The Warwick Daily News, a news organization based in Australia, recently shared a heart-wrenching story about a young woman and her experience with chronic Lyme Disease.
Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by the transfer of bacteria from a tick bite. It can become chronic if not treated appropriately or if it goes undiagnosed for a long time. Signs of it include many flu-like symptoms, rashes, joint pain, and more. To learn more about chronic Lyme disease, click here.
Three years ago, Madison Rapa, who resides in Melbourne, fell seriously ill. She had fatigue, stomach pain, muscle pain, migraines, nausea, fever, memory loss—all symptoms of Lyme disease. But when she went to the doctor? The physician told her it was simply because she was aging. She was only 24 years old.
She has since visited a staggering 47 doctors, and most of them haven’t been helpful. Why has she had such a struggle finding treatment? Chronic Lyme disease is controversial in the medical community, and even more so in Australia because there is little evidence that it occurs there.
However, Rapa probably didn’t get Lyme disease in Australia. She only got sick after coming home from a visit to the United States.
Three years later, Rapa has only just found a helpful doctor in Sydney—after having to travel to Malaysia two times in order to get treatment not available in her country. The weekly cost for treatment and travel is $1000, and Medicare doesn’t cover any of it. In the meantime, her life as a businesswoman is long gone, since she is usually too sick to leave her house, unless she’s going to a doctor’s appointment.
“I’ve been misdiagnosed so many times I’ve spent thousands on treatment for things I didn’t have.”
And she isn’t alone—many other patients have to pay absurd amounts of money for treatment. They also often experience derision and disbelief because of the controversy surrounding the disease.
The president of the Lyme Disease Association of Australia, Ms. Marie Huttley-Jackson, echoes Rapa’s story. Years ago, when Ms. Huttley-Jackson tried to find treatment for her daughter’s Lyme disease, she was called a bad mother. The physicians thought they were making the symptoms up. When they were finally prescribed medication, it cost $1100 per bottle.
Ms. Rapa has called on Australia’s government and health practitioners to raise awareness and education about Lyme disease, regardless of the fact that it’s rare in the country. Australian patients shouldn’t have to suffer while the department of health debates the very concept of chronic Lyme disease. If travelers are coming back from countries where the disease is common, physicians should have the knowledge to consider that as a diagnosis when recording a patient’s history.
Through the brave stories from people like Madison, hopefully chronic Lyme disease patients in Australia—and around the world—will soon be heard.