Lyme Disease Awareness & Treatment Oldsmar, Florida
The CDC estimates there are about 300,000 annual cases of Lyme disease, and experts are predicting a bad season this year.
The disease, which is usually contracted through tick bites, is heavily concentrated in the northeast but Florida isn’t immune to ticks or Lyme disease.
If caught early enough, Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics. However, some people don’t have the common symptoms and are misdiagnosed, which can lead to chronic Lyme disease and turn someone’s life upside down.
Rachel O’Malley was never one to sit still.
“I took a full load of classes, I was captain of my equestrian team, I was in a sorority,” O’Malley said.
O’Malley was also an avid traveler, moving from Florida to Italy after college, and then onto Thailand to teach English.
“I was just very charismatic, energetic girl,” O”Malley said. “Always on the move.”
But during her time abroad, she noticed a big change.
Lyme Disease Took Over Her Life
“A cascade of symptoms kind of just overcame me and my life,” O’Malley said.
Extreme fatigue, vertigo, and migraines to name a few, so she flew back to the United States.
“I couldn’t stand up; everything was spinning, my entire body hurt. I felt like I had the worst flu of my life,” O’Malley said.
O’Malley’s aunt Dana Banks knew something was seriously wrong.
“I picked her up, and I have no idea how she survived that long flight,” Banks said. “It’s just sad to observe every single day what I saw.”
O’Malley spent almost a year visiting several different doctors and specialists. She even went to a psychiatrist after being told she was likely just anxious and depressed, until she finally got an answer.
“I got that test done, and it came back positive,” O’Malley said.
Lyme Disease Testing
O’Malley has chronic Lyme disease, a disease she tested negative for with a different test months prior, something Dr. Rick Sponaugle says is common.
“People are told there’s no Lyme disease in Florida, such a myth,” Sponaugle said. “You can walk through your backyard in Florida, in California, in Connecticut, and you can get a tick bite.”
Something the CDC says could happen more this year because of a mild winter.
Lyme disease is also known as the “great imitator” because of its extreme list of symptoms.
“All chronic Lyme patients have brain infiltration, brain infection,” Sponaugle said.
The extreme symptoms evident at Sponaugle Wellness Institute in Oldsmar, just north of Tampa.
Lyme Disease Symptoms
“I sit next to people every day who are having massive seizures, who have lost their ability to speak, they’ve lost their ability to walk,” O’Malley said.
O’Malley had leg tremors when she began treatment with Sponaugle, but months later, the tremors are gone. O’Malley spends five days a week receiving treatment.
“It’s a detoxification drip, which is like doc’s patented protocol to try and just to boost your immune system,” O’Malley said.
A key Sponaugle believes to fighting Lyme.
“One has to have a healthy immune system to kill Lyme,” Sponaugle said.
O’Malley and Sponaugle say many don’t know how extreme and widespread this disease is.
“Lyme disease shouldn’t be ruled out until proven otherwise,” Sponaugle said.
O’Malley says people need to push for answers like she did.
“I just say do not give up, you know your body the best,” O’Malley said.
Chronic Lyme Disease Cases Are Increasing
Since 2005, the number of Lyme cases has increased annually in Florida, according to the CDC. In 2015, the CDC recorded almost 120 cases confirmed cases, but according to their website, not all cases are reported.
Doctors we spoke to say funding has been limited for this disease, and they believe numbers are likely much higher.
Article courtesy of Brittany Weiner, NBC Fort Myers, FL.