Robert Hitt Neill column

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 17, 2008

Lyme is not always lyme

I had an interesting call last Wednesday: a man from Minnesota wanted to come meet me that afternoon. Oh, he wasn’t at the time up there next to Canada – he was in Arkansas on business, and since Mississippi was just across the River, he decided to drop by – it was only a three-hour drive to Brownspur, after all.

We had never met, though we had talked several times on the phone over the past almost a year. Our initial contact came about thisaway: he travels for a large agricultural business, which had a plant in Arkansas; while visiting that facility, he shared with the manager that his daughter Grace was very sick back home, and that it was frustrating because the doctors could not figure out what was wrong with her, and had come to the conclusion that the 10-year-old girl was a hypochondriac and the mother was spoiling her by believing that her symptoms were real.

Tom, the daddy, went on to describe those symptoms: joint pain and stiffness, cold and flu-like spells, memory loss, depression, extreme fatigue.  

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The plant manager remarked, “Why, a guy who comes over here from Mississippi to work on out machinery was telling me his grandson had those same symptoms, and the kid turned out to have Lyme Disease.  You want me to call Bobby Tarver and see what doctor he went to?”

Tom nodded, and the manager whipped out his phone and called an old neighbor of mine, who had also been in the cotton gin business like me, years ago.

Bobby had indeed called me after reading a column on Lyme Disease, and ended up taking his grandson to a doctor I recommended. The youngster was essentially cured of Lyme and is fine now.

So, after talking to the Arkansas manager, who put the Minnesota daddy on the phone, Bobby promised to call me, to see if I’d in turn phone Grace’s dad. I did so, and agreed that most of the girl’s symptoms sounded like my own case of Lyme Disease, which was diagnosed 18 years ago, after going undiagnosed for about ten years.  

I was treated for a year by a doctor in Mobile, mostly recovered, and have sent several hundred other people to that doctor, though I am by no means a physician myownself – just a well-informed victim, as I tell callers.

After Tom went back to Minnesota and talked to his wife, they called again several times, and I told them about the tests for Lyme, what to expect from them, and questions to ask their own doctors about Lyme treatment, if that’s what it might turn out to be. Over the next few weeks, they called back several times, apparently hitting a stone wall – the girl was playing them for fools, they were told.

I finally recommended that they talk with the Mobile doctor, and told them what might improve the possibility of getting in to see him, if they decided to go that route. Less than a week later, Tom called to say that he, his wife, and Grace were boarding a plane to Mobile, and to ask for prayers for his sick daughter.

That just happened to be on a Wednesday morning early, and so I added Grace’s name to the prayer list at Calvary Baptist in Greenville, where I lead the music. Just so happens that several other members of that church have family who have Lyme Disease, and have also been to the Mobile doctor. They prayed.

After another couple of weeks, Tom called back.  Grace did not have Lyme. But that Mobile doctor had found a strep infection in her bloodstream, which the Minnesota physicians had completely missed. She was improving under medication from the Mobile doctor, and he wanted to thank us all for our prayers.

Now he was driving to Brownspur to meet me in person – but I did cut his trip short by meeting him in Greenville, about 4:30. We talked, he showed me pictures of his family, Grace was almost back to strength: “she can play half of a soccer game now!”

Suddenly, I glanced at his watch and saw that it was almost time for family night supper and prayer meeting:

“Why don’t you come eat supper with us, and meet some of the folks who prayed for Grace last year?”

He accepted.

Tom may never be the same. Folks hugged him, looked at pictures, asked to be remembered to Grace, thanked God for sparing her. It was tear-inspiring!    

It wasn’t Lyme. It was worse, but it was diagnosed, prayed for, and cured!