Getting to the Heart of the Issue – Lyme Carditis: Why Early Diagnosis is Critical
by Wendy Adams
Research Grant Director and Advisory Board Member,
Bay Area Lyme Foundation
Recently, we’ve started to hear more about Lyme carditis as one potentially lethal manifestation of Lyme disease. What exactly is it, why does it happen, and how does it cause disease?
What is Lyme Carditis?
First of all, a little Latin. When you see the suffix “-itis”, it denotes inflammation – often caused by an infection. So, carditis literally means inflammation of the heart.
When a Borrelia infection enters the body, we know from animal studies that it disseminates quickly. It tries to find the tissues where it is most comfortable, and often that includes the heart. Borrelia can infect all parts of the heart – the myocardium, the pericardium, and the endocardium, the cardiac muscle, the valves, and even the aorta itself. The immune system senses the presence of the spirochete bacteria and induces inflammation, the first prong of the immune system’s response.
by Daniel Lynch, Founder & President, Medical Bill Gurus
This week, we have a guest post from Daniel Lynch. Daniel Lynch is the founder of Medical Bill Gurus, a patient and physician advocacy company that specializes in navigating the complex issues associated with healthcare and medical bills. His mission, he explains is to “utilize our wealth of information to ‘pay it forward’ to those who need assistance! … Although most claims for Lyme disease are typically at cash-only medical providers and not covered by insurance companies, we at Medical Bill Gurus have put together a process of breaking down bills, and identifying components of treatment that are covered by PPO insurance plans.”
Here he shares his perspective and some tips. Bay Area Lyme Foundation has no connection with Medical Bill Gurus and this post is not an endorsement of their services. At Bay Area Lyme, we are committed to supporting the community by ensuring access to information and resources to help them deal with Lyme disease.
The national Lyme Disease Biobank (LDB) launched in Summer 2014 after a successful Fund-A-Need campaign at our annual LymeAid benefit. This initiative, which began with a pilot study in East Hampton, NY, a highly concentrated endemic area for Lyme disease, was designed to help address the shortage of clinical samples to support research into better diagnostics and treatments for Lyme disease. The goal is to create a geographically diverse and robust pool of biological samples (particularly blood, but also tissue and other fluids) characterized with sufficient clinical data and validation information about any co-infections that can then be drawn upon by researchers around the country, allowing for more projects to come to fruition. The biobank has already expanded significantly and released the first samples to researchers last year, supporting a new wave of projects.
Liz Horn, PhD, MBI, a noted expert experienced in building complex biorepositories and other bio-based technological solutions working with a wide array of researchers, institutions, and other agencies, was brought on as the Principal Investigator for the LDB. Dr. Horn has deep expertise in basic science, cancer biology, bioinformatics, registry questionnaire design, and biobank planning and operations.
We talked with Dr. Horn about the progress they have been making at the Lyme Disease Biobank.
Lyme disease, particularly with chronic or late-stage symptoms, can be a horribly frustrating and debilitating illness. Symptoms can persist despite complicated treatment regimens; therapies that seem successful at first may become less effective over time; and medications that work for some appear to have no effect for others. Add to that the high cost of treatment, the complicating challenges of co-infections, and insufficient insurance coverage for both traditional and alternative treatment, and it quickly becomes apparent why clinical studies offer potential for patients who are still suffering.
For many patients, the promise of participating in a clinical trial is not just the hope for new discoveries but a more immediate opportunity to access treatment options they may not otherwise be able to secure or afford. But is clinical research the “holy grail” for these patients who are seeking another option? What are the pros and cons of clinical research? What do you need to know?
By Jo Ellis, Education Outreach, Bay Area Lyme Foundation
On Wednesday, March 8, Dr. Sunjya Schweig and his wife, Lia Gaertner, together gave a deeply affecting and informative presentation sharing their personal and professional experiences with Lyme disease. The talk was part of the ongoing Distinguished Speaker Series. What follows is a synopsis of some of the highlights.
Lia Gaertner, a member of the Bay Area Lyme Foundation Science Committee, and Dr. Schweig, who is on the foundation’s Advisory Board, bring a wealth of professional expertise and knowledge to the table. But their story starts on a personal note, for it was just one month after Dr. Schweig started working in private practice that Lia — after 10 years of battling serious illness, unexplained symptoms, and debilitating physical and mental challenges — was finally diagnosed with Lyme disease. Together, the couple took what they describe wryly as a “rapid descent together down a rabbit hole” – a deep dive into Lyme, trying to learn as much as possible for their survival.
Following on our story about financial resources for Lyme patients, we received this submission from Eric Minghella, an Outreach Coordinator for the Disability Benefits Help Center, offering to help clarify the process of applying for coverage.
“I came across the Bay Area Lyme Foundation this morning and I was so impressed by the work you do for people who have been affected by Lyme Disease. The resources and awareness you provide for families in need are so valuable and very much needed. I was wondering if I could contribute to the Bay Area Lyme Foundation by writing an article on applying for Social Security benefits with Lyme Disease. I work for Disability benefits help and I know that the process can be very confusing.”
As many know, treatment for and recovery from Lyme disease can be a long and costly process for those who suffer chronic symptoms. Applying for financial support can be a perplexing and tiresome endeavor, however, there are resources to assist you and you may find answers here.
Bay Area Lyme Foundation Announces Winners of “Lyme Innovation” Hackathon at White House Event
White House Acknowledges Contributions of Program Organizers
Toward Solving Challenges of Lyme Disease
(Cambridge, MA,) October 5, 2016 — As part of the White House Open Data Innovation Summit, Bay Area Lyme Foundation, collaborating with the Spaulding Rehabilitation Network’s Dean Center for Tick Borne Illness, Harvard Medical School Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, MIT Hacking Medicine, University of California, Berkeley, and the Veterans Affairs Center for Innovation, announces the winning teams of Lyme Innovation.Lyme Innovation is the first ever Hackathon for Lyme disease, which provided a forum for more than 100 scientists, clinicians, researchers, entrepreneurs, and investors from a variety of disciplines to brainstorm solutions for this potentially devastating disease.
This week’s presentation was just that — a moving discussion of Jordan’s personal experience and reflections battling Lyme disease, what he describes as the toughest 9 1/2 years and biggest struggle of his life (and this from a man who nearly lost his life during blizzard conditions on the top of Mt. Shasta!).
Bay Area author and noted documentary filmmaker Eliza Hemenway recently turned her journalistic eye toward her own family to document a notably personal and tryingly poignant story about her family’s trials with Lyme disease and the baffling enigma that surrounds the illness and its treatment. Her daughter, Katherine, just seven years old when infected, suffered for years before successfully being diagnosed. And even after diagnosis, the family struggled to get the care they needed.
“I am a Bay Area mother who wrote Paris in Oakland to be a story of hope and encouragement to the Lyme community, something I desperately needed when my daughter was first diagnosed and I was trying to understand the controversies and confusion surrounding Lyme.
Experts Hack for Lyme Disease Solutions in Boston and Berkeley
Bay Area Lyme Foundation Supports the First Hackathon for Lyme Disease to Inspire Innovation
Silicon Valley, CA, April 18, 2016— To inspire innovation to help solve the challenges of Lyme disease, Bay Area Lyme Foundation, collaborating with the Spaulding Rehabilitation Network’s Dean Center for Tick Borne Illness, Harvard Medical School Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, MIT Hacking Medicine, University of California, Berkeley, and the Veterans Affairs Center for Innovation, is supporting Lyme Innovation, the first ever Hackathon for Lyme disease, a potentially devastating condition newly infecting 329,000 people each year. Scientists, clinicians, researchers, entrepreneurs, and investors from both U.S. coasts participated in this innovative event, which kicked off this weekend, and will continue in Cambridge June 17 – 19, at the Microsoft Nerd Center.