So it was last winter as I began to count off the number of friends I have who have been afflicted by Lyme disease. There’s Jane, of course. She’s been struggling with the headaches for a couple of years. Sally and David got it in their woodsy Wilton backyard. Then Larry and Pete got the dreaded bite playing golf in the Hamptons. And I couldn’t forget Fay, who had to give up her medical practice because of the Lyme repercussions. On and on I went with this list. It was impressively long.
I’m sure your list would be equally long, too. Everybody knows somebody.
Add me to it. When I got hit with Lyme about two years ago, I wasn’t too surprised. Many a morning I had pried some bloated tick off my cat or dog. Looking down at the nasty sucker, I would figure that this beast was obviously too big to be a deer tick. The real thing, I figured, was going to be like a sniper’s bullet: You’re never supposed to hear the one that gets you.
Well, damn. And here I had long ago renounced one of my favorite activities in life — sleeping out in the woods. It’s true. I come from one of those camper families that tore through America in the days before RVs. When I was five my folks took me to California’s greatest cathedral, Redwood National Park, and that awesome week among the towering bowers began my life of sleeping among the trees. There’s hardly a place between Oregon and Turkey that I haven’t thrown down a sleeping bag.
My kids have so far been free of this great passion of mine. Take my darling innocents out into … the woods? You kidding? Among those baleful, ferocious ticks that are out there licking their chops? Not on any overnight campout, I’ll tell you that. We do go for long walks in the woods, and naturally I hose them down with enough Deet to asphyxiate a bull moose.
I think I’ve fully recovered (although restive voices in the art department here might beg to differ). At least half the Lyme cases I can think of seem to have gone away with relative dispatch. But it’s the painful, lingering cases that led me to send our reporter Gary Santaniello out in search of the latest findings.
I was hoping he’d be able to tell us all about brand-new remedies that eager doctors are poised to spring on us and lead us into a brighter tomorrow. Alas, it appears that any new remedies are not getting to the public.
But when you read Gary’s findings, and his description of what a tricky and malevolent disease Lyme has evolved into, you will wonder why Congress hasn’t stepped up funding to get us some help here.
One problem might be that Lyme disease is most heavily confined to just four states (Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania). But at least four senators from the stricken regions (Christopher Dodd and Joe Lieberman from Connecticut, Rick Santorum from Pennsylvania, and Chuck Schumer from New York) have joined forces on a bill that might scare up some action. I don’t blame them for demonstrating concern. There are a lot of folks who are very alarmed.
After that, well, the beach sounds good, doesn’t it?