In the early 1970s, a cluster of 39 children who lived and played in heavily wooded areas of Lyme, Connecticut, experienced inexplicable symptoms of fever, joint and muscle pain, and neurological problems. The symptoms mimicked chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, and in some cases, mental illness including depression and anxiety. The symptoms subsided and resolved in some children, while others experienced more debilitating and lifelong health problems. Similar symptoms appeared in children throughout New England and the upper Midwest. In every single case, the child had been bitten by a tick.
I was one of those children.
My life was turned upside down when I was 8 years old, after I was bitten by a tick playing in the woods of northern Minnesota. I went from a fun and adventurous little boy to sickly, bedridden, and depressed. Pediatricians made no sense of it and, of course, never asked about any tick bites. My symptoms eventually subsided but started to recur throughout my childhood, teenage years, and then into adulthood. I was never the same, and I never received a diagnosis. Not once did a doctor ask me about the tick bite.
Even as a doctor, I went undiagnosed for years.
My sickness propelled me to study medicine, which I still practice today as a board-certified physician in Orlando, Florida. As a physician I’ve delivered hundreds of babies as an OB/GYN, researched and practiced neurology, taught resident doctors at the university level, and became a pioneer in genetic-based medicine. Throughout medical school and my career, I researched the cause of my own illness, which still plagued me, hoping to find a cause and a cure. I eventually took an interest in alternative and integrative approaches, since my "traditional" medical colleagues offered me no diagnosis, no answers, and no hope!
Five years ago, I was treating a patient who complained to me about remarkably similar symptoms including chronic pain, muscle weakness, occasional flu-like symptoms, nonspecific anxiety and depression. I had real compassion for her because I knew exactly how she felt. In fact, I was the first and only doctor to believe her! We explored aspects of her symptoms and their sudden onset, when she mentioned to me she had been bitten by a tick.
A tick bite. I will never forget this moment. I then began to research Lyme disease, working with hundreds of patients who expressed similar symptoms. Some of them remember being bitten by a tick, while others did not, but they all had the same symptoms.
Lyme disease is a growing problem.
Little did I know that incidents of Lyme disease would soon accelerate to epidemic proportions. Government data recently showed that 10 times as many people are contracting Lyme as are diagnosed with diabetes. Lyme will soon become the polio, mumps, and measles epidemic of our generation. The medical community is moving too slowly, or not even moving at all, to help find treatments and a cure for Lyme.
I haven’t completely cured my own Lyme disease yet, but I do feel like a new man today with an energy and vitality that surprises even my own family. I no longer live in fear of and anger about my symptoms, having conquered most of them. I feel better than I’ve felt in 50 years. Lyme consumed my life for too long, and it’s been an incredible feeling to finally break free of its chains. I’ve now worked with more than 500 Lyme patients. They travel from all over the country and world to see me. Some have mild symptoms that are more recent, while others have been living with severe symptoms for most of their life.
The problem with labs and testing.
Almost all doctors today use the Western blot test to diagnose Lyme. The Western blot test can sometimes confirm the presence of certain antibodies to diagnose Lyme, similar to how HIV is diagnosed. The problem is that the Western blot fails to diagnose Lyme in most patients—most of the time. More than half of my patients test negative for Lyme with Western blot, even those who actually remember being bitten by a tick.
Imagine if 50 percent of patients were misdiagnosed with diabetes or cancer? It's a medical catastrophe! Through my research and work with hundreds of patients, I’ve developed a protocol that accurately diagnoses Lyme disease in roughly 70 percent of those patients who previously tested negative for Lyme with the Western blot.
A better way to diagnose Lyme.
Lyme disease is a strain of the Borelia bacteria left behind in the body after a tick bite. The Borelia can cause, in some people, certain antibodies to naturally develop to fight the bacteria. The problem is that some people (most people) don’t develop these antibodies. Or, the antibodies came and left the body before or after the testing. Lyme is not like HIV in this way, as a similar antibody test for HIV is nearly 100 percent accurate.
Sadly, too many doctors these days take the easy path to diagnosis and treatment of Lyme. I discovered that during my battle with my own health. But when I get on my knees and pray at night, I thank God for my Lyme. Why? My disease compelled me to take the hard road. Some say what I do in treating Lyme is revolutionary. I don’t think so. I think it’s just good old-fashioned medicine. I got "ticked off," and I didn’t give up. And that’s the way a good doctor should always be!
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