Ticks are small arachnids, ranging in size from a grain of sand or a poppy seed to an apple seed. Small they may be, but they can carry a big problem. Ticks carry an array of diseases including Lyme disease.
Isaiah Lundmark, 10 years old, of Clifton, was diagnosed with Lyme disease in September 2017. Isaiah's mom, Carissa Lundmark, 37, is trying to create awareness about Lyme disease and how this year could be the worst year for ticks.
Lyme disease is caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi that is transmitted to humans through a bite from an infected black-legged or deer tick.
Ticks spend time on vegetation waiting for host animals, like dogs, to get close enough for them to crawl onto. Ticks crawl; they cannot fly or jump. Some ticks will attach quickly; but others will wander, looking for places like the ear or other areas where the skin is thinner.
A new virus called Bourbon virus has been associated with tick bites and has been found in a limited number of cases in midwestern and southern U.S.
People diagnosed with Bourbon virus disease have symptoms that can include fever, fatigue, rash, headache, other body aches, nausea and vomiting. They also had low blood counts for cells that fight infection and help prevent bleeding. Some people who were infected later died.
If you come in contact with a tick, the best way to dispose of it is to place it in soapy water or alcohol, stick it to a piece of tape or flush it down the toilet.
In the state of Illinois, adult-sized ticks are more active in the summer months.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, disease cases from mosquito, tick and flea bites have tripled in the U.S. during the 13 years from 2004 through 2016. Reported cases from mosquito and tick bites in Illinois have increased by more than half (58 percent) from 2005 to 2016.
Isaiah started exhibiting symptoms of Lyme disease in spring 2017. "He started having mild neck pain, began having a lot of fatigue — which was abnormal for my most social and active child," said Carissa. Carissa is a stay-at-home mom to Isaiah, 13-year-old Noah, 7-year-old Judah and 4-year-old Elijah. "He also began to have headaches."
Currently, Isaiah has been experiencing nonstop headaches for the past two months with no relief, soreness in his legs, fatigue, stomach pains and light sensitivity.
Symptoms include fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, and swollen lymph nodes — all common in the flu. Without treatment, symptoms can progress to arthritis, loss of muscle tone (facial drooping), heart palpitations, shooting pains, and numbness and inflammation of the brain and/or spinal cord.
Symptoms can occur anywhere from 3 to 30 days after the bite and can be wide-ranging, depending on the stage of the infection. In some cases, symptoms can appear months after the bite.
A rash is usually common with Lyme disease, but Isaiah didn't have one. "We're not completely sure, but we think that it could've been a tick but it also could've been a flea because our next door neighbor had barn cats that they took care of last spring," said Carissa.
It's difficult to pinpoint the actual infection because Isaiah and the rest of his family also went camping last August.
"It's been very difficult. He hasn't been able to attend school the entire year," said Carissa. "It pretty much shook our entire world."
Isaiah started falling over at school, getting dizzy, and experiencing pain in his legs, declining levels of concentration and low grade fevers. "He was normal, happy and active before; and now he can't attend school and it's hard to get out of bed sometimes," said Carissa.
For a time, Isaiah had to be carried to the car because he couldn't walk. "We had to either push him in a stroller or a wheelchair," said Carissa. "We're thankful that he's now walking, but he's in pain even now."
Isaiah is unable to fully write more than a few lines due to muscle pain. And having been the biggest reader, he finds it difficult to read now because of poor eyesight due to the disease. At home, Isaiah listens to audio books.
In the beginning, Carissa and her husband Michael feared that he might be making it up. "We thought that maybe he was just extra tired, but it continued to get worse. So we knew that something was wrong."
Isaiah has been living day-to-day with Lyme disease for over eight months. "It's difficult because his immune system is down," said Carissa. If Isaiah catches a cold, he doesn't exhibit symptoms of the common cold — he'll exhibit Lyme symptoms. Isaiah also deals with Bartonella, a common co-infection to Lyme disease, that cycles into red blood cells that can add to fatigue and cause neurological problems.
"I wasn't feeling very good," Isaiah explained. "I couldn't play outside with my friends or play baseball." Even a car ride to one of his doctors in Indiana can prove to be more than uncomfortable. "For Isaiah, it's like being on a roller-coaster and hearing a freight train at the same time," said Carissa.
"The most important thing that I want people know about is awareness. It can mimic many other things like arthritis, fibromyalgia, MS and even ALS," said Carissa. "The testing is very difficult right now; and that's why we're trying to pass this HB4515 bill that will [make it possible] to get better diagnostics with testing, better treatments and better long-term care. We really need more support."
HB4515 amends the Medical Practice Act of 1987, and it exempts physicians from disciplinary action by the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation based solely on the licensee's recommendation of a treatment method for Lyme disease or other tick-borne diseases if specified criteria are met.
Isaiah takes medication and supplements to help support his immune system, and he sticks to an anti-inflammatory diet. His favorite food on the diet? "I really like salad."
Carissa and her husband are paying out-of-pocket for any treatments that Isaiah may need, because their insurance doesn't cover it.
If you'd like to support Isaiah with his treatments, you can donate at www.gofundme.com/isaiahs-help-to-recovery.