Around that time, Mike’s wife noticed a ring-shaped rash on his side. At first he thought it was a skin irritation from his bullet-proof vest. He didn’t find out until months later that this mark is the tell-tale sign of Lyme Disease.
It was that summer Mike had his most terrifying experience with Lyme: His heart stopped out of nowhere.
Mike was rushed to emergency, but mysteriously, doctors could not find any signs pointing to a heart attack. “My heart stoppage began me on a battery of tests,” Mike says. “Over 6 years, I went to see everyone from dermatologists to cardiologists. I’ve been to internists, my GP, a neurologist, rheumatologist, even a neuropsychiatrist. Just about any type of physician you could name, I’ve been there. I probably saw 15 doctors through the diagnostic stage.”
On his search for answers, he heard labels that simply didn’t ring true, including the source of his symptoms being depression or his imagination. “It felt like I wasn’t being heard by the doctors. As a police officer, I know you have to collect all the evidence and investigate. I had very real medical symptoms, but no one was putting those pieces together.”
Finally, after a year and a half, a family member pointed Mike towards Lyme Disease. It took time and the fight of his life, but Mike finally got a diagnosis of Lyme Disease and began to receive care.
Until recently, the type of advocacy and knowledge patients like Mike need was not available in BC, or even Canada. He hopes that the BC Women’s Complex Chronic Diseases Program will start Canada on the road to addressing Lyme effectively: “It’s a totally different experience than I was used to. One of my biggest fights has been with the guilt that accompanies the management of a chronic disease. The clinic helps you address that self-doubt and overcome the stigma. They help you come to the understanding that you have to look out for your own health first, followed by your responsibilities. It’s a very compassionate, knowledgeable and understanding system.”
Patients like Mike have big hopes for the future at the clinic: a new and reliable test for Lyme disease, and better understanding from the medical community at large. “If Lyme disease is caught early, it’s often just a short round of treatment and people can get better. But doctors don’t even know about Lyme and its symptoms, like the distinct rash. I don’t want others to go through what I went through. I want Lyme patients to be able to get tested so they can start treatment, so they can avoid the long-term damage to their bodies I’m now dealing with. I think BC Women’s can help get that message to the medical profession.”
Pictured right to left: Mike at the BC Women's Complex Chronic Diseases Program with Lenore Riddell (Nurse Practitioner) and Darci Rosalie (Nurse Coordinator).
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