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Lyme Disease: A “devastating” illness for many Central Albertans

“It’s a pretty big epidemic,” says support group member

Grant Patton went from being a healthy Bentley business owner to becoming a debilitated hospital patient almost overnight.

He lost weight and muscle strength until he couldn’t stand on his own. He had involuntary flailing of his head and arms and some cognitive impairment.

Doctors at Red Deer hospital didn’t know what ailed him, recalled his wife, Lynn Patton.

During nine months of his down-hill progress, which started in 2007, no medical diagnosis was provided. It seemed apparent to Lynn that her husband was dying. She recalled he lost the ability to move his limbs.

The family’s long-time pharmacist, who had just seen a TV program on a tick-borne bacterial illness, told Lynn, “if you’ve already considered everything else, then consider Lyme Disease” — and that was the turning point.

The illness wasn’t widely known then — and many people who have been successfully treated for the disease believe it’s still flying under the radar today.

May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month and the Pattons are helping spread knowledge of the illness. Lynn said many members of the medical establishment don’t accept that disease-carrying deer ticks are even present this area, although many Central Albertans have come down with symptoms.

“It’s a pretty big epidemic,” said Josh Barker, a board member of the 100-member Central Alberta Lyme Disease Support Group.

The kiteboarding athlete had to skip races this year due to a recurrence of a disease he thought he had beaten. “It’s a devastating problem,” said Barker, who believes the lack of acknowledgement from the medical community doesn’t help.

Part of the problem is that only ineffective blood tests are used to test for the disease in Alberta, so few people came up positive, said Grant. His own blood tested negative — although Grant said he later met the majority of markers (66 out of a possible 75) in a more thorough test for Lyme Disease that was ordered from the U.S.

Lynn found a couple of medical and holistic healers who were willing “open their minds” to the diagnosis, and the couple believe that treatments for Lyme Disease saved Grant’s life.

Grant, now 63, gradually regained his health, but recently suffered a setback after his immunity was low after surgery.

To date, the Pattons have spent $120,000 on medications not covered by health insurance because no Lyme Disease diagnosis was ever made for Grant.

Lynn hopes information available at AlbertaLyme.org will help those who are ill with the tick-borne bacteria, but can’t get a diagnosis or treatment plan. “Many people are suffering and they don’t need to be.”

The Central Alberta Lyme Society’s (CALS) support group meets at the Red Deer and District Museum on the last Thursday of the month, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. (except for July and August). Information and tick removal/testing kits are available by emailing: lymereddeer@gmail.com.


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