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Elizabeth C's Story

I am a middle age female. I am a legal assistant and work in an office. I live in mid-town, Mobile, Alabama which is certainly not a rural area. In early May of 2000 I became very fatigued and nauseated. This continued for several weeks. In late May I woke up on a Saturday morning with stiff elbows and a rash on my right knee. By Sunday morning the rash had spread over my entire body.

It was not a bull's eye rash. The rash consisted of raised red splotches. On that Sunday morning, I was also experiencing severe pain and stiffness in all my joints, I had extreme short term memory loss, a very stiff neck and a headache. Note -- I had never seen a tick on me.

Since I have Rheumatoid Arthritis, which has been in remission for eight years, I thought, my rheumatoid arthritis must be coming back. Therefore, I called my Rheumatologist. She called me back and I described my symptoms to her. She told me that it did not sound like a Rheumatoid Arthritis flare up to her. She told me to go to the Emergency Room and that she would come in and see me. I arrived at the ER. I was so ill I could barely stand up.

The Rheumatologist saw me. She looked at me and said "this rash is impressive, it looks like a Lyme disease rash." My Rheumatologist then had the Emergency Room physician examine me. He thought that I might have meningitis. He called in an Infectious Disease physician. This physician attempted two spinal taps in the ER. He finally sent me to radiology, and a radiologist was finally able to obtain some spinal fluid.

This fluid was not tested for Lyme. My infectious disease physician told me I did not have Lyme Disease. He said that I did not have a fever and that my labs did not indicate Lyme. He felt like I may have a condition known as Serum Sickness. He kept me overnight in the hospital and sent me home on Monday. He suggested I follow up with my Rheumatolgist in one month.

I went home and continued with the illness. I continued to develop a range of new symptoms. The most bizarre was the onset of episodes of severe itching and stinging sensations in my feet. This was indescribably painful. I called the Infectious Disease physician. He told me to take an anti-itching medication. On Tuesday, my son had an important appointment in an office where a Psychologist, Ph.D., worked. I drug myself to take my son to his appointment. While I was in the waiting room, this Psychologist saw me and asked me what was wrong with me.

I briefly explained the past days' events. This man just happened to conduct Neuro psychological exams on Lyme patients for a nationally known Lyme expert who lives in Mobile, my home town. He told me that I must immediately go to see this doctor who is George McCullars, M.D. I could not believe Mobile, Alabama had a Lyme Disease expert. After all, the official position of the health officials in Alabama is that there is no Lyme Disease in Alabama.

By the Grace of God I got in to see Dr. McCullars on Thursday. I was so unbelievably ill. I could barely sit up in his waiting room. He clinically diagnosed me with Lyme Disease. He sent me to Lab Corp to have a Western Blot Lyme test performed. This test was not performed on me by the hospital or the infectious disease physician. This Western Blot test came back with an overwhelming indication that I have Lyme Disease. Dr. McCullars also had me collect a three day urine sample for a Lyme "Luat" test.

This test was sent to a California Lab. I have not received the results back yet. With clinical symptoms and the Western Blot results, Dr. McCullars said he was 100% sure I was infected with Lyme. Note, when Dr. McCullars got my records from my hospitalization, there was no indication that any Lyme Disease test had been performed on me per order of the infectious disease physician.

Dr. McCullars immediately put me on the antibiotics, Biaxin and Metronidazole. He told me that if I did not accept immediate, long term antibiotic therapy that I could be paralyzed and my brain would be "mush" in four weeks. In a week I was getting worse. He recommended I go on IV antibiotics. This entailed having a PICC (intravenous catheter) implanted into my upper arm. This catheter runs through a large vein of my arm to the top of my heart.

I would be given daily doses of the antibiotic Rocephin. I did not want the catheter or this illness. I told Dr. McCullars to please give me one more week on oral antibiotics which he did. However, in two days I was much worse. I called his office and they scheduled the procedure to have the PICC line put in. I had to go to the hospital. The PICC line was put in the operating room. It was not a pleasant experience.

I started the Rocephin treatments. On the fifth day of treatment I took a dramatic turn for the better! The next day, I had a great morning. I got out of the house for the first time in weeks, excluding trips to the doctor. When I got home, my housekeeper helped me get hooked up to my Rocephin drip. I immediately had a severe reaction to the medication.

My chest felt like I had a burning coal in it, I could not breathe and my heart was racing. I had a sudden case of diarrhea, broke out in a cold sweat, and felt helpless. My housekeeper called my home health nurse. The nurse instructed her to call 911. I was rushed to the hospital by ambulance. I really thought I would not live to see the hospital. At the emergency room I received IV Benadryl. The reaction immediately ceased. I was sent home.

Because of this reaction, Dr. McCullars took me off the Rocephin and put me back on oral Biaxin. I immediately began to decline again. He has kept me off of IV antibiotics for five days. Tomorrow, I must go back to the emergency room to take my first dose of another, new IV antibiotic. I must be in the emergency room in case I have another reaction.

I will do anything to get this Lyme out of my body. I can't believe this has happened to me. I feel that God intervened in my life and got me to Dr. McCullars. If I had not gotten to Dr. McCullars I would probably be bounced from doctor to doctor for years, like many of the other people whose stories I have read on this Web site. It is a miracle that in Mobile, Alabama, where Lyme Disease supposedly does not exist, I would get to a doctor who diagnosed me early into the disease. I thank God for this.

If you are from Alabama or from a neighboring area in Florida or Mississippi, please E-mail your story to me at I know from visiting Dr. McCullars office and meeting other South Alabamians that I am not the only one. Thanks for reading my story.

Elizabeth Chiepalic

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