Bad experiences stop lyme disease sufferers seeking help
LEAH Tedman says all that lyme disease sufferers want is to feel safe and accepted when they require medical help - a reasonable demand for anyone with health concerns.
"A violent alcoholic is treated with more respect than a lyme patient by some of our emergency room doctors," she said.
"Most lyme patients have had so many bad experiences with hospital doctors that they will risk dying at home rather than seek help."
For Mrs Tedman, it is a painstaking process to get doctors to take her seriously, leaving her distrustful of medical professionals.
"The only thing harder than living with lyme disease is living with the controversy that surrounds it," she said.
Eight years ago, a sudden fainting spell as she left the gym caused little concern for Mrs Tedman.
Persistent fatigue, aching and pain has since become so bad, it has caused her to give up her career as a child protection lawyer and her active life.
Lyme disease centres around a bacteria named borrelia, shaped like a corkscrew, that drills into every organ of the body, developing cysts.
In Mrs Tedman's case, it has damaged 12 out of 13 cranial nerves.
She has had to deal with medical professionals telling her the condition is all in head, even dismissing psychological assessments that prove otherwise.
There are at least four confirmed cases of lyme disease in the wider Gladstone region.
Believed to be contracted through the bite of a tick, it has since been proven the disease can be carried a number of ways.
Nevertheless, no treatment is readily available in Australia, a frustrating and isolating reality for sufferers of the disease.
"With early intervention lyme is very treatable," Mrs Tedman said.
"If we arm our doctors with knowledge to identify and treat lyme before it becomes chronic, people can stay healthy and keep working and get on with their lives.
"At the moment it takes an average of six and a half years for a person in Australia to be diagnosed.
The only thing harder than living with lyme disease is living with the controversy that surrounds it
"By that stage the disease has spread throughout the body and the person's life has been irreparably devastated."
May has been Lyme Awareness Month and Mrs Tedman, along with her strong supporters at New Auckland Place, have raised $4500.
Two barbecues at Kin Kora, a craft sale, bake sale, raffle and awareness stall are bridging the divide between sufferers and the rest of the world.
"The support from the community has been overwhelming," she said.
"We were so pleased to see the support from local GPs and allied medical professionals such as nurses, chiropractors and ambulance officers this year, some making donations and taking brochures back to their clinics.
"We are hearing more and more stories of doctors coming on board, recognising symptoms and giving early treatment, and that is saving people's lives."