Local man's battle with Lyme disease

Jim Young was perfectly healthy and now a tick bite has forever changed his life
May 30, 2013 3:52:47 PM PDT
When the weather is warm, people spend more time outdoors. That also increases the exposure for ticks that can cause serious illnesses such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease.

With May being Lyme Disease Awareness Month, there is lots of information out about Lyme disease prevention. Experts advise people to wear long sleeves, light-colored clothing and to use insect repellent with deet.

One local family has advice for anyone who is bitten by a tick. They say be on alert for symptoms of Lyme disease and take the warnings seriously.

The health of busy father and avid golfer Jim Young began deteriorating about five years ago.

"He had these really bad headaches.  He had this massive crick in his neck and he had an MRI and he went to the chiropractor and he had all sorts of stuff done but he just didn't really feel well," said Jim's wife Erica Kosal.  

Young had constant flu-like symptoms and chronic fatigue. After a two-week course of antibiotics, he didn't feel any better. Doctors diagnosed him with ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease.

Convinced he didn't have ALS, the couple continued to see other doctors and were finally told that Young's health problems were caused by Lyme disease.

Now the 55 year old has lost the ability to speak and walk, and he needs a ventilator to breathe.

Young is under the care of Dr. John Pittman at the Carolina Center for Integrative Medicine. Pittman says Lyme disease is often mistaken for other illnesses like ALS, Multiple Sclerosis, and Fibromyalgia.

"Those individuals that don't see the tick, don't remember anything happening related to an insect bite, or see a rash that occurred in about 20 to 30 percent of patients. They develop chronic problems that nobody can figure out. Nobody is thinking about Lyme disease in these individuals and realizing if it's not treated it can become a chronic debilitating illness," Pittman said.

Jim remembers getting a tick bite, but didn't get the classic bull's eye rash.

"What I said was oh thank goodness it's not a bull's eye. It can't be Lyme, and that was that," Kosal said.  "Looking back on that, we think oh my goodness if only we knew any rash is bad news."

Young and his family want everyone to be careful this summer and to be on the lookout for symptoms that could be a serious disease.

"If you don't and the bacteria say in there for too long you can have a very, very serious condition on your hands," Pittman said.

Pittman says Lyme disease continues to be a very controversial condition. Many physicians don't believe the symptoms that patients are experiencing are caused by tick bites. Also, patients are having a hard time getting insurance to pay for treatment.

Young continues to undergo treatment and hopes to make a full recovery and to one day walk again.

His wife has written the book "Miracles For Daddy" about her family's journey.

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