Mike Thomas, 48

Mike Thomas, 48, Florida

Man loses battle with Lyme disease Tallahassee Democrat - Tallahassee,FL,USA Sun, Oct. 09, 2005 By Jennifer Jefferson DEMOCRAT STAFF WRITER

On the Internet, he was known as Dr. Mike even though he wasn't a physician. Mike Thomas, 48, was a supervisor of water utilities for the city of Tallahassee. After being diagnosed with amytrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, he became an avid researcher of the disease. His research led him to China to undergo experimental treatment in December, but he died Wednesday at home of Lyme disease. In Beijing, Thomas met other patients from around the world who turned to him for information. The BBC even featured him on a show about the experimental treatment he received in China. On Sunday, he was at his computer reading e-mails from overseas, said Juhan Mixon, Thomas' best friend. "No one expected it to happen quite as quickly as it did," said Candace McKibben, the pastor who is presiding over the funeral 2 p.m. today at the chapel of Bevis Funeral Home of Tallahassee. In August 2003, Thomas was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease, a fatal condition that causes motor neurons to deteriorate and muscle movement to diminish. Doctors say Thomas and the 30,000 others in the United States who have it usually have three to five years to live. In the fall of 2004, Thomas couldn't wiggle his toes or raise his right foot. So Mixon helped Thomas raise $30,000 needed to travel to China to get millions of olfactory ensheathing glia cells from second-trimester aborted fetuses inserted into his brain and spinal cord in hopes of stimulating the other cells to work. The procedure is still in the experimental stages. Thomas and his wife, Kim, went to Beijing Oct. 31, 2004, and returned Dec. 2. When Thomas came back, he could walk and stand without a brace, Mixon said. He was even able to go back to work. In January, his condition deteriorated, and he was soon diagnosed with Lyme disease. Ticks transport the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. The symptoms include a skin rash, fever, headache and fatigue, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart and the nervous system. Thomas was undergoing treatment for the disease, but it was in the late stages when it was diagnosed, Mixon said. Thomas could still walk but had to use a walker. After extensive research online, Mixon said, Thomas questioned whether he had Lyme disease from the start or whether the diseases were interrelated. Thomas never found out. After the China trip, "We were all hopeful that he would get better," Mixon said. "We were hopeful that (if) we could treat the Lyme disease, he would be better."