Mayor declares 'Lyme Disease Awareness Month'

Thanks to the unrelenting efforts of a local mother, Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead declared May as Lyme Awareness Month in the city.
Apr 18, 2013
 Photo: Submitted to The Democrat

Parents need to check their children for ticks after they return indoors or anytime if there are outdoor pets in the home.
 Photo: Mary E. Hinds • The Lebanon Democrat

Mallory Qualls, 13, has lost a lot to Lyme Disease, but as one can tell by her shirt, she has not lost her fighting spirit. Mallory and her mother, Debbie Qualls, visited Lebanon City Hall Thursday to join Mayor Philip Craighead in declaring May "Lyme Disease Awareness Month" in the city.

Thanks to the unrelenting efforts of a local mother, Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead declared May as Lyme Awareness Month in the city.

Debbie Qualls and her 13-year-old daughter, Mallory, joined the mayor at City Hall on Thursday morning to accept the official proclamation.

"I'm excited; it's a start," Debbie Qualls said. "I would love to see it county-wide and statewide. We know hundreds of people in Tennessee with Lyme Disease."

Debbie Qualls has fought the good fight since Mallory was 4, when a tick bite turned her young life upside down. Qualls describes how Mallory began to show varied and mysterious symptoms.

"I remember the tick bite and the bulls eye rash," Debbie said.

The problem was that so few people in the state, including doctors, were familiar with the signs and symptoms of Lyme Disease, leading to lost years when prompt treatment could have saved Mallory a lot of pain and anguish.

Mallory had several emergency room visits for everything from severe hip joint pain, to terrible headaches and vision problems.

"We were always being told it was things she would outgrow," Debbie said. "In 2009, after a stressful event, her body went haywire."

There in began more than six months of visits to doctors and specialists, with new symptoms being discovered and new drugs being prescribed almost daily.

"Mallory's eardrums were bleeding; she was having locked bowels, carpel tunnel, ear tube surgery and test after test, just to be told, 'we can’t find anything, maybe she should see a psychiatrist,'" Debbie said. "In December 2009, we took her to see an iridologist, who told me, 'your child is sick as a dog,' started her on herbs and told me to feed her only green vegetables and baked chicken."

Finally in spring 2010, the family saw a doctor who ran tests, which came back positive for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Mallory was then diagnosed with Lyme disease.

"Our journey began, as we have fought long and hard, researching, educating ourselves, reaching out to others for support," Debbie said. "She is being treated for Lyme, RMSF, Barts Disease and Babs Disease.

After receiving such a diagnosis, it was hard for the family to stay upbeat and optimistic.

"Feeling discouraged, we continued to fight daily, taking supplements and going the homeopathic route that we began in March of 2012," Debbie said. "We have met so many wonderful, supportive people in the Lyme community and could not imagine this journey without them, because we have come to realize, that unless you have in some way been stricken with this horrible disease, you really do not know the daily struggle of life in a Lyme infected body."

Thursday morning, Mallory was a trooper. She was obviously not feeling well as she awaited the proclamation ceremony, telling her mother, "I want to go home." She managed to make it through the ceremony wearing a t-shirt that proudly proclaimed "That tick bit the wrong chick."

Despite her bravery and bravado, Mallory's Lyme Disease is so prevalent she hasn't been able to attend school.

"I have a tutor," Mallory said. "But it's hard, because I can't remember anything."

Craighead read the proclamation which stated the need to address Lyme Disease early "instead of someone having to go through what Mallory has gone through for the past eight years." The proclamation also states that Lyme Disease is the fastest growing immune system disease in the nation and causes "dire consequences for sufferers" and "long term disabilities." The mayor also recognized the prevalence of misdiagnosis with Lyme Disease.

"I wish you all the best in the world," Craighead told Mallory. "You're going to beat this."

Debbie said her family is also thankful to the Lyme Light Foundation, for helping Mallory with funds to continue treatment.

"It could not have come at a better time. I cried when I heard that Mallory would be receiving grant money to help with continued medical treatment," Debbie said. "I cried more when Mallory found out and said, 'but mom, there are so many other sick kids with Lyme.'”

She added that the family's goal is for Mallory to be in remission this year, and they plan to remain active in the Lyme community, educating and supporting others.

"Although this journey has been long and hard, affecting us financially, spiritually, emotionally and Mallory physically, it has taught us much and made us strong," Debbie said. "We ask that those of you, who have prayed for Mallory during this journey, to consider donating to the LymeLight Foundation, so that some of the other kids Mallory mentioned might have the same opportunity as she has been blessed with – help for her journey to remission."

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