Lyme Disease: A Re-enactor's Nightmare


By Sue Huesken


In the summer of 1989, I awoke one morning to very stiff legs and a large rash on my thigh. My doctor agreed that it was Lyme Disease and treated me with 20 days of antibiotics. Since all the information stated that Lyme is curable with immediate treatment, I did not give it another thought.


By the fall of 1994, the continuous small problems I had been having for four years were escalating. I complained to my doctor (a different one from initial treatment) that I was feeling like a hypochondriac with problem after problem and that something serious must be wrong. He shrugged and did not answer. In September, a talk on Lyme was given at our local library. The information confirmed my fears. My doctor thought I was crazy and refused to do anything. I made an appointment to see a Lyme-knowledgeable doctor. Unfortunately, I became very ill before I had the opportunity to see him. By January, I had progressed into a later stage of the disease.


Recovery from chronic Lyme is a long process of ups and downs. As of now, I do not know what the future holds.


All living historians need to be aware of Lyme Disease and other tick-born illnesses. The ticks that spread Lyme are usually very small and easily missed. Re-enactors are susceptible to tick bites, as they are out in wooded areas and open fields where ticks reside. Most ticks are not infected, so a bite does not mean illness unless it has the bacteria in it.


Most doctors do not understand this disease and the medical community as a whole has a lot to learn. There is too much reliance on flawed lab tests. I have heard three doctors lecture on Lyme and claim 98% are cured with 20-30 days of antibiotics. For the thousands of us who continue to be ill, we say, "Wake up, Doc!" The insurance companies are listening to the doctors who claim quick cures and are refusing to pay for long term treatment. Many of the better Lyme-knowledgeable doctors are being persecuted and ostracized because they are deviating from "standard medical practice." They are only trying to help their ill patients.


For those people who have been diagnosed and "cured" with short term antibiotics, WATCH FOR SYMPTOMS. They may take a year or two or longer to return. Don't let any doctor tell you to ignore them. We put my husband, Ted, back in treatment after realizing his problems were not only stress and carpal tunnel.


Many people know to look for a rash as a sign of Lyme Disease, however not everyone gets one. Some people have flu-like symptoms with high fever, others are not symptomatic. See the accompanying symptom list if unexplainable medical problems have been happening to family members or friends. Lyme is very unpredictable. Problems vary from person to person, which is one of the reasons why the medical world is so confused over Lyme.


If I can help at least one person to avoid being as sick as I am, this article will not be in vain. For questions I might be able to answer, I can be reached at 609-461-3369. Please share the accompanying symptom and prevention lists with friends and fellow re-enactors.


Lyme Disease Prevention


Protecting yourself from any disease is always the best prevention. The bacteria that causes Lyme Disease is usually spread by deer ticks in either wooded areas or open fields.

  • Long sleeves and long stockings and shoes keep arms and legs from being exposed to the ticks. Think twice about the authenticity of bare feet.
  • Repellents effective against ticks are also a good idea. Use products containing 20-30% diethyltoluamide (DEET). Some types are for skin use, but others should only be applied to clothing. Do not saturate as adverse reactions can occur.
  • Check body and clothing for ticks and small black "spots." Ticks on clothing may not be killed by washing, but a half hour in a hot drier will usually destroy them.
  • Inspect blankets or sleeping bags before climbing in.

Ticks need to feed to inject bacteria into a person's blood. Remove any found on the body quickly and completely. Use tweezers and pull the tick straight out. Do not twist. Be careful not to squeeze, or it will regurgitate bacteria into the wound. Thoroughly wash hands and bite area.


If you do get bit, DO NOT PANIC! Most ticks are not infected. Just watch for symptoms. The most common early ones are the EM (or Bull's Eye) rash and/or flu-like fever. If symptoms occur, see a doctor immediately.


Copyright © 1995 Sue Huesken. All rights reserved.