Health Check: Raising awareness about tick-borne diseases

While Lyme is one of the most well-known of the tick-borne diseases, there are also others and they can all prove to be life-threatening or life-changing. (WJAR)

Lyme is one of the most well-known of the tick-borne diseases.

But there are others and they can all prove to be life-threatening or life-changing, as two local sisters can attest to.

"I had terrible, terrible pain, joint pain,” said Mary Lorusso-DiBara.

"I wrote in my journal that I am going to die. And I don't know who's going to save me," said Darlene DiBara O’Connor.

The sisters have more in common than their blood line. Both have been affected by Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. They each struggled to get a diagnosis.

O'Connors’ diagnosis came first about five years ago.

"I was a public school teacher and I could not function. It started off with flu-like symptoms that developed in to a secondary infection -- pneumonia, bronchitis and after that I just could not get well,” said O’Connor.

Finally, a doctor told her that based on her symptoms she had Lyme and another tick-borne disease -- Babesiosis.

"I was incontinent,” said O’Connor. “I was trying to teach and I couldn't make it through the day. I had tsunami sweats. I was sweating because of one of the co-infections that I have, along with Lyme disease."

O’Connor’s diagnosis led to one for her sister, who, in addition to pain, had brain fog and developed rashes. Treatment proved to be huge.

"Improvement, it was incredible,” said Lorusso-DiBara. “Not instantaneous, of course, but it was incredible. I could finally drive the car without having to call home to actually get me home."

But their journeys are not over. Both continue treatment and they also advocate for more research and more doctors who are willing to treat patients with chronic symptoms.

"Practitioners are learning that it's a very complex disease or disease symptoms and it requires complex solutions,” said Lorusso-DiBara.

The women also want folks to know there are many different symptoms associated with tick-borne diseases, adding that the list as long as the problem is big. They hope an upcoming Lyme Disease Association conference in Providence will be eye opening.

"There's a lot of misinformation out there and this conference, in particular, it's a scientific conference,” said Lorusso-DiBara.

One of the presenters is Dr. Neil Spector, who is the author of the book, “Gone in a Heartbeat: A Physician’s Search for True Healing.” The doctor and cancer researcher said he had to have a heart transplant due to complications of Lyme disease

There will also be a constellation of other experts and researchers

"Real change is going to happen with doctors and other scientists talking with one another,” said Lorusso-DiBara.

The two-day conference is scheduled for October 27 and 28 at the Providence Marriott during the weekend and is open to the public and practitioners.

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