patients and patients will be more proactive in recognizing potential symptoms.”
Traverse City MI
July 27, 2005
Hide and seek
Lyme disease symptoms often mistaken for other illnesses
By CHRISTINE FINGER
Record-Eagle staff writer
TRAVERSE CITY - Janice Ensfield and Michael Survilla started their crusade to educate people
about Lyme disease in an unlikely place.
The friends met in a local chronic fatigue syndrome support group after struggling for years
to pinpoint the cause of their life-altering symptoms. Both of them have since been diagnosed with
Lyme disease, whose wide-ranging signals often masquerade as other conditions like chronic
"At some point in time we've probably been diagnosed with just about everything," said
Survilla, who estimates he saw at least 25 medical specialists before testing positive for Lyme.
Infected deer ticks transmit Lyme disease, which can affect every organ and aspect of
everyday life. Early stage signs include flu-like illness, extreme fatigue and joint aches, and later
stages can spur neurological problems. Common misdiagnoses include fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis
and a host of psychiatric disorders.
Ensfield and Survilla hope telling their stories will help other people who are unknowingly
living with Lyme.
Ensfield first became seriously ill in 1990, but looking back she believes she contracted
Lyme disease in 1987 when a deer tick bit her in her yard. A second tick bite in 2001, also at her
home in Traverse City, transmitted a co-infection.
Even when her debilitating symptoms brought her "near death" in November 2001, Ensfield had
still not heard of Lyme disease. Her turning point came in 2002 when her husband was at the
doctor's office and encountered a Lyme patient, who recounted similar symptoms.
"I got tested the very next day," Ensfield said.
Survilla doesn't know where and when the infected tick bit him, but he knew something was
wrong the day in 1989 when sudden exhaustion and shakes forced him to pause his round of golf.
"From then on it was never the same," he remembered.
Survilla, who lived in Kalamazoo when his illness emerged, was just recently diagnosed with
Lyme but like Ensfield had gone years without hearing about the disease. Both take antibiotics -
the typical treatment - and see a Saginaw doctor who specializes in Lyme.
Linda Lobes, president of the Michigan Lyme Disease Association, said diligent awareness is
the best defense. That means knowing how to detect and properly remove ticks no larger than the
period at the end of this sentence and looking out for symptoms, which include but are not limited
to the distinctive "bull's-eye" rash.
"The only way to remove a tick is with tweezers, getting as close to the skin as possible,"
Lobes said, noting that using a lit match or other methods can agitate the tick and exacerbate the
Not all ticks are infected with Lyme disease, but experts recommend erring on the side of
caution. Other preventative measures include wearing light-colored clothing so ticks are easier to
see, covering skin with long sleeves and pants, wearing closed-toe shoes and applying insect
repellents such as DEET.
The Grand Traverse County Health Department logged no local reports of Lyme disease this
year or in 2004, said medical director Michael Collins. Lyme is among the conditions doctors are
required by state law to report, but Lobes said varying criteria for tracking Lyme cases make reliable
statistics hard to find.
Ensfield and Survilla hope heightened awareness means doctors will look for the disease in
patients and patients will be more proactive in recognizing potential symptoms.
"It should be one of the first things doctors look for if someone has any of the symptoms at
all," Ensfield said.
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