chronic Lyme.
At the moment California does not have such laws in place. Treatment for Ana is taking place in Foster City south of San Francisco. It consists of long term antibiotics and antimicrobials.
It is impossible to know how long and whether her body will respond to treatment. Her initial visit with medication cost $1,400. The doctor expects her to be in treatment for at least 12 months and as long as 36 months.
For those of you reading this who know my wife, you can attest to her big heart and deep desire to always go out of her way to help those around her.
She has touched so many lives I lost count. I have for years called her a “catalyst” as she came along side countless others to help them through difficult periods in their lives.
If you are able to, please help her now. Every donation, however small, is a tremendous help! All funds raised will go towards her urgent medical treatment.
Friends please partner with us to help my wife get better and get back to living her life again. I would like to thank you all for your love, support, and prayers over this time. It means the world to us! And we do need your prayers.
Even though she has a long way to go, I have the utmost faith that Ana will overcome this disease, get back to being the amazing mother she is, and to be healthy again. She says when she recovers, she is going to teach the kids to mountain bike and snowboard. :-)
This debilitating disease is taking a heavy emotional toll on the children and family. As Ana and I do everything we can in our financial struggle to afford her treatment, we plead with you that you consider donating to our family.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read her journey, and please share Ana’s story on any and all social media. God bless you all.
Justin T. Smith
- Jacqueline Ammirato
- Guillermo Suarez
- Rohit Salve
- Lauren Ammirato
- Paul Kubicek