Main Street ‘yarn bombed’
Decorations raise awareness of Lyme disease
It took Mimi Eastman seven years and 15 doctors before she was finally diagnosed correctly as having Lyme disease.
“What happens to me, happens to a lot of people,” the 51-year-old Wilmington woman said, noting there’s no reliable test for the disease and many doctors miss the symptoms.
In an effort to raise awareness of Lyme disease, Eastman and 25 other volunteers spent Saturday morning “yarn bombing” more than 100 parking meters along Main Street with green yarn in honor of Lyme Disease Awareness month. The volunteers also decorated the clock tower in front of the Newark Opera House building and the columns at the Deer Park Tavern.
Each meter is also adorned with a laminated paper containing a fact about Lyme disease.
“The mission is to raise awareness and bring hope to Lyme Disease patients,” she said. “In a way, it’s recognizing them. They’re a huge population that’s forgotten.”
The message has an added urgency this year, as experts warn 2017 could be a bad year for Lyme due to an increase in ticks, which carry the disease and pass it on to humans.
Symptoms of Lyme – including fever, chills, sweats, muscle aches, fatigue, nausea and joint pain – are often mistaken for other ailments. If someone feels flu-like symptoms during the summer, “9 times out of 10, it’s Lyme disease,” Eastman said.
She contracted the disease 19 years ago and still suffers from chronic nerve pain and back pain. In addition, her feet always feel “frozen,” she said Saturday, pointing to the fur-lined boots she was wearing even as temperatures neared 90 degrees.
She started the annual yarn bombing project last year with blessing of the city of Newark and this year expanded the effort through a new nonprofit called Lyme Yarnbombs, Inc. She and other volunteers yarn bombed Doylestown, Pa., and Eastman is hoping to go to other towns as well.
The decorations were contributed by Lyme patients and knitting groups from around the country and as far away as England. People can also sponsor a parking meter, with the money going to the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Education Foundation and Lyme Yarnbombs, Inc.
Among those helping decorate parking meters Saturday was Alina Pfeifler, who has had Lyme for five years. At its peak, the disease left her unable to walk or care for herself, she said.
“It’s important to know about early onset treatment,” Pfeifler said. “When it gets misdiagnosed, that’s when it becomes chronic. Early intervention is key.” Her mom, Colleen Wade, concurred. “I hope people think more about ticks and when you’re outside cover up and check for ticks,” Wade said, as she affixed yarn to a parking meter. “Lyme disease is something that lasts forever. You start a new normal, and your life changes. Not enough people understand that.”
Volunteer Shari Miller got involved because she knows Eastman and the struggles she has faced.
“It’s a blessing to be able to do anything to bring awareness,” Miller said. “I don’t want anyone to get that disease.”
Volunteer Shari Miller helps yarn bomb parking meters on Main Street to raise awareness of Lyme disease.