Emphasis: Pediatrics & New Research
March 24-26, 2000 Hartford Marriott Farmington, CT, USA
Outcomes in Cases of Chronic Disseminated Lyme Disease for Three Infected Physicians, Described in Their Own Essays, Published in Peer Reviewed Journals
Virginia T. Sherr, MD
In 1972, a Swedish pediatric neurologist, 46 year old Dr. Ingrid Gamstorp, noticed generalized fatigue and paresthesias predominately in her left hand. Through the ensuing years, she developed serious balance problems, loss of fine sensation in both hands, multiple muscle pains, deep aches, weight loss, and painful feet. Colleagues dismissed her distress as being the Swedish equivalent of a ?tender-foot."? She began on a endless cycle of trips to doctors, each examining her and referring her on to another for new tests while suggesting stress as the likely cause. She became depressed and contemplated suicide. Comments had been: ?You should know how it is for women of your age. You should just live with it!? Sixteen years later, a friend noticed her blue hands and suggested Lyme disease, confirmed it with blood tests, started her on IV penicillin, then oral penicillin, then oral tetracycline and finally IV cephalosporin. These 9 weeks total of antibiotics stopped the progress of her symptoms and gave her tremendous relief from the burden of being underdiagnosed, non-treated and trivialized. However, on-going neurological damage due to long-term, untreated and then partially treated infection left her disabled enough during her last 9 years of work that she was forced to retire early. She said that while the infection was important to her, it ?meant a lot to Swedish child neurology, which lost its only professorship at my retirement. Never pat women on the shoulder and say, 'You know, women of your age..'? Her article is Lyme Borreliosis from a Patient's View-point in Scand J Infect Dis Suppl 1991; 77: 15-16.
In 1987, the editor of the Finnish Medical Journal, Dr. Ilkka Vartiovaara, visited Canada and photographed a bug that bit him. Three weeks later, he had pain in his feet, knees and wrists, bone-deep chilliness, and pronounced losses of sensation, hearing, balance, energy and eyesight. He had dermal hyperesthesia and other severe bodily pains. He wrote in Living with Lyme, Lancet 1995; 345 June 3, his description of the illness that followed his trip: ?Sixteen months later I could barely drive a car, type or work? and had to listen to: ?Too much stress, Dr. Vartiovaara?? A year later, he received a diagnosis of Lyme disease with the help of an American colleague and began aggressive ceftriaxone IV treatments. Unfortunately, the IV's respite from his worst symptoms was too brief and too late to save his occupation. And rounds of oral doxycycline caused improvement but likewise did not last. After repeated on/off attempts at such treatment, Dr. Vartiovaara was forced to retire at age 45. A year later, his Lyme PCR turned positive. Despite new bouts of antibiotics, he wrote, ?I am 49 years old, an invalid with a totally unknown prognosis.? He deplored ?the label of chronic complainer which is put on Lyme victims.?
In Jan.'00, I wrote in The Physician as a Patient, Prac Gastroent 24; 1:28, of the acute onset in myself of chilliness, prostration, rampant cardiac arrhythmias, hyperesthesia of the skin, hyperacusis, excruciating muscle pains, painful facial and back muscle spasms, weakness, itching, sweats, tinnitus, and waves of malaria-like symptoms without the fever. Having had a ring-like rash, I called Dr. Joseph Burrascano who told me that to save my health and occupation, I would need to get immediate testing and then antibiotics. From that day 3 years ago to this, 2-22-2000, I have required IV or oral antibiotics. Of the three tick-infected doctors, I was the oldest at the time of onset of acute symptoms. As a result of having received continuous antibiotic treatment, I am the only one of the three who is not yet so Lyme-disabled as to be forced into unwanted, premature retirement.