Why does this nurse have to go to U.S. for Lyme disease treat­ment?

Cana­dian guide­lines pre­vent doc­tors from giv­ing treat­ment avail­able south of the bor­der

Metro Canada (Ottawa) - - Front Page - JOE LOFARO joe.lofaro@metronews.ca

Like most Lyme disease pa­tients in Canada, Dawn Lavarn­way doesn’t re­mem­ber when she was bit­ten by the tick that gave her the crip­pling ill­ness — but she knows when she found out Canada’s health sys­tem wouldn’t treat her for it.

The Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal of Eastern On­tario nurse tried to book an ap­point­ment with an in­fec­tious disease spe­cial­ist to get a pre­scrip­tion for chronic Lyme disease be­cause her symptoms have per­sisted ever since her June 8, 2009, di­ag­no­sis. They in­clude fa­tigue, chest pain, dif­fi­culty walk­ing and mood swings.

In Septem­ber, she re­ceived a let­ter from the Ot­tawa Hos­pi­tal say­ing rou­tine an­tibi­otics for tick bites are not an op­tion. The hos­pi­tal said it fol­lows the 2006 In­fec­tious Dis­eases So­ci­ety of Amer­ica guide­lines, which lim­its treat­ment to a max­i­mum of 28 days. Now, the 36-year-old is head­ing to the U.S. in Jan­uary to see a doc­tor to get the longterm treat­ment she is be­ing de­nied in Ot­tawa.

She sus­pects she con­tracted the ill­ness on a hik­ing trip in Gatineau Park or dur­ing a visit to a pet­ting zoo in Dry­den, Ont., a cou­ple years be­fore her di­ag­no­sis.

“I feel like I’ve spent (13) years look­ing af­ter other peo­ple work­ing for a health­care sys­tem and when I need it, no­body will help me,” she told Metro on Wednes­day. “It’s been a lot on me, my par­ents, my friends. I have no life. I don’t do any­thing now be­cause I have no en­ergy. The symptoms are bru­tal.”

The U.S. doc­tor she is see­ing, Dr. Maureen McShane, told David Suzuki’s The Na­ture of Things pro­gram in Septem­ber that at least 635 of her 700 pa­tients who visit her Platts­burgh, N.Y., of­fice come from Canada.

Lavarn­way had her blood work sent to the U.S. last sum­mer and a test came back pos­i­tive for Lyme disease, she said. The Ot­tawa Hos­pi­tal wrote to her say­ing it “strongly dis­cour­ages” this “com­mon prac­tice by Cana­di­ans” be­cause pri­vate Amer­i­can clin­ics do not fol­low On­tario test­ing stan­dards.

“We will not con­sider pos­i­tive re­sults from these lab­o­ra­to­ries as be­ing in­dica­tive of Lyme disease,” the let­ter reads.

She’s go­ing any­way, and her friend Mo­riah Lepage set up an on­line go­fundme.com fundraiser to help with travel and med­i­cal costs.

“They’re just try­ing to do what­ever they can be­cause they can’t give me an­tibi­otics and they can’t make it go away,” said Lavarn­way. “And they can’t change the doc­tors’ minds.”

For more on the bat­tle to bring the treat­ment to Canada, see page 6.


CHEO nurse Dawn Lavarn­way says she has to go to the U.S. for chronic Lyme disease treat­ment.

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