Lyme Disease Awareness: Check Yourself and Your Buddies for Ticks PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Sgt. Michael Camacho, Illinois National Guard Public Affairs Office   
Monday, 25 March 2013 12:13

SPRINGFIELD, IL (03/22/2013)(readMedia)-- With spring weather around the corner and more outside training, Illinois Guardsmen should be aware of the dangers of tick bites, which can lead to Lyme disease.

Sgt. Megan Crist of Niantic, Ill. with Company A, 634th Brigade Support Battalion in Mattoon knows these dangers all too well.

"I'm just a small town girl who no one knows," said Crist. "I however have a story that I would like the public to hear so that awareness and hopefully someday help and relief can be brought to all those that suffer from this awful, miserable and debilitating disease known as Lyme disease."

Last summer doctors told 26-year-old Crist she needed a pacemaker to live.

Devastated at this news, Crist was hopeful the chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, weakness and fatigue was related to her pregnancy. During the exam, her cardiologist asked her if she ever experienced a tick bite. Confused how this related to her heart condition she said no, but the question stayed with her.

The next day Crist had her pacemaker implanted. Her cardiologist asked about tick bites again.

"It hit me like a ton of bricks that five years ago, back in fall of 2007, while I was in basic training, I had a big rash," she recalled. "The rash was on my left quad and kept expanding."

At basic training, Crist received antibiotics and treatment for a spider bite. Weeks later, she experienced dizzy spells, fatigue and occasional migraines. Yet after seeking further medical attention, doctors told her she was okay.

Crist now knows she was exhibiting symptoms of chronic Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is the human immune system's response to infection caused by the bacteria Borrelia Burgdorferi carried by deer ticks, said Maj. Jayson Coble of Springfield, the state safety and occupational health officer for the Illinois National Guard.

First recognized in the United States in the 1970s, Lyme disease is the leading vector-borne disease in the country with approximately 20,000 cases annually according the Centers for Disease Control, he said.

"Ninety percent of cases are in the summer and peak in June to July," said Coble.

Coble said there are three stages of Lyme disease; while the stages one and two are curable, the third and final stages are life-long. It is non-fatal, but can have a major negative effect on a person's overall wellbeing and lead to other complications.

Early symptoms include headaches, rashes, low-grade fever, chills and fatigue. Symptoms may fade after three to four weeks, but without treatment it will progress to stage two.

Coble said it is important for Soldiers in field environments to check themselves, their clothing and help fellow Soldiers check themselves for ticks. If a tick is found, it should be removed within 24 hours. Soldiers should report to a medic or medical facility and pay attention to symptoms.

"If you're unsure or concerned at all, because Lyme disease can present in some different ways, it is important to seek out medical attention," said Coble

Since Crist's diagnosis, she has changed nearly every aspect of her lifestyle, diet and exercise regimens to improve her health. She has also made it a priority to bring awareness to tick bites and dangers of Lyme Disease.

"I hate that I had no clue about Lyme disease until I was diagnosed and had a lot of weird, unexpected, and extreme symptoms," she said. "I would absolutely hate for anyone else to have to endure any of this mess, let alone the disease itself, so awareness is key."

In order to bring awareness to the disease and help with Crist's medical bills, there will be a benefit in her honor March 23 at the Lovington American Legion at 4 p.m. in Lovington, Ill.


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