Grueling fight: Area woman shares struggle with tick-borne disease
For a decade, Lisa Worrell went from doctor to doctor trying to get to the bottom of why she felt so sick.
The East Freedom mom of two and Lia Sophia regional manager would have bouts of weakness and experience gastrological issues. She developed hashimoto disease, a condition when one’s immune system attacks the thyroid.
“Then about two years ago, I was in the kitchen and I just totally collapsed on the floor, I lost all my muscle tone in my arms and legs. They took me to the ER and gave me some fluids, and it came right back, like I was only down for that night. But it was like the symptoms I had throughout the 10 years but … much more intense.”
In October, it happened again. Feeling tired, Worrell went to bed and later awoke unable to move because she was so weak.
Her husband rushed her to the emergency room where it was discovered her blood pressure was “very high,” she said. The doctors ran tests, but again nothing was found. The hospital sent her home and Worrell, who was using a wheelchair at that point, continued seeing doctors.
While at a local medical center, her blood pressure soared so high she was taken by ambulance to the hospital.
She said, “something was happening in my body but they couldn’t figure it out, nothing was showing, I didn’t have a fever, I didn’t have anything. So I was in the hospital then for four days, they ran all kinds of tests: neurological, CT scans; nothing showed.
“They tried to say I was in a depression, that I needed some type of depression medicine. But I think the depression was coming from them not figuring out what was going on with my body, with me.”
Worrell came home in a wheelchair and was receiving physical therapy. She thought to herself she had to figure out what was going on with her body, or she would simply continue to deteriorate.
Worrell’s mom, Joyce Foor, who lives near her daughter, would find her limp like a “rag doll” on some mornings, Foor said.
Worrell began traveling to Jeannette for Vitamin C intravenous treatments, which made her feel a bit better, she said.
Eventually in her search for answers, Worrell came across Envita Medical Centers, located in Scottsdale, Arizona.
At the center, she was finally diagnosed with a tick-borne disease known as human granulocytic anaplasmosis, and she had several co-infections associated with it.
Tick bites primarily from an infected black-legged tick, also known as the deer tick, and an infected western black-legged tick – which can both transmit Lyme disease – transmit human granulocytic anaplasmosis, one of several tick-borne illnesses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“People exposed to the disease agent often have difficulty being diagnosed because of the non-specific nature of the symptoms,” the American Lyme Disease Foundation said of anaplasmosis. “Clinical manifestations of HGA can range from mild to life-threatening, depending on the patient’s age and general health. Onset of anaplasmosis generally begins within a week of a tick bite, and often includes fever, severe headaches, malaise, muscle pains and chills. Other symptoms may include confusion, hemorrhages and renal failure.”
During her struggle, Worrell couldn’t get an appointment with anyone in the area who could treat her because of a lack of area doctors who are educated on tick-borne illnesses, and the one doctor she did find was not taking any more patients, she said.
A search on the Lyme Disease Association website, revealed only one local practitioner, who did not return messages for comment on this story. The two other practitioners revealed in the search were located in York and Shippensburg.
What the CDC calls post-treatment lyme disease syndrome, is commonly known as chronic lyme disease, and it is controversial in the medical community.
Worrell received treatment for six weeks in Arizona.
Since December, she has taken antibiotics to treat the tick-borne disease. She is also receiving Vitamin C treatments at a center in Bedford. She follows a strict diet with no sugar or gluten, she said.
“She still has bad days, but she’s a lot better than what she was,” her mom said.
Worrell wants to speak out in order to help others.
She encourages patients to not take a doctor’s diagnosis as the final word and to become their own patient advocate. She wants more testing for tick-borne illnesses taking place in the medical community.
She fears the public does not know how bad tick-borne illnesses are spreading. She said more doctors educated on tick-borne illnesses are needed in the area, and more awareness needs to be raised about how the symptoms of those illnesses mimic those of other diseases such as multiple sclerosis and ALS, among others.
For more information on Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses, visit the American Lyme Disease Foundation website at www.aldf.com.
Mirror Staff Writer Amanda Gabeletto is at 949-7030.