Amherst Couple

ABC 13- WSET-TV Lynchburg, Danville, Roanoke

Amherst Co. Couple Shares Lyme Disease Struggles

Posted: Mar 16, 2011 5:53 PM

Reporter: Rachel Schaerr

Amherst Co., VA - It's tick season and the Central Virginia Health Department is already getting reports of Lyme Disease. The disease is often misunderstood, but a new task force is going around the state looking for answers.

Joe LeBlanc was at the Lyme Disease Task Force meeting in Roanoke Tuesday night. He and his wife Patty, both from Amherst County, have spent more than 12 years fighting the disease.

Patty didn't understand the struggles of it until she was diagnosed.

"I used to think myself, oh they've got a few aches and pains," she said. "It's actually much worse than that."

She was diagnosed with Lyme disease 16 years ago, Joe LeBlanc a few years later. It's been a long and frustrating journey. Patty nearly gave up completely.

"I took a shotgun out to the porch on our farm, but I couldn't pull the trigger. I was a coward I guess," she said.

The Central Virginia Health District's Epidemiologist Haley Phillips says more cases are reported in late Spring and early Summer.

"We certainly see more Lyme Disease now than we did in the past, but I think it's because we're looking for it," Phillips said.

That's one reason the Lyme Disease Task Force is holding hearings with people like the LeBlancs who are speaking out.

"The stories are very similar especially the way they've been treated by doctors. They'll say no there's no such thing as Lyme Disease," Joe LeBlanc said.

He wants money to go towards research and diagnosing the disease, as well as laws to protect doctors who prescribe antibiotics as long term treatment. He says the treatment can be very expensive.

"Oh we've refinanced our home three times trying to keep up with the bills the health insurance won't pay for. Antibiotics were costing us $350 a day."

But that's nothing compared to what the LeBlanc's say they'll pay if the disease is ignored.

"Maybe this will open up some doctor's eyes and they'll look at it a little closer and find out what's really going on out here," Joe LeBlanc said.

The Lyme Disease task force was created by Governor McDonell. It has held two of its three public testimony hearings.

More than 900 new cases of Lyme in Virginia were reported in 2009. The CDC estimates ten times as many people, including children may actually have it.

Full story and video