WHY IS LYME DISEASE SUCH A BIG DEAL?
As I quickly approach my sixth decade of life, and as I look back at my childhood, I can see just how lucky my generation was to have lived during a time of relative peace and prosperity. The Vietnam War began five years before I was born and, as a young boy, I was completely unaware of the seriousness of the conflict. Each evening my dad would sit down in front of our Zenith Space Command console TV and flip through the national news broadcasts to try to stay up-to-date with the latest world events; and to this day I still can recall seeing news clips about our young soldiers of the time engaged in jungle warfare. I also remember watching the Bob Hope Christmas Specials each Christmas. The show ran from 1964 to 1972 and it was an annual event that was eagerly anticipated by both the troops and American families. But, the seriousness of the war was lost on this once young, naive child. I lived under the premise that we, as a species, had conquered all of the most dreadful hardships that the world had to throw at us, and that we were equipped to deal with anything the powers-that-be had in store for us. We had defeated measles, polio, Nazism, and we were witnesses to humankind lassoing the moon, as George Bailey would say. It was an unbelievable accomplishment. And, so, what was left? Well, for one thing, Lyme disease and then some.
It’s been said that “time heals all wounds,” but that is only true if the wounds do not lead to one’s demise or permanent disability; and, for me, seeing my one and only child so sick was completely debilitating. She was such a happy-go-lucky child who was always laughing and smiling. Then came Lyme, and she was robbed of her happiness and a large part of her childhood.
Three years earlier, Amy had been diagnosed with stage one breast cancer and the dreaded BRCA2 gene mutation, and I was nearly paralyzed with fear. I was terrified by the thought of losing my one and only true friend in life and the mother of our one and only child. I was also overwhelmed with concerns about how I would care for Kathleen, especially given that Amy is the “breadwinner” of our family. Fortunately, though, thanks to modern medical technology, some surgery and six months’ worth of chemo treatments we were able to put the fear of cancer behind us in a relatively short period of time. For our entire family, however, Lyme disease has been a completely different beast: and, for me, personally, Lyme has pervaded every aspect of my life.
In her extremely well researched and well written book, “Bitten: The Secret History of Lyme Disease and Biological Weapons,” Kris Newby lays out a plan hatched by then Attorney General, Robert F. Kennedy, and his brother, President John F. Kennedy, whereby they intended to use ticks infected with non-lethal biological agents to put a majority of Cuban sugar cane workers out of work in order to disrupt Cuba’s economy and, thus, rid Cuba of Fidel Castro and his regime. According to Newby’s account, Bobby Kennedy wanted to disrupt the Cuban people’s lives and their ability to earn a living. And the only thing that I can say in defense of the Kennedy brothers is that they never gave any thought to the idea that the problems they created for the Cuban people may one day become our problems as well . . . and it’s not much of a defense!
The diseases that have so negatively impacted my daughter (i.e., Lyme, Bartonella and Babesiosis) almost completely destroyed me and my family. She has suffered tremendously, physically and emotionally; and my wife and I have suffered enormously from stress and the financial issues that have arisen from treatments and from all of the 911 calls that we made when Kathleen suffered major seizures. Almost overnight, our home went from a very happy, peaceful and secure place to one of tremendous tension and chaos.
In her book, Newby reveals information that she uncovered within the research documents of Wilhelm “Willy” Burgdorfer, the Swiss born medical researcher who is credited with discovering the Lyme spirochete (i.e., the bacteria) which causes Lyme disease. Newby also includes information gathered during several personal interviews with Burgdorfer; and the most disturbing information that she gleaned was that Willy was actually a biological weapons researcher for the U.S. Government.
For years Willy worked to perfect techniques for infecting ticks with a host of bacterial agents that, when introduced into the human body, would incapacitate the individual. And though, at first, they were not intended to kill people, many of them do eventually kill their hosts over that which can be a very long, drawn-out and painful period of time.
As I sit to write this post, U.S. citizens have been suffering through the COVID-19 pandemic and the virus has done more than kill people and make them extremely ill, it has widened social fissures that have long been ignored. The “Black Lives Matter” movement has, justifiably, gained steam and numerous confederate statues and landmarks, which memorialized former slave owners, have been vandalized, completely destroyed or torn down entirely. People have had enough and they are no longer willing to tolerate such false gods or Robber barons. And much like the evildoers of the past, I believe that Willy, and people like him, will come to be equally loathed. Personally, I believe that for us to honor Burgdorfer for discovering the bacteria — especially when it was he who worked so hard to weaponize it — is an absolute sin! His name should go down in the annals of history as one of the more evil people who ever existed.
Though Willy may have made a halfhearted attempt to redeem himself by providing Newby with certain half truths prior to his death in 2014, I will never hold Burgdorfer in high regard — nor will I ever forgive him for his dastardly deeds! He, and those like him who have worked to the same ends, have caused countless innocent people almost unimaginable suffering; and, much like those who have, deservedly, earned so much scorn for the suffering they caused during slavery and the Jim Crow era, today’s villains deserve the same level of contempt for the evil deeds that they have committed.
Colloquially speaking, Lyme is a very big deal because of the overwhelming amount of suffering that it causes; and the best way to beat it is to ensure that you never host it.