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Peter's Story

Written by Tracy Vyselaar (Peterís daughter) as told by Georgina Vyselaar (Peterís wife)

July 1, 1992 was the day Peterís life was to change forever more. We were at Picnic Lake (a small lake by Edam, Northwest of North Battleford) camping on the beach. During the afternoon Peter got a bite on his lower left ankle. Two days later, on July 3rd, he became disoriented, had a poor sense of balance and a measles-like rash on his thigh. He went to the hospital where they gave him antibiotics for one week and said that it was a reaction to some type of bite. He went home and seemed to recover fully or so we thought.

Later on in August he started to experience weakness in his knee and leg. His knee would "give out" and make him stumble and fall. The calf muscles would become very tight and go into muscle spasms lasting 4 to 5 minutes. He had many tests, saw various doctors, and went to different hospitals, all to no avail. By September the pain in Peterís knee was constant, sometimes more severe than others. In November they did exploratory surgery on his knee. They found nothing and said that they did not know what was causing the pain.

Peter then began to fight severe fatigue, loss of concentration, very low energy and motivation; this was something that he never lacked. He was off work from December until February 1993 due to it. He then was able to return to work for a few months. In June the muscle spasms began more frequently and lasted longer. Peter had to use a cane to walk in case his leg would give out. On August 4, 1993, Peter woke up in the morning and was walking into the walls, talking funny, was extremely disorientated, and was shaking violently. He also had a high fever of 102.5 (F) to 103.5. Then he began to experience a bladder problem. He was admitted into the hospital for a few days.

They gave him a heavy dose of antibiotics by intravenous and all of his problems seemed to disappear. For one week we truly believed that whatever the problem was, it was all over. He remained in the hospital until August 10th. At that time he was totally symptom free and experience no pain whatsoever. He was discharged and sent home with a prescription of antibiotics. Then on August 14th, four days later the spasms began once again. He also suffered from low energy and his bladder shut down again. Back to the hospital he went.

They only kept him overnight and then sent him home with no explanation as to what the problem could be. Two days later he woke up in the middle of the night with severe shakes, a fever, chills, and profuse sweating. Back to ST. Paulís Hospital he went. While there he experienced a seizure. It was horrifying. They sent him to the Royal University Hospital the next morning by ambulance. There he went through numerous tests, yet no diagnosis could be made. One doctor said that it was a possible old leg injury. This was news to us as Peter had never hurt his leg before. He was then discharged on August the 20th. At this point we were extremely frustrated.

This was continuing on for over a year and we had no explanations as to what the problem was. We always kept thinking that everything was okay until that bite back in July. Eight days later the same symptoms reoccurred, plus he had violent vomiting. We had to take Peter back to the hospital, who then sent him home shortly after. Around this time my daughterís friend, who lives in B.C., mentioned Lyme disease to us. She said that she read an article on a disease, which you could get from some type of tick. She said that as she read the symptoms she thought of Peter.

Shortly after that when my husband went for one of his numerous tests, a hospital staff member mentioned Lyme disease to Peter and said that he should look into it. Finally, we felt we had a hope, something to go on. I began doing extensive research on the disease. I found out that the disease is contracted from a tick bite. It all seemed to make sense at that point. I kept investigating and we started asking the doctors about it. However we had quite a time to find any support, as the doctors would not believe it could be Lyme disease.

They insisted that you could not get the disease in Saskatchewan and that it was only found on the eastern Seaboard. It was a difficult and frustrating time, as Peter continued to suffer from various symptoms. The doctors could not offer any diagnosis or explanation, yet they would not even entertain the idea of it being Lyme disease. Finally, we got a break, with the help of the Vancouver Sun; we traced an article about Lyme disease to Diane Kindree, who is the President of the Vancouver, B. C. Lyme Borreliosis Society.

We then managed to find her sister's name in the Vancouver phone book. We gave her a call and were finally able to make contact with Diane. Meanwhile, Peter was getting more and more sick. He was in and out of the hospitals in Saskatoon with pneumonia, pleurisy, and Endocaraditis. He had various tests including cat scans and two MRIís. All of the tests were inconclusive.

During this time Peter was also suffering from periods of memory loss, poor concentration, depression, and fatigue. Some days he would sleep for twenty hours straight. When we finally reach Diane Kindree we were relieved. She asked what symptomís Peter was experiencing and said that all of them could be associated with Lyme disease. She suggested coming to B.C. to consult with her and her father Dr. Kindree.

So, we made arrangements to go to B.C., in September (1993). Unfortunately Peter landed back in the hospital, this time in the Intensive Care Unit. His oxygen was low and he had Endocaradits (a heart condition). He was unable to make the trip to B.C. at that time. We were very disappointed. Finally, Peter recovered well enough to go to B.C. in November. Once there we met with Diane and her father Dr. Kindree who offered their support and said that it sounded like it could be L.D. Dr. Kindree recommended that Peter go on a strong antibiotic.

So when he came home he saw his family doctor who prescribed the antibiotics. For about a year and two months he continued with the antibiotics, primarily by intravenous alternating sometimes with the oral antibiotics. While he was not able to work during this time, (he had not worked since August 4, 1993), his life began to return to as normal as possible. He began going for walks, talking to various Lyme patients on the phone, and doing activities with his family. It was at this time that he met Melanie, (now our president) the first other person he found that also had Lyme and lived in Saskatchewan.

During these times he continued to fight the fatigue, flu symptoms, etc. Things continued like this for a year and a bit. On January 9, 1995 Peter went to his family doctor for one of his periodic checkups. He was feeling better at that time and even discussed with the doctor the possibility of returning back to work in the spring. Then, the next day his breathing became labored when he was sleeping. So I sent him back to the doctor. The doctor did some tests and took a x-ray of his lungs. Everything checked out A-OKAY.

On January 11, 1995 at 6:30 a.m. Peter did not wake up. The ambulance was called and they tried to revive him with no success. Peter was pronounced dead that morning at the age of 48. They found that his lungs had filled with fluid, his bladder and stomach were both bleeding and his heart had turned to mush. The doctor was very shocked as everything was fine the day before and Peter seemed to be doing much better. He said that it was extremely abnormal for a person to have such a complete system shutdown in such a short period of time. It was a complete shock for all of us, as it is uncommon to die from Lyme disease, but unfortunately it is possible, especially when it goes undetected for so long.

Presidentís note: I would like to thank the Vyselaar family for sharing their story with us. Since Peterís death affected me greatly, I felt it was very appropriate to share his story in our Premiere issue of LYME DISEASE. His struggle and final loss is what prompted me to start the Lyme Disease Society of Saskatchewan and what daily pushed me forward in the hope that doing so will prevent this tragedy from being repeated.

Melanie Chernipeski, President of the Lyme Disease Society of Saskatchewan

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