An athlete's nightmare is developing a disability from a potentially untreatable disease.
That became reality for a Miami University graduate when she was diagnosed with Lyme disease, an illness that attacks the joints and nervous system.
An athlete since age 6, Sally Russo attended the school in 1999 on a field hockey scholarship.
Sometime during her last semester in summer of 2003, Russo said she was bitten by a tick on campus. She developed a rash that disappeared. But that wasn't the end of it.
For 12 weeks, Russo had an outbreak of mouth sores and suffered 12 bladder and sinus infections.
Initially testing negative for Lyme disease, puzzled doctors misdiagnosed her several times, she said. While taking medication for illnesses she didn't have, Lyme disease took over her body and left her dependent on a wheelchair with muscle spasms that lasted up to 22 hours.
She was finally diagnosed with Lyme disease in January 2005.
"I get frustrated when I think back about how (the doctors) had blown it off. I think 'Oh my god, I could've been better,' " Russo said. "But I realize that being frustrated and mad will only make my struggle harder, so I channel that energy toward something else."
That "something else" arrived later that year when Russo said her parents gave her the best Christmas present she ever received - a laptop computer.
From there, the disease that had stripped away her athletic abilities forced her to use what she had left - her words. While bed-ridden in a hospital, Russo poured her frustration into a book, "While I Was Walking," which was published last month.
"I'm amazed I wrote it, but I'm more amazed that I wrote it from being sick," Russo said. "Maybe that's why I got the disease - to inform other people out there."
These days, Russo, 27, lives in Cape Cod in a one-story home because she can't climb stairs. She takes 15 pills a day for Lyme disease and another 45 for other illnesses doctors thought she had. She hopes to gradually eliminate many of those other medications.
"You develop such an addiction over three or four years, you have to wean it off slowly," Russo said. "I go through withdrawals."
Russo doesn't work and can't drive. For most of the day, she works on a second book in hopes of creating awareness about Lyme disease.
"I'm used to going out and running three or four miles a day," she said. "To have someone say to me 'You need a wheelchair' - that's the biggest transition."
When she thinks about giving up, Russo remembers a moment in the hospital when she was hooked up to medical equipment.
Through tears, she said to her mother, "I think this is how I'm going to die." The look on her mother's face changed it all.
"I've seen her go through these horrible things and I want her to see me get better. I can accept the fact that I'll have Lyme disease for the rest of my life," she said. "But I won't accept the fact that it'll rule my life. I won't give up that easily."
-------------------- There is no wealth but life. -John Ruskin
All truth goes through 3 stages: first it is ridiculed: then it is violently opposed: finally it is accepted as self evident. - Schopenhauer Posts: 5639 | From Aptos CA USA | Registered: Apr 2005
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Yeah, I wish I couldn't relate with her. I was jogging(not 3-4 miles a day though), working out, studying to go back for Ph.D. before all of this. It's horsesh-t... it all started from sick building for me.
I'm just angry right now.
-------------------- Never walk through a cornfield backwards.
looks like a good book, thanks for sharing.
I can relate too was bit in 2000 saw the tick , never got bullesye rash. went to the dr for one sided sore throat that wouldnt go away, mentioned the tick bite, and i tested neg.... the sore throat lasted 6 months, swollen glands, friends kept saying something was wrong, boy were they right. 2005 i was knocked out by lyme.
I just might have to buy this book.
-------------------- "Say it straight simple and with a smile."
"Thus the task is, not so much to see what no one has seen yet, But to think what nobody has thought yet, About what everybody sees."
pos babs, bart, igenex WB igm/igg Posts: 3156 | From Lyme limbo | Registered: Oct 2005
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