Professor's book for older children and teens raises awareness about a debilitating disease.
For adjunct professor Melanie Weiss ’85, MSN ’19, Lyme disease is personal. When a young relative with chronic symptoms sought help from several doctors across medical specialties, none could provide answers. The relative later received proper testing, diagnosis and treatment, but, as Weiss learned, the consequences could have resulted in lifelong suffering. “Lyme disease can swiftly wreak havoc on both mind and body if left untreated,” she explained.
Weiss turned her “eye-opening” research into In Limbo Over Lyme Disease, an illustrated book for students about a teenager who contracts Lyme disease and co-infections after being bitten by a tick. This is Weiss’ second work of nonfiction—in 2015, she wrote In a Pickle Over PANDAS (First EditionDesign) in an effort to make information about pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcus (PANDAS) accessible to young people.
Picture books are only one way Weiss is trying to stave off the spread of Lyme disease. “As a registered nurse, I’m in a position to interact with patients who may be suffering from Lyme disease and co-infections and not even know it,” she said. “I can refer them to their doctor or a specialist for further exploration of these possible diagnoses.”
Given the prevalence of Lyme disease in her community—New York state had the second-highest incidence in the nation in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—Weiss maintains that people of all ages must exercise vigilance. “You can get a tick bite in your own backyard,” she said. “Some ticks release a topical anesthetic when they bite, so people don’t realize they have been bitten.”
Even when symptoms do present, Weiss notes, you may have to practice self-advocacy and pursue further lines of treatment. “Lyme disease is known as the ‘great imitator’ since it mimics many other illnesses,” she said. Because traditional blood tests yield false negative results up to 50 percent of the time, specialty testing through a Lyme-literate medical doctor may be necessary.
Fortunately, a successful recovery is attainable with early diagnosis and treatment, and Weiss hopes her book will compel families to take serious preventive steps. “It’s important for Lyme disease and co-infections to receive more exposure since they are so prevalent and can be so detrimental to one’s health,” she said.
Weiss, Melanie S. In Limbo Over Lyme Disease. First Edition Design Publishing, 2019.