Friday, April 8, 2011

Making the connection: Michelle Kwasney and Lyme Disease

Last summer, I started following Jeannine's example when we walked the dogs through the tall grass and weeds in our field -- I would spray insect repellent on my feet and legs, as well as my exposed arms and face and neck. This was specifically to -- as much as possible -- keep ticks from latching onto us, and possibly infecting us with Lyme disease. That's about as far as I went in thinking about it -- if asked, I would probably have said something like "Lyme disease… yeah, that's the thing spread by ticks, right? Isn't there a shot for that or something?"

It wasn't until just now that I made the connection between that habit and the travails of a new friend, Michelle Kwasney. MIchelle is actually a good friend of Jeannine's, and, like Jeannine, a writer as well (though she was originally intending to be an illustrator). I only recently met Michelle through Jeannine, and have slowly been getting to know her better.

One of the reasons it is happening slowly is that Michelle has Lyme Disease, and has suffered with it for the last couple of years. I had no idea, before I started hearing about it from her, exactly how debilitating it is… and how difficult to get rid of once one is infected. It has altered her life in almost every way. She faces chronic pain and difficulty with her memory. She walks with the aid of a cane. She no longer teaches art, doesn't leave her house very often, and can't drive. It has slowed her writing pace and led to a host of other difficulties. And though she sees some incremental improvements as the weeks and months pass, she doesn't know if she'll ever get completely better.

I am still learning about this stuff, but one thing which seems to be evident even to me at this point is that more attention needs to be given to Lyme disease -- or, perhaps more to the point, to those who have it and whose lives are altered, often irretrievably, by its effects on body and mind. Physicians need to know more about it, how to diagnose it properly and promptly, and then how to treat it in the most effective way possible. And everyone needs to know more about how to try to avoid getting it in the first place.

This past week I saw a notice on Michelle's Facebook page ( about something called "Lace Up for Lyme" -- a Lyme Disease Awareness Walk, an event intended to promote greater public awareness of Lyme and its devastating consequences for those afflicted with it. I asked Michelle if it was okay for me to post this information on my blog, and also if she would  be okay with my talking about her and her battle with Lyme, and she gave me the go-ahead. 

This page ( is a petition to get the news out about Lyme Disease.

And this one ( gives more information about the "Lace Up for Lyme" walk event.

I would be remiss if I did not end this post with at least one positive note -- if spirit and strength of will have any salubrious effects on one's health, then MIchelle is well-positioned to reclaim her former wellness. Although I have only known her a short time, it's clear to me that she has a sizeable reservoir of those qualities. -- PL

P.S. The graphic at the top of this post is the cover of Michelle's most recently-published novel, "Blue Plate Special". Here are the covers to her other two novels -- "Itch"…

… and "Baby Blue". 

You can click on the titles or the covers to be taken to their respective pages on, if you are interested in buying the books, or just learning more about them. -- PL


Adam Riches said...

Prior to reading this post I think my knowledge of Lyme Disease was about as much as yours was. I had no idea the long term effects it can have. This new found knowledge is inlighting (and terrifying) thanks for sharing this. I'll definitely be more cautious when roaming through the tall grass and wooded areas near my house.

Mark H said...

I was bitten by a tick two years ago and contracted lyme disease. I live in a heavily wooded area and I'm outside a lot in the summer. I like to go on long runs, garden, ect.
I did find a deer tick on my inner thigh one day after a run. I promptly removed it. It looked like it could have been there for a while. Three days later I ended up with a really bad, bright red rash on my whole inner thigh. It was very hot to the touch and burned more than it itched. I went to the doctor to get blood work done and, sure enough, I had lyme. The rash was not a classic bulls eye rash that they say you can get with lyme disease. It looked like any other rash except the color was very dark red, almost a salmon color. The doctors gave me antibiotics and, it seemed to clear up the rash pretty fast. I had a follow up a few weeks later with the doctor. The lyme did not show up in my blood work again. The doctor said because we caught it early we where able to treat it before I had any more issues. So if you ever get a rash in an area where you have been bitten by a tick. Make sure you have it checked by a doctor. If you catch lyme early it is very treatable but, if left untreated it can become a nightmare.
My son contracted Lyme last August. We had no idea till one morning my wife and I woke him up and realized that he could not move half his face. At first I though he was messing with us. My son is a little prankster. It was no joke however. Half his face was paralyzed. I quickly gave him an inspection and noticed a big read bump behind his ear. I asked him if he knew what it was from. He said he thought it was just a pimple. I could tell that it was no pimple. As soon as we could, we got him in to see his doctor. Sure enough the doctor confirmed that the bump was a tick bight. They tested him for lyme disease and he was positive. I’m still not sure how this works but, the lyme caused him to have bell’s palsy. I, even after having an episode with lyme disease, had no idea that could happen. Long story short the doctor put him on antibiotics. A couple months later he was tested for lyme and tested negative but, the palsy did not fully go away for a few months. I felt so bad for him. He was a little trooper. I think he handled having his half his face paralyzed better than I would have.
This is a very serious disease. It has the potential to damage the nervous system in ways I never would have thought. I have to be honest when I contracted it I thought “No, big deal.” “It’s just a rash.” After seeing what my son went through I taker it far more serious.
My wife and I have always been good about putting spray on the children. We try to do our best to protect them but, we learned the hard way. Spray is not enough. Now I watch them like a hawk. We inspect there legs, arms, back, scalps when they come in from playing. This disease is no joke.
Sorry for another one of my long rants Mr. Laird. I just wanted to share my real experiences with Lyme Disease. I wish "Lace Up for Lyme" was closer. Like I said before I’m a runner and, one of my hobbies is doing walks and 5k runs causes I believe in. I strongly believe in making more people aware of what Lyme Disease is and how much of an impact it can have on someone’s life. I’m glad you told us Michelle’s story and, I’m glad posted this topic for discussion. The more people that are aware the more they can protect themselves. I say to anyone reading this. If you pull a tick off of yourself and, see the slightest sign of a rash or, fever get to a doctor. Don’t worry about being paranoid. A little paranoia is a good thing sometimes. Lyme is something that needs to be treated ASAP. The longer it is in your system the more damage it will do. The harder it is to get rid of it. Great post Mr. Laird! Thanks!

Mark H said...

I can't get to Wisconsin for the walk. I did give a donation to the cause. I think making people more aware is a positive thing. I wish Michelle the best and, hope she sees continuing improvements. :)

Summer said...

Having worked in a veterinary hospital for 13 years, I saw quite a few cases of Lyme Disease in dogs that had been bitten by ticks. There is a definite lack of knowledge in the community about this disease and especially about the zoonotic portion of it. It's very important to keep your pets on a tick prevention if you're in a tick-infested environment. They can bring them into the house on their fur just like we can on our clothing.

Thankfully it is relatively simple and easy to treat with a common antibiotic if it's caught early enough. The key for that, though, is vigilance about checking for them.