Clover residents Kim Aldridge and Amity Rine had been friends for years. When both their children were diagnosed with Lyme disease, they united in a cause.
Aldridge and Rine formed Ticked about Lyme, a nonprofit organization that aims to raise awareness about Lyme disease and help families deal with it.
On Saturday, about 100 people teamed up for a 5K walk and run at Clover’s First United Methodist Church to kick off the campaign.
Luke Aldridge and Sarah Rine, both 14, have been treated for Lyme disease since October 2014, and Sarah is well enough to return to school at Oakridge Middle School.
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Both families spent months taking their children to doctors in search of a diagnosis for symptoms that seemed eerily similar: Chronic fatigue, achy and swollen joints, migraine headaches, fever, memory and concentration problems and nausea, and more.
Now that both children are receiving treatment, they learned the challenges aren’t over.
Aldridge and Rine both said Lyme disease diagnosis and treatment is controversial. Many patients need antibiotic treatment that is much longer than the 30-day recommended regimen covered by most insurance companies, so many families face costs and other challenges in treatment.
“Our story is everybody’s story,” said Kim Aldridge, a registered nurse who took son Luke to a medical laboratory in Virginia, where the condition was diagnosed. Rine said Sarah was diagnosed after her blood was sent to a lab in California.
Rine said Sarah is in eighth grade at Oakaridge. Although she’s not cured, Rine said, her concentration and memory issues and many other symptoms have improved.
However, Aldridge said Luke hasn’t seen improvement, and he has been out of school since January 2014. He is being home schooled, she said.
Lyme disease is a multisystemic illness caused by the bite of an infected black-legged tick. The first warning signs are a tick bite and a rash that may look like a bull’s-eye.
The disease occurs in stages, and any organ can become involved, including the heart and brain, according to the National Capital Lyme Disease Association.
Early symptoms may be flu-like and include headaches, stiff neck, fever, muscle aches, fatigue and partial facial paralysis. Late symptoms can include joint pain and swelling, heart complications, motor problems, dizziness, irritability, memory and concentration impairment and muscle, tendon and bone pain.
Rine and Aldridge said one problem is that Lyme disease often can go undetected for months or years, and that it can be more difficult to treat in advanced stages. They also said it’s more common in states in the U.S. North and Northeast, so doctors in the South may be less likely to suspect it.
Rebecca Suchenski of Clover, another Lyme disease patient who was involved in the walk, but was not able to participate, said she had Lyme symptoms since 2007, and was diagnosed earlier this year. She believes she visited at least 20 doctors in search of a diagnosis.
Suchenski said testing is innacurate and doctors who treat patients with antibiotics for more than the 30-day standard can run the risk of insurance lawsuits.
“Everybody is just one infected bite away from coming down with it, and completely turning your life upside down,” she said. “We try to warn everyone we can because it’s a tough life.”
Jennifer Becknell • 803-329-4077
For information about the Clover-area Ticked about Lyme, visit www.tickedaboutlyme.org or email Kim Aldridge at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information about Lyme disease, visit the National Capital Lyme Disease Association, www.natcaplyme.org, the International Lyme and Associated Disease Society, www.ilads.org, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, www.cdc.gov/lyme/.