LGB: Where were you living and what were you doing when you contracted Lyme disease?
Antone: I was a California state park ranger/superintendent living in Armstrong Redwoods State Park. I was called out to an emergency cliff rescue of two individuals stranded on a beach below a steep cliff. The tide was rising, and they had no way to seek safety without being airlifted by helicopter and cliff-rescue personnel. There was a deer path through tall brush that I used to get to the cliff. When I returned home to shower, I did notice ticks on my clothing. I did not notice a tick on my body.
LGB: What year was this? How old were you at the time?
Antone: It was 1991, and I was 46 years old.
LGB: Did you remember getting bit by a tick? Did you get a rash?
Antone: I do not know when a tick bit me. I got a few dollar-size rashes on my back about a week after the above event.
LGB: Did your symptoms start right away? What were they?
Antone: I started getting dizzy spells, knee- and hip-joint pain, and brain fog about a month after I knew the rashes were on my back. Because I was in a position of leadership I was uncomfortable speaking in public, attending public events, and even interacting with park visitors and staff. The brain fog was the worst!
LGB: Had you heard of Lyme disease? Did you suspect that’s what was happening to you?
Antone: I had heard about Lyme disease because, as a park ranger, we were told about the possibility that ticks in our area of the state may carry Lyme disease. I knew about the bull’s-eye rash but not about the dollar-size rashes that are also a sign of Lyme disease. So, I never considered my symptoms were a sign of Lyme disease.
LGB: What did doctors think you had? What was your experience with doctors like as you searched for a diagnosis?
Antone: I was in Laguna Beach, California, with my husband when my knees swelled up so much that I couldn’t walk, and I was in a lot of pain. When we returned home, I went to my doctor, who told me it couldn’t be “lime” disease (she didn’t know how to spell Lyme). So, I was tested for lupus and chronic fatigue syndrome. I was then told that I might have psychological problems. My symptoms continued to get worse. I was having increased joint pain, fatigue, and memory problems. So, back to the doctor I went. I told the doctor that I thought I had Lyme disease and requested a referral to a disease specialist.
LGB: How long did it take to get diagnosed with Lyme disease? How were you finally diagnosed?
Antone: I saw Geraldine Taplin, a local disease specialist, in 1992, one year after I noticed symptoms. The disease specialist sent my blood work to a specialty lab in Lyme, Connecticut. When the results came back, she called me at 11 p.m. one evening and told me that I had Lyme disease because the blood test showed I tested positive for the disease with very high numbers. She then requested that I begin intravenous antibiotics immediately. She requested a home health nurse come to our home to insert a temporary line in my arm, so I wouldn’t have to have a needle inserted each time I needed more antibiotics. My husband came home every day for weeks at a time during his lunch hour to change my IV fluids.
LGB: What Lyme doctor did you go to for treatment? Did he or she give you more antibiotics?
Antone: Dr. Taplin referred me to a Lyme disease specialist in San Francisco, Dr. Paul Lavoie. We drove to San Francisco to see Dr. Lavoie monthly for over a year. Eventually, I was off IV antibiotics but put on oral antibiotics that I took for 10 years.
LGB: Were you able to work? What changes did you have to make to your job?
Antone: Because I was a state park ranger and a peace officer, I was not able to work for several months. I eventually gave up my position as a ranger and took a position as a regional administrative officer in Monterey, so I could be close to home. I was accommodated by being able to work four days a week because of the fatigue. My ranger career was over.
LGB: Did you have anyone to support you?
Antone: My husband and my family were very supportive and understanding, especially with my memory problems. They also knew I felt fatigued easily so understood when I needed to lay down or sleep.
LGB: How long did it take you to get well?
Antone: My active disease lasted for 10 years, but during that time I had very few symptoms. The knee-joint pain lasted the longest. The memory and brain fog lasted a few years, but I understood the cause, so I was able to live with it. I also requested that I be tested for early-onset dementia, so I wouldn’t be concerned with that diagnosis. Eventually, all symptoms disappeared. I never went back to being a park ranger, but I did retire from the park system in 2004. I am now a realtor in Carmel, going on my 12th year. My husband and I travel the world and enjoy long hikes and adventures with our grandchildren.
LGB: What do you think kept you going through those 10 years?
Antone: Dr. Lavoie gave me these words of encouragement: “You’re not going to die from Lyme disease. You’ll get over it, but it will take time.” I’m 72 years old now, and I get to use “Lyme disease” as an excuse for my forgetfulness!
The content of this interview is not intended to replace the advice of each reader's own medical professional nor is it intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any illness or medical condition. When making healthcare decisions, such as stopping or starting treatments or medications, please consult with a licensed medical authority.