The teen’s story is a familiar one to Pictou County residents who have supported fundraisers to help offset the costs of her treatments in the United States.
But it turns out that Chelsey isn’t the only family member who has Lyme disease, as her mother and brother were recently diagnosed with the condition.
“When I was 16, I lived at Base Gagetown and had a bite, but the doctor had thought it was a spider bite. Through the years I have had medical problems that were unexplained,” said mother Angela.
When she began seeing a naturopath for her health issues, it was suggested that both she and son Mitchell might have Lyme disease, so they were both tested through a laboratory in California, which confirmed the diagnosis.
“So we have concluded the bite I had was a tick bite and then I have passed it through pregnancy to both of the kids, not knowing,” she said.
The disease is spread by Lyme-infected ticks biting people, but new studies indicate that other possible transmission methods include contaminated blood transfusions, in utero (during pregnancy) or while breastfeeding, fluid exchange during intercourse, or exposure to feces from animals or people infected with Lyme.
“So Chelsey has two different types basically – one from me and one from Ontario (from the tick bite when she was a toddler), which is making it hard to treat her. So I was the infected one who passed it to both of them, not knowing that I had it.”
Angela said Chelsey’s condition has worsened over the last year. “She has missed a number of days from school due to stomach issues, headaches and losing the feeling in her legs, which is making it hard for her to walk.”
She said Mitchell has also missed time from school due to soreness in his joints and back.
“As my son had said to me: ‘Just because I look fine doesn't mean I am not hurting on the inside.’”
A recent fundraiser for the family – the fourth annual Tattoo-a-Thon – raised $3,020, which will help pay for medications and travel expenses to New York for annual appointments with Lyme disease specialists. The tattoo artists who organize the fundraiser produced 73 tattoos during the two-day event.