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FIGHTING LYME DISEASE

Mayor’s daughter bitten by tick

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FIGHTING LYME DISEASE

A visiting home nurse gives Stephanie Smith a painful injection as her mother Veronica DeBrum looks on.

GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin/


POSTED March 2, 2017 1:21 a.m.

A long-time Manteca nurse, Stephanie Smith, 44, is suffering from a tick bite that has developed into a serious case of Lyme disease.
The tick bite occurred after spending time in the foothills hunting for deer and fishing with her husband Eddie.
The daughter of Manteca Mayor Steve DeBrum and his wife Veronica, Smith said the Lyme disease effects have literally taken her life.
“One thing I loved was taking care of others and now people are taking care of me,” she grimaced.
Today she is pretty much a prisoner in her own home for fear of what else she might contact in the outside world of bugs and germs – getting very nervous when she is wheeled out the door of her home.
“I am a patient who has gone seven years untreated until December when it was diagnosed and an effective treatment was started and stopped after 28 days when the insurance company ruled against a new treatment,” she said.
There is no Lyme disease on the West Coast; the family remembers being told by her insurance company representatives. Their daughter has suffered greatly as a result, they noted. Had she contracted the disuse on the East Coast the insurance company would have paid the bill, she was told. It was a friend who questioned her about the possibility of Lyme disease – did she remember ever being bitten by a tick, she asked.
Her doctor said it would be another 2½ year process before the effects of the Lyme disease would be stabilized at a cost of $21,000 a month – the reason family has stepped in to help her get through her trauma.
Smith voiced her concern for others in the community this week who might not be aware of the dangers lurking in the foothills, a danger that goes unrecognized by so many in the Manteca and Central Valley areas.  She had spent time hunting in Grass Valley, Pioneer, and Pine Grove, up Highway 88 and in Lake County.
“Lyme disease has had a low profile recognition in our area and few know much about it,” she said.
There were even two ticks found in her ear that came out of her back yard, she noted. When she went to Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto the doctors there examined some 50 ticks and they all came back positive with the disease.
Manteca real estate agent and family friend, Wendy Benavides, is organizing a drive-through fund raising dinner through her Bunko Group in an attempt to raise money to help support her friend’s medical costs in her war against the disease.  A date has yet to be set.
She has regular, twice weekly, visits from a home health nurse who carefully adjusts an injection port in her chest. The nurse also acts as a cheerleader for her working to alleviate any depression with her caring approach.
Smith has her ups and downs when she can’t walk, talk or swallow.  There are times when she feels better but she needs family support and that of friends 24 hours a day, seven days a week from an undetected tick bite in 2010. 
Her daughter Erika,  with four degrees in hand,  has been following in her mother’s footsteps toward a medical career but has had to put that on hold while she cares for her mom in the nighttime hours.  Smith got out of the house last week for the first time in four months when her mom took her for a ride. That outing made her very nervous.
Erika opened a Gofundme account December 15 and has set a $250,000 goal for her mother with 32 people contributing over the past two months total $3,385.  The account is under the name of Stephanie DeBrum Smith – Lyme disease.
Erika wrote: “My mother has been in a constant battle with Lyme Disese for seven years.  She has battled seizures, pain, memory loss, heart and lung problems and so much more  What has been the biggest part of her battle is the cost of this horrible disease.  Our family has paid out of pocket for surgeries, doctor visits and medications for seven years.  At this time our family is struggling to continue to pay for her $21,000 a month medications.  We are asking from the bottom of our hearts to please help our family get through this difficult time in my mother’s life.  Your donations are appreciated greatly, no matter the amount.  Thank you and may God Bless You!”
Smith is an (RMA) a registered medical assistant who had worked for Dr. Wolf in his Manteca Medical practice and for Sutter Radiology with a Modesto radiologist.  She was a night float nurse for Drs. Allen, Wolf, Bobson and Scott.
Every three days her family support group can take the needle out of her chest so she can take a shower but she can’t take in any salt or water under doctor’s orders.  Flowing into the intervenious tube to support her are antibiotics, hydration, vitamins and protein supplements that her doctors have prescribed.
Smith suffers from severe headaches, and grand mal and petty mal seizures as a result of the Lyme disease.  She said that a victim of the tick carrying Lyme disease bites can spend years suffering from symptoms before receiving a proper diagnosis.  The symptoms are not straight forward, she added.
At first the medical professionals thought she had meningitis, and possibly fiber mylazia, she said. Sometimes it is seen as a possible stroke and comes with tiredness all day long with body aches.  Lyme disease can also affect the heart. 
There are five different strains of Lyme disease that gets into the muscles and into the bones being hard to detect.  She remembers a time when she was fishing and hunting with her family years ago when her former mother-in-law picked 30 ticks out of her head. 

To contact Glenn Kahl, email gkahl@mantecabulletin.com.

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