By Carys Dodd
At eight years old, I experienced a very scary health issue. I had no idea I had been bit by a tick
and the effects it would have on me. After a few months of not feeling well and experiencing various
symptoms (headaches, joint pain, fevers), I developed full facial paralysis. I was unable to close my eyes
while sleeping, close my mouth around a straw to drink, or smile. In my mind, I was trying to do those
things, but my face would not move. I was taken by my parents to a hospital one hour from my rural
hometown. After receiving very prompt medical treatment and testing, it was discovered that I had
Lyme disease and needed to be transferred to a large children’s hospital 2 hours away. Scientifically, it
is debatable whether Lyme disease is a curable disease. However, I know from experience that this
disease still affects my life in an everyday manner. At 18 years old, I still occasionally suffer from joint
pain and become sick when exposed to extreme temperatures. My story is one of many stories that
highlight the delayed access to care and treatment experienced by people who reside in rural
My Story is Not Unique, That’s the Issue-
The public health issues of limited access to care as well as low health literacy regarding Lyme disease, by both patients and medical professionals, affect many people annually. Inadequate access to
health care is very common for individuals who live in rural areas, and Lyme Disease is also more
prevalent in rural areas. This could be interpreted as a “double-edged sword”. People residing in bigger
cities not only have better access to healthcare but also have a lower rate of contracting Lyme disease since tick-borne illnesses are more common in wooded, rural locations. Research demonstrates that the
northeast and north-central states, which are mostly rural, are at higher risk of getting Lyme disease.
According to Data and Surveillance, About Rural Health, there are about 30,000 cases of Lyme disease
reported to the CDC annually. Lyme disease is diagnosed with many different symptoms like
rashes, fever, headache, sleepiness, etc. It can be treated with antibiotics if the case is not too severe. Lyme disease is often dismissed, but when left untreated, it can spread to the nervous system and joints,
causing major illness. The most troubling aspect of this is that according to the Lyme
Patients Access to Care Survey, Lyme patients felt that in addition to the substantial burden of illness,
they also had significant barriers to healthcare access. These patients had a difficult time maintaining
treatment for their illness, traveled a great distance to receive healthcare, and also felt they could not
receive quality care at local hospitals. Patients in rural areas experience these problems because this
population has less access to healthcare.
Here is a Non-profit Working to Solve the Problem-
If this is a problem that is of interest to you or for more information on how to get involved, the International Lyme and Associated Disease Society (ILADS) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to
Lyme patients. The ILADS is experienced and confident in research and educating the public on Lyme
disease and the importance of access to quality healthcare. This society strives to advance healthcare for
those in need. The ILADS works to ensure the correct and appropriate diagnoses are being made and that
Lyme disease is not being overlooked. ILADS has many ways researchers and doctors are able to learn
more about Lyme’s and how it affects people even after being treated. ILADS online courses and
training are also available to those interested in researching treatments and plans for Lyme Disease.
Here is what you can do, right now!
Personally, each one of us has a responsibility to improve the overall health of our society. You may not
be familiar with Lyme disease or even how limited access to care affects the overall health of a
population, but it affects each and every one of us, indirectly, at a minimum. ILADS has many different ways you can get involved and help learn more about Lyme disease. Get involved with ILADS here,
where physicians, researchers, and medical students can all help learn more about Lyme and also learn
more effective ways to treat those who need quality treatment. If you are not part of the medical field,
there are also many other ways you can help. Unity in Lyme is where you can make a donation
to ILADS to enhance the tools and resources needed for better diagnosis. Along with this, one of the
most important things a person can do to champion these causes is to educate themselves. The Centers for
Disease Control (CDC) has many online resources for educating yourself on the health of the country.
Visit your one-stop shop for health communication to learn ways you can improve your knowledge on
these issues. When improving your health literacy, it is also important to help improve others as well! You
can always educate your family, friends, and colleagues as a way to help with these kinds of public health
Well written, I’m an Aflac agent and we have plans with specific coverage for Lyme disease.