Doctors say Lyme disease cases are on the rise in Southwest Virginia, and a teen who was recently diagnosed is trying to raise awareness about the disease.
“I couldn’t remember anything,” said Hannah Tyler, a senior at Hidden Valley High School. “I couldn’t walk.”
Earlier this year, Tyler knew something was wrong. Since March, she said, her symptoms kept getting worse – to the point where she needed a wheelchair to get around.
“It was very scary,” said Diane Tyler, her mother. “As a mother, when [they’re] little, you can fix their hurts. But this wasn’t something that I could fix.”
Hannah and her mother said they suspected Lyme disease for years because of her symptoms, such as fatigue or headaches. But they said doctors thought those were because she was born with a hole in her heart.
“Lyme takes a while to get the story from,” said Dr. Janine Talty. “It’s not a 15-minute visit.”
Dr. Talty first met Hannah and diagnosed her with Lyme earlier this year, saying she believes she may have been born with the disease. She said she believes many people may have Lyme and don’t even realize it.
Checking yourself for ticks and using bug spray are crucial, Dr. Talty said, since it’s even possible to contract multiple strains of Lyme.
“Every single tick bite is kind of like more of an insult to the immune system,” she explained.
As for Hannah, she now takes intravenous antibiotics through a port three times a day. Now she’s back on her feet and can get back to activities she enjoys, such as playing flute in the marching band.
“A year ago, I didn’t think I’d be here,” Hannah said. “With Lyme disease…it can happen to anyone. It does not discriminate.”
Hannah said she and her doctor are feeling optimistic about their goal for her to always be able to walk again completely on her own.
According to Dr. Talty, there are about 300 symptoms of Lyme disease. If you think you may be infected, she said, you should see a doctor.
A family friend has set up a GoFundMe page to pay for Hannah’s medication. To donate, click here.