Guest Column (4/9/09)

Misdiagnosed pain

April 9, 2009

By Daniel J. Vance

Five years ago, Carol Morehart of London, Ohio, was leading a normal life until a physical condition blindsided her.

“I began living in pain around the clock and continued on that way for about two years,” the 50-year-old Morehart said in a telephone interview. “I had fatigue, a cognitive fog and pain all over my body and neck, and it was excruciating pain. There really is no way to describe it for people to understand.”

A doctor initially diagnosed her with fibromyalgia, which is a common condition involving long-term, body-wide, soft tissue pain.

Due to the intense pain, she didn’t feel comfortable leaving home except to attend a regular monthly meeting and Sunday church. Over time, she started accepting her condition and making peace with it, she said. Her husband supported her even as she began losing friends because of having to leave her social circles. He helped by doing the grocery shopping and their kids helped with household chores.

Because she looked “fine” on the outside, some people didn’t believe she was ill. She said, “You find out who your real friends are when they stick by you through chronic pain and illness, that’s for sure.” After two extremely rough years, a friend recommended a specialist who was able to relieve some symptoms.

“Then in June 2008, I had a big flare up and (the intense) pain was back but worse,” she said. “It was scary and depressing to have this massive pain again. At that point, I did some Internet research and realized I probably had Lyme disease. The doctor (in 2004) had said I didn’t have it, but he never tested me.”

A National Institutes of Health Web site defines Lyme disease as “an inflammatory disease spread through a tick bite.” If not treated with antibiotics, advanced symptoms can include long-term joint inflammation, heart rhythm problems, memory disorders, nerve damage, pain, sleep disorders and visual disturbances. The tick doing the biting usually carries other bacteria. In Morehart’s case, doctors have determined she has three different kinds causing symptoms and each must be treated separately with different antibiotics.

Her immune system has been weakened by her condition and her digestive system “is a mess,” she said, meaning she has developed intolerances for gluten, corn, nuts and dairy products. She strongly advised people suspecting Lyme disease to see a “Lyme Literate MD” and to visit lymenet.org.

Daniel J. Vance is the editor of Connect Business Magazine. He publishes the “Disabilities” column weekly, and can be reached at danieljvance.com. This column was made possible by All American Foods and Palmer Bus Service.