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Saturday, November 26, 2011


History instructs us, oft the best predictor of the future.

Infectious plagues, epidemics and endemic, have molded the course of human history. The Black plaque, or black death - Bubonic/pneumonic plague of the 14th century has been called the greatest European catastrophe in history. Houses were emptied, villages abandoned, fields were littered with dead. The mysterious disease syphilis followed soon after, infecting many prominent world leaders, forever altering the course of human history. Henry V111, Francis 1 of France, Pope Alexander Borgia, Ivan the Terrible, and many more. Napoleon's madness was perhaps molded by Typhus. Epidemics of malaria, yellow fever, tuberculosis, influenza and AIDS were yet to come. The Spanish flu of 1918-1919 killed more people than WW1. Woodrow Wilson, the American president, contracted the flu while in Paris working out the details of the Treaty of Versailles. One could ponder: would things have worked out differently if he had been well?

Syphilis is perhaps the most pertinent to our story. A painless frequently unseen chancre is followed by a benign secondary stage a long latent stage and then a tertiary disease with protean manifestations. This "great imitator" can attack almost any organ in the body, frequently with central nervous system involvement. End stage disease,"general paresis," manifests itself with various symptoms: headache, "lightening pains," impotence, epilepsy, joint pains, progressive personality and cognitive changes, frank dementia and many more. Some infected have no symptoms and still transmit the disease to the unborn.

Every point in history, has to some extent, been intertwined with and perhaps influenced by its own epidemic(s).

Perhaps epidemics can be less obvious and still alter the history of mankind: no putrid cough and waisting of consumption/tuberculosis.

Perhaps there can exist a silent epidemic: an insidious creeping crawling yet quiet plague.

I know someone. An acquaintance let's say. A fifty something, suffering with fatigue, depression, joint pains and cognitive problems. He believes his family doctor and believes in the "system." The Lyme test was negative. Not Lyme. "Please see 'Under Our Skin.'" Not interested. The person, as of this writing continues to see a panoply of specialists and even non-traditional herbalists. Not Lyme.

I cannot raise the topic of Lyme, now a touchy subject. "You think everything is Lyme."

Arthritis. Fibromyalgia. Chronic fatigue. MS. Early dementia. POTS. "not feeling as well as 80 year old parents." All on the rise - and others.

A quiet epidemic. Denial. "Aches and pains of daily living." "Anti-science. Unseen.

True story: Tall sailing ships, those of Christopher Columbus were sailing to the Island of Hispanola. The natives scanning the horizon could see nothing. Perhaps a perturbation of the waters. After all, such things could not exist in their universe. They called the Shaman. He saw the ships. Only then could the people see them too. (to their detriment, but that's another story)

The 19th century European obstetrician. Semmelweise literally lost his mind trying to convince the experts that puerperal fever (child bed fever). a lethal epidemic, was caused by germs and that hand washing was the cure. He gave up everything to fight the battle against prevailing world opinion. Not living to see the paradigm change - slowly, he died pitifully in a mental hospital.

What can we see in the calm - no turbulent waters?


LML said...

Yay! I get to be the first to comment! Thanks for posting. Good to hear from you!

While my husband was going to grad school at Stanford Business School I fell quite ill with what I now know to be Lyme Disease. My best friend there, who was sick herself told me all about Lyme Disease because she struggled with air hunger, chest pains and was in the ER alot. She told me that anxiety and depression and body aches are symtoms of Lyme. It went in one ear and out the other. The people I had known with lyme had been on death's door - one with what was thought to be hepatitis C and not until his son came to the hospital 3 weeks later was he checked for lyme because his son, a doctor, suggested it. My other friend had a lyme-disease induced heart attack after getting a bulls-eye rash. Yet another went unconscious and hit his head on the bathtub - it was lyme. Me, I just became paralyzed with fear and anxiety, woke up in panic attacks and went nearly crazy from it. Vitamins and supplements from advanced nutritional testing brought me into more equilibrium.

This was 4 years ago. Just 4 months ago, I was tested for Lyme after putting off the testing for over a year. My naturopath had suggested due to my symptoms that it may be Lyme but thought no way. I have watched Under Our Skin. I didn't see much emphasis on the anxiety, depression side of things. For me, I would have checked for lyme WAY, WAY sooner if I understood that anxiety and depression were COMMON side effects. Never did I know, even after living in upstate New York that my symptoms were common to Lyme.

Great to hear from.

Anonymous said...

I worked as an RN for 35 yrs, most of my friends are RNs or Nurse Practitioners. They have seen what I have gone through with my health, they have seen the improvement with treatment, they have seen my CDC/NYS positive Lyme WB...they have seen the permanent damage done to be by the unrecognized Lyme disease BUT

They refuse to watch Under Our Skin, refuse to read any of the Lyme books or pamphlets I offer, refuse to see the difference between IDSA and ILADS guidelines, make me feel like I am a weakling and a uniquely affected individual while we are in an are of Central NY where fibromyalgia and MS are rampant.

One friend gives Copaxone administration training to patients with MS, has even seen that a few now have been diagnosed with Lyme but refuses to learn about it.

Several friends work on a peds unit where there have been atypical swollen knees or formerly productive teens who suddenly have "conversion disorders" or "atypical seizures". But the ELISA is negative so it is not Lyme.

Heads in sand, refusal to learn, very sad.