Every spring, as the weather warms up, millions of Americans strap on their hiking boots, pack their tents, and head out into the woods for a weekend of fun and adventure.
Part of this annual rite of spring is a spike in public awareness of the dangers of Lyme disease.
While this awareness is critical to preventing Lyme disease (or at least recognizing the symptoms ASAP), it doesn’t tell the full story of the devastating impact that lingers long after the days of summer have faded into memory. Just ask the Lindsay triplets of West Fargo, North Dakota.
In August, 2011, sisters Michele, Melissa, and Melinda were enjoying a camping trip with their parents. The trip was part of an annual summer tradition for the family, and there was nothing unusual about it. But looking back, the triplets’ mother, Jane, believes that’s where they contracted Lyme disease.
Jane herself was bitten by a tick and got Lyme treatment. Not long after, the family dog was put down because of possible Lyme. And in the months that followed, the triplets began experiencing symptoms like fatigue, pain, and confusion. Doctors seemed stumped as the symptoms worsened, and the triplets needed more and more assistance from their parents.
Prior to having symptoms, the triplets had lived together and ran a daycare center—now, Jane and her husband, Tom, have postponed their retirement plans to afford health care for their daughters. They at least have an answer for their daughters’ symptoms—a doctor recently diagnosed them with chronic Lyme disease, a long-lasting and persistent form of Lyme disease that is resistant to traditional antibiotics.
It’s also a controversial diagnosis: Doctors debate whether or not it actually exists as a separate entity.
That debate is strictly academic for the Lindsays, though, because the reality is that their daughters—now 40—live in constant and debilitating pain. Walking and eating is a struggle, and Jane has to liquefy all their food. Two of the sisters don’t talk anymore. And at this point, the future path seems unclear. While the triplets are undergoing treatment, there is no guarantee it will succeed. And in the meantime, Jane has left work to take care of her daughters full-time.
As grim as this is, there is a sliver of hope in the form of the Lindsays’ fabulous friends.
Jane’s co-workers came together to plan a fundraising benefit for the family to help them purchase at-home medical equipment and hire a caregiver for the triplets. They hope that Jane and Tom will be able to take some much-needed time for themselves. Jane is thankful, but she hopes that there will be a day when her daughters are well enough to enjoy another family vacation at the lake.