Easter: His Finished Work is My New Beginning

“It is finished.”

With those three small words, our Savior bowed His head and gave up His spirit (John 19:30).   Although this chapter of Jesus’s earthly ministry had concluded, His work was far from done.

His finished work on the cross and His resurrection loosed chains and broke bonds   Separation was no more.  The chasm was bridged.  Sin and death were conquered.    The finished work of Christ was my new beginning.

The work of Christ is a story of a love so great, so selfless, so sacrificial, we may never fathom its depth.  It was that love, His sacrifice, that made a way.  A way to be free of the burdens we carry.    A way out of the muck and mire.  A way to have victory over sin.  A way to be new.  A way to the Father.

All other ways only lead astray.  All other efforts only fall short.  The Lord knew that my best efforts would never be enough; they would be as filthy rags.  Only the work of the cross would be enough.  It would be all that I need…all that you need.

Our Savior still lives today.  He is not on the cross, nor does His body fill the tomb.  He sits at the right hand of the Father, and He is at work.  He is opening hearts and minds.  He is calling people to Himself.  He is making new beginnings.  His finished work can be your new beginning.

Jesus tells us to come.  Come with your burdens; lay them down.  Come with your sins; have them washed clean.  Come just as you are, so you don’t have to remain just as you are.  He offers you a new beginning, a new start, a new life.  It comes only through His cleansing blood, only through the cross.

He’s calling you to come, not to be part of a stringent set of Medieval rules and regulations,  but to come to a haven of rest, hope, and forgiveness.  A place where grace, mercy, and love flow freely.  He’s calling you to come to His open arms, to be embraced and held and comforted in way that no one else can do.

Colorful eggs and adorable bunnies soften the reality of the blood-stained cross and the crown of thorns.   But it is through that cross and because of those thorns that we have freedom…forgiveness….new life in Him.

May you find a new beginning this Easter.  May you find the Savior, Jesus.  May you find the hope and love you have been searching for in the finished work of Christ.

He was handed over to die because of our sins, and He was raised to life to make us right with God.

Romans 4:25 

Children and Lyme Disease – Part 3 – In For the Long Haul

Continued from my last post…

I stood motionless with the copies of my son’s latest blood work in my hand.   All appeared normal until I perused the results for the Lyme test.  Three bands highlighted.  By the current medical standards three bands was just three bands.  Five bands were required for a diagnosis of Lyme Disease to be considered.   However, I was shocked.  Had I not requested this paperwork, I would have never been informed by my doctor that there was Lyme activity going on.  My son was symptomatic…this was a bit of a big deal.

I immediately called the doctor’s office and demanded to speak with him.  For the next fifteen minutes we spoke, I in rather forceful, loud tones, he in a calm, yet genuinely perplexed manner.  He had known me to be a calm, level-headed woman.  We had enjoyed many a conversation and laugh together.  We had an incredible rapport with each other.  Our visits were often longer than normal because we talked and shared so much.  At times we had our disagreements, but they were always respectfully received from both sides.  Today, I was a grizzly bear.  I told him that I was concerned that my son had tested positive for three bands on the Lyme test.  He proceeded to tell me about the minimum five band requirement.  I asked him if he was planning to let me know that there was activity going on.  He said that there was no reason to.  I asked him what his protocol was for this type of situation.  He told me that he would recommend coming back in six months for a retest.  I asked him how I was supposed to take my son in for a retest if I didn’t know there was an issue.  There was no answer for that one.  This back and forth continued as I challenged him and his views.  Most doctors do not appreciate challenges from their patients.

Then things got a little personal.  I had experienced similar push back from this doctor when dealing with my oldest son’s Lyme Disease.  He had refused to even consider a Lyme diagnosis and was furious when another doctor did and treated it as such.  My oldest son would eventually test positive for Lyme, and had it not been for a young dermatologist’s forward thinking, he would have suffered the consequences of untreated Lyme.  I flat out asked the doctor why he was so opposed to diagnosing and treating his patients for Lyme Disease.  I equated it to medical neglect and malpractice…my exact words to him.  Let’s just say that I hit a sore spot.  I told him that his intention was to simply file the paperwork (which he had signed off on) and not to give it another thought.  And with that, he handed the phone to his colleague.

I recounted my concerns to her.  Her response troubled me more than the first doctor, “If we retested and/or treated every child who came in with three or four bands positive, then we would be treating and retesting an enormous number of children.”  Read that again and think that through.

My response was a simple one: “Then maybe that’s what you should be doing.”

Our conversation was done.  I would eventually find myself in the pediatrician’s office, his personal office, to calmly discuss this in person.  He told me that he was very taken back by our phone conversation.  I told him that I would only apologize for my decibel level that day, not the content.  He again tried to defend himself.   I again told him that I thought that he was practicing dangerous medicine.  We live in an endemic area.  Lyme disease is very real and has the potential to be devastating if not promptly treated.  He didn’t agree.  We then agreed to part ways.  I felt like I was breaking up with a boyfriend.  I have to tell you that I was quite saddened by this.  I trusted this man and respected him.

As I walked out the door I stood face to face with the row of awards our doctor had received.  “Top Doc.”  “New Jersey’s Best.”  “100 Best…”  Not so much.

Now I was left without a pediatrician.  The thought of finding a new doctor seemed daunting.  I began taking my son to my own doctor who was currently working with me regarding Lyme issues.  She took a look at my son’s blood work and did not ignore it.  Thankfully, my son has been under her care now.  Actually all of my children are under  her care.  She knows my history with Lyme and understands its impact on my children’s own health.   She gets it.  Why does she get it?  Her young daughter had Lyme.  Why did that young dermatologist get it with my older son?  She was a mom with young children and knew the risks.  For us, we are most comfortable dealing with doctors like this.  They see people in their exam rooms, not statistics or numbers.  They listen to their stories and empathize.

My son’s journey with Lyme has been a long one.  I don’t know when it will end, but I pray that he will get better.   Antibiotics have not proven effective for him.  Traditional treatment produces only temporary improvement.  I am left to research, leave no stone unturned, and advocate for my son.  I will admit that I grow weary and tired.  I sometimes wish for “normal”…whatever that may be.  Yet, the Lord has allowed this to be our lot for whatever His purpose may be.

So, my message to parents is this:  be your child’s advocate.  Research.  Find a doctor who you are comfortable with.  Do not allow yourself to be bullied.   Be a grizzly bear if necessary.  You know your child.  You know what normal is for them, and you know when something just isn’t right.  Do not ignore your gut.  Most importantly, pray and pray some more.

Children and Lyme Disease – Part 2 – When Lyme Lingers

Yesterday was my middle son’s follow up.  Just six weeks ago I had hauled him into our physician’s office.  He was exhausted and tired of feeling sick. His joints ached; acid reflux plagued him.  He was having a hard time concentrating.  Academic tasks that were once easy now caused frustration.  His ears were ringing; his eyes were bothered by the light.  He was ornery, and my heart was aching.  Seventeen vials of blood were taken.  A protocol was given.  We waited for the tests to show us where we were on this Lyme journey.  Some good news was to be had, some bad.  New discoveries were made, old discoveries still reared their ugly head.

My doctor spent forty-five minutes talking to us, listening to us, formulating a new plan.  After our visit concluded I sent my son into the waiting room as I worked with the nurse to collect the recommended supplements.  I didn’t want him to hear how much the bill would be.  He didn’t need to know.  The nurse tallied, then looked at me out of the corner of her eye.  “I know, I know.  Being sick isn’t cheap.  Just tell me how much,” I gently told her.  As my pen moved across my check, I felt a feeling of deja vu come over me.  “This was me a few years ago,” I thought.

My son and I walked out the door, and I tried to put a good spin on things.  “We’re getting more pieces of the puzzle.  We’re moving in the right direction.  Good things are gonna happen.  I’m so thankful for our doctor; she really cares about you.  I love you bud!”  I smiled at him, put my arm around him, and drew him close.  I knew all of what he had heard today weighed heavy on his heart.

Upon arriving home, my son went up to his room to rest (he’s been dealing with some virus that’s been circulating).  I went into the kitchen and lined up the supplements.  I read over my doctor’s notes.  I realized that I neglected to get one of the required items.  My two hands gripped the countertop, and I hung my head.  My eyes began to well up.  How long was this journey going to be?  Will he ever get better?  Will he be struggling with this for the rest of his life?  He’s only fourteen.  Where will the money come from?  There are moments where strength is fleeting and weakness dominates.   There are moments when a parent realizes that dealing with a child’s illness is far more gut-wrenching than dealing with your own.

This is the raw emotion a parent of a child who has chronic Lyme Disease feels.  Some of you may know this feeling.  Some of you have children who are afflicted in other ways.  There is a feeling of helplessness and a deep desire to try your best to make everything better.  It can be incredibly frustrating.

After living through my child-bearing years with undiagnosed Lyme Disease, it was no surprise that two of my three children tested positive for antibodies at a young age.  Many have long suspected that an infected mother can in fact pass the disease along to her children in utero.  Research is beginning to validate those beliefs.

For my middle son, Lyme Disease was something that he was born with.  He didn’t contract it from a tick, but from me.  As a result, no one knew what was going on inside of him.  There was something silently at work within him.  Something that provided no indication of its presence.  Something was stealthfully at work burrowing deep within him.  This was something no child could vocalize and no mother could know.  For the longest time I had no reason to think that there was anything wrong with my son.  I was struggling with my own health issues, and was frankly focused on keeping myself alive.

In hind site, I clearly remember when this disease began to rear its ugly head.  My son was around eight years old.  He was normally active, athletic, and always hungry.  He then came down with what appeared to be the flu.  It was flu season, so I didn’t think much of it.  He rested, and I cared for him knowing that the flu and its effects could last for a week or so. But, after ten days, I found my son still lying lifelessly on my living room sofa.   Barely eating, hardly moving, he ached and groaned.  I took him to the doctor who in turn reprimanded me for not bringing him in sooner to receive flu medication.  We came back home having received no help or advice other than to let it ride its course.

Two weeks passed.  I asked several friends to pray because I knew in my momma gut that something was not right.  My son looked up at me and said (I’ll never forget the exact words), “Mommy, I feel like something has taken over my body and is running all over.  I can’t even move.”

We immediately went back to the pediatrician, requesting to see a different doctor within the practice.  The doctor examined my son and took his history.  She did not think that this was a case of the flu.  She sent us for some blood work, and prescribed an antibiotic.  As I was waiting at the pharmacy to pick up the prescription, I received a call from the pediatrician.  She was ordering a change to the medication.  She wanted me to stay in touch and bring my son in immediately if there was no improvement within the next day.  We began the medication immediately, and within a day, I began to see some signs of life in my son.  Within a week he was eating and drinking normally, and within two weeks, he was virtually back to normal.  The blood work did indicate that there was something going on, but that was about the extent of what we would know.

Although doctors and the medical community do not acknowledge a momma’s gut and heart, I know now that this episode was the beginning of my son’s visable struggle with Lyme Disease.

At my son’s next physical, I requested that a test for Lyme Disease be run.  At this point in my life, I was still undiagnosed myself and not as informed about the diagnostic side of Lyme Disease as I am now.  As was customary, our pediatrician would only call me if the results of the blood work were cause for concern.  I never received a phone call, but something within me, the Lord, no doubt, caused me to call up the doctor’s office and request that copies of my son’s blood work be sent to me.  They were.  The results surprised me, and the ensuing conversation with our pediatrician would infuriate me.

I’ll hit the pause button here, and come back to finish the story in my next post.

Children and Lyme Disease – Part I

Last year I took some time to write about my experience with undiagnosed Lyme Disease.  I’ve decided to dedicate the next few blog posts to discussing Lyme Disease as it relates to children.   It’s one thing when we experience illness ourselves, but it can be downright heart-wrenching to watch a loved one battle illness, especially when that loved one is a child.

The story I want to share with you today is not meant to attack the medical community.  Its purpose is to simply make you aware of some of the misinformation, denial, and utter chaos that exists in the medical community with regards to Lyme Disease.  I will be careful not to exaggerate, but I will paint an accurate picture of my first hand experience with regards to my oldest son’s Lyme Disease.

It was a beautiful summer day, and my children were invited to a friend’s house to romp in the nearby river.  They thoroughly enjoyed their time and gave little mind to anything other than having fun.  The children came home, showered, and headed off to bed.  I had no cause for concern.

Within a few days, I noticed a red ring on my son’s calf.  There was no denying that it looked like the all too familiar bull’s eye rash that can accompany a recent tick bite.   However, upon closer examination, the bull’s eye looked exactly like ringworm.  I did a bit of researching online, comparing my son’s mark to numerous others.  It sure looked like ringworm.

We went to the pediatrician the next morning who agreed that my son had a textbook case of ringworm.  He was given an anti-fungal cream to apply and told that there was no need to return.  We followed the treatment plan, but within a few days, the look of my son’s leg had dramatically changed.  The site was now quite red and inflamed.  We returned to the doctor, who proceeded to change the medication.  The new medication proved ineffective, and my son’s leg continued to grow fiery red.  It began to swell and was now forming blisters in the center of the ring.  My son also was running a low grade fever and feeling sluggish.  It was then that I knew exactly what we were dealing with.

I returned to the pediatrician.  I then remarked how I no longer believed that this was ringworm.  I was convinced that this was a tick bit.  I knew it in my “momma gut”.

The doctor’s response?  “No, it’s not a tick bite.”  He was adamant.

A second pediatrician from the group was brought in.  Her response?  “No, this is not a tick bite.  It is just a severe case of ringworm.”

I replied, “But how do you know just by looking at it?  How about you run some tests?  How about we treat this with some precautionary antibiotics to be careful.”

The answer was, “No.”

No?  Just like that.  No further discussion needed.  No mind given to the concerns of this momma.

I am not a mother who has ever pushed for antibiotics for my children.  To the contrary, I have left them as our last resource when illness strikes.  For me to even suggest precautionary antibiotics was completely out of character for me, and my doctor knew it.  He told me that I was over reacting.  I told him that I didn’t think I was.  I was given a referral to a local dermatologist.  I left the office angry…very angry.

I reached out to the dermatologist’s office to make an appointment.  I was told that I would need to wait two weeks for an appointment.   This was not acceptable, but it was providential.  I explained that I needed my son to see someone within the next day.  I was given an appointment with a new, young doctor.  I wasn’t thrilled, but as I mentioned, the Lord orchestrated it.

Upon arriving at the office, the doctor took one look at my son’s now infected leg and was quite concerned.  She ran a test for ringworm…twice.  Both tests came back negative.   She was 100% positive that this was not a fungal infection.   I then explained to her that I was concerned that this was a tick bite.  She agreed.  However, my son’s leg was so red, inflammed, and blistery, she could not even see what was going on underneath it all.  She prescribed a strong antibiotic to clear the infection.  She told me to come back if there was no improvement or at the conclusion of the treatment.  I felt relieved that someone had taken me seriously.

Within a few days of beginning the treatment, my son’s leg cleared dramatically.  I was now able to see three small pricks in the center of the now obvious red, bull’s eye ring.  I called the dermatologist and told her what I could now see.  She told me to come in.  She too was convinced that this was a tick bite (or three).  She looked at me square in the face and told me that she was the mother of three small children.  If this was one of her children, she wouldn’t even bother to wait for a test to confirm Lyme; she would treat it immediately with antibiotics.

That was music to my ears!  And so, my son began his antibiotic course.

We were slated to return to our pediatrician for a follow up visit.  I told him about our visits and tests with the dermatologist and the subsequent administration of antibiotics for a suspected case of Lyme Disease.  His reaction shocked me.  He was furious.  Furious at the dermatologist.  Furious that my son was given antibiotics.  Furious that no test was run.  Furious that she thought that this was a case of Lyme Disease.

I was confused.  This was coming from a man who refused to test my son.  A man who refused to entertain the notion that maybe my son had been bitten by a tick.  A man who refused to look at my son’s collective symptoms:  low grade fever, sluggishness, and a bull’s eye rash.  This man refused to believe that this was a tick bit.  I assured him that I had the best interest of my son at heart and felt comfortable with the course of treatment.  I was flabbergasted and angered beyond measure.  I called my husband from the car and cried.

My son continued taking his medication.  His fever subsided and within short time the fatigue he was feeling completely disappeared.  However, something quite strange was taking place on his leg.  While the bull’s eye rash was dissipating, his skin at the site was blistering, oozing, and breaking.  I must admit, sometimes I allow my mind to wander to the worst case scenario too quickly.  I envisioned that my son had contracted some rare flesh eating bacteria that was eating away his leg.

To calm my fears and my son’s, we returned to the dermatologist.   She looked at his leg and had no cause for concern.

Yet another week elapsed with my son’s leg only growing worse.  In tears, my son told me for the first time he felt scared.  I knew we needed to find some help.  I called the dermatologist’s office and requested an appointment with the main doctor.  I was told that the first available appointment was not for another week.  I had them pencil our name in.  I then went to work on finding a way to get that appointment moved up.  I returned to the pediatrician’s office and showed him my son’s leg.  He agreed that it needed attention.  He made a phone call and informed me that my appointment at the dermatologist was moved up to tomorrow.

The lead dermatologist examined my son’s leg.  He then proceeded to take a biopsy of the area.  He informed me that he would call me personally once the results came back.  Within a few short days I received his call.

The doctor told me that the biopsy showed that there was foreign DNA found in the tissue sample.  He said that it was likely from bedbugs.

Take a moment to digest that.

You have got to be kidding me.  You can’t make this stuff up.  I told the doctor that it would not be an unlikely scenario to have foreign DNA from, let’s say, a tick, would it?  When ticks latch onto a host, they burrow into the skin.  When they are pulled, wiped, or swatted off, some of those parts can remain in and under the skin.  Also, when ticks feed on a host’s blood, they regurgitate the blood back into the host, however they add some of their own bacteria to the mix for the return trip.  After I explained all of this to the doctor.  I repeat, after I explained all of this to the doctor, then reminded him that my son had had a bull’s eye rash, fever, and fatigue, he still stood with his original assessment.  Bed bugs.

I went home, and like a stark raving lunatic, stripped my children’s room.  Sheets, blankets, curtains, pillows, clothes…you name it.  Then once the beds were clear, I investigated my son’s pillow and mattress carefully.  All was spotless.  My son shared a bunk bed with his younger brother at the time.  I examined his bed.  All was clear.  I then stopped and realized that there was no bed beg problem.  Right around the same time I received a call from my pediatrician.  He asked me if I had spoken to the dermatologist.  I told him that I had.  He proceeded to recount the dermatologist’s findings.  I then calmly, yet sarcastically, proceeded to ask several questions of my pediatrician:

“Is it possible that the bed bugs in question are so highly intelligent that they come out each night and congregate at the same spot on my son’s leg?”

“Is it possible that they find no other part of his body remotely appealing?”

“Is it possible that the bed bugs in question, who apparently reside in my son’s top bunk, never venture to the bottom bunk to bother my other son?”

“Is it possible that these bed bugs have isolated themselves completely from all other family members?”

“Does any of this seem plausible to you?”

He answered that it seemed unlikely.  I told him that it was IMPOSSIBLE!  I told him that the foreign DNA found in my son’s biopsy was not from bed bugs; it was from a tick.  I didn’t care what he said to the contrary.  I really didn’t want to hear it.  He had not been an advocate for my son; I had.

It would take nearly two and half months for my son’s leg to clear.  After much personal research I discovered that some individuals can have a severe reaction to a tick bite.  Blisters form as the body tries to rid itself of foreign matter.  It was my son’s situation in every way.

Thankfully, my son was treated relatively promptly after his initial tick bite.  Time is of the essence when dealing with Lyme Disease.  The longer you wait, the further the disease sinks into the body.  The further it sinks into the body, the harder it is to combat.

My son’s story is a good one.

There are still some doctors out there who discount Lyme Disease.  I experienced it first hand.  If you take nothing else away from my son’s story, please know that you must be an advocate for your children.  You must be persistent.  You must research.  You must be knowledgeable.  And, at times, you may need to be a bit fierce and put your foot down.

To close, after that episode with my son, I tested my children annually for Lyme Disease and continue to do so.  One year after the tick bite, he tested positive for antibodies.  His infection was not current, but one that was in the past.