Editor’s note: This story corrects where Bowyer received an IV.
COLUMBIANA, Ohio (WKBN) – Lifelong friends Jenny Bowyer and Julie Jones have known each other since they were in kindergarten, but Lyme disease has kept them closer than ever.
Jones and Bowyer both battle Lyme disease. According to the CDC, approximately 476,000 people could be diagnosed and treated for Lyme disease each year.
Jones was diagnosed in 2013. She realized something was wrong when she was out for a run, training for a 5K. While she was running in the woods, Jones noticed a tick in her chest. She picked it out and thought nothing of it.
What followed for Jones was three years filled with symptoms. She was unable to drive. Jones developed Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), which the Cleveland Clinic describes as a condition that affects blood flow.
“I think I’m dying,” Jones said as she researched her best treatment options.
The condition also impacted her brain, as she could not remember who her daughter Alaina was.
“I kept writing my daughter’s name down, spelling it all over again. I kept saying: I know this person, I know this person. It was my daughter,” Jones said.
Jones eventually sought treatment from the Jemsek Specialty Clinic in Washington D.C. She has been put on several antibiotics to help regulate the disease.
Jones is not actively in remission. She still continues to battle the disease daily. Jones is still happy to be recovering and have her life back.
Bowyer, who was diagnosed in 2014, got Lyme disease without ever noticing a tick bite.
Bowyer credits Jones for being the reason she was diagnosed. When Bowyer returned home from Virginia, she was very sick for several years. She came into contact with the mother of her close friend. She reconnected with Jones, and from there, Bowyer went to see if she had the same disease as her friend.
Bowyer went to get tested, but hurdles were still there. One doctor recommended one medication, but the medication did not work. Bowyer was checked for M.S., Lupus and Fibromyalgia. Bowyer said doctors thought it was “all in her head” and were not able to help her. Bowyer said doctors even recommended that she needed to see a psychiatrist.
Bowyer had to take a break from her teaching job before she found a clinic in Mansfield, Ohio.
“I was hanging onto lockers to try to get down the hall, and I didn’t want anybody to know,” Bowyer said.
At Mansfield, the supplements gave her inflammation and the treatment wasn’t covered by insurance. A doctor in Gennett, Pennsylvania then gave her different treatments to no avail.
Bowyer was allergic to antibiotics, she was given ozone IVs and natural supplements for treatment.
Bowyer then also found out that her two children Kayla and Aidan have the disease. They both got the disease from a tick bite that went too long untreated.
Then, Bowyer found Dr. Noah Erickson, a naturopathic chiropractor in Wexford, Pennsylvania.
“He’s the one that completely turned me around,” Bowyer said.
Four years later, Bowyer was having a separate stomach issue, so her stomach was removed. This procedure removed the inflammation in her stomach and she was in remission from Lyme. Bowyer is now out of remission, so she has to look for new forms of treatment.
Bowyer’s goal is to build a house and help her son graduate. She hopes to receive treatment in Idaho. Both Bowyer and Jones believe that research and faith are key for those trying to overcome Lyme disease.
“You have got to educate yourself and be the outlier for treatments. It’s not one size fits all. You have to have faith,” Bowyer said.
On Monday, it was announced that companies that include Pfizer and French biotech Valneva are aiming to develop a new vaccine to protect both adults and kids as young as 5 from the most common Lyme strains on two continents. This would be the first potential vaccine that would protect against Lyme disease in 20 years.
However, both women said that they will not get the Lyme vaccine. Bowyer said that she will not be able to get the vaccine due to allergies. Jones said that she has her doubts about the vaccine’s effectiveness at this time.
As of right now, there is no cure available for Lyme disease.
Ticks are expected to be on the rise this year in Ohio due to global climate change and tick-host range expansion, according to an article published on The Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences website.
What do I do if I find a tick attached to me?
If you find a tick attached, Tim McDermott with OSU Extension recommends that you do the following:
- Do not crush or puncture it.
- Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible using pointy tweezers, a tick removal tool, or your finger and thumb. Pull straight up and out with steady, even pressure.
- Thoroughly wash the bite site, your hands, and the tweezers or removal tool with warm soap and water.
- Place the tick in a container with rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer. Record the day the tick was likely to have attached.
- Take the specimen with you to a healthcare professional if you develop flu-like symptoms, a rash, or anything that is unusual for you.
How can I avoid tick bites?
McDermott recommends that people take the following precautions to avoid tick bites:
- Wear light-colored clothes, including a long-sleeved shirt tucked into your pants and long pants tucked into your socks or boots.
- Apply a tick repellent according to label instructions.
- Wear footwear and clothing that have been treated correctly with permethrin. These can be purchased through many outfitters and clothing companies.
- Do frequent tick checks of your body while outside, and do a thorough inspection at shower time.
- Protect your pets with an anti-tick product recommended by a veterinarian.
- Keep dogs on a leash, and avoid allowing them into weedy areas.