NEWS

Battle with Lyme disease changes life for Winnipeg girl

05/14/2015 06:41 EDT | Updated 05/14/2016 05:59 EDT
Brooke LePage used to be a competitive swimmer in Winnipeg, but after contracting Lyme disease last year, the 12-year-old girl can barely muster the energy to get out of bed.

"I'm feeling extremely tired and I usually stay in bed all day," said LePage. "I'll only get up to go to the bathroom."

LePage has been living with regular headaches, fevers, exhaustion and dizziness since December 2014.

At the time, her mom Marnie LePage thought Brooke had come down with the flu. But her daughter kept getting worse.

"We went for all different kinds of tests. The traditional mono, thyroid, and checking all the organs. We've done CT scans and everything shows up perfect."

The tests couldn't find what was ailing LePage, so the family sent the results south of the border for a second opinion. Doctors in the U.S. confirmed she had Lyme disease.

LePage contracted the disease after she was bitten by an infected deer tick.

"At first I was like 'yes,' I know what it is," she said. "Towards the end of the day my stomach started to hurt and I was like, 'OK, this is something serious."

Now LePage is on a cocktail of pills and treatments to help her cope with the debilitating disease.

Telltale sign

While cases of Lyme disease traditionally have been low in Manitoba, the numbers are climbing.

In 2012, there were 29 confirmed cases in the province; in 2013, that number shot up to 37. And last year, 44 people were diagnosed with Lyme disease in Manitoba. Experts have said the rise in infections coincides with the growing population of infected deer ticks.

"My 12-year-old daughter, who was in the pool 20 hours a week, [went] to not living life at all anymore. It's very scary."

The disease often presents itself in so many different ways that medical professionals can have a hard time making a diagnosis. The most common symptom is a bull's-eye rash that can appear in the first 30 days after being bitten.

But not everyone is so lucky. LePage didn't have the telltale sign, and her mother warns people should pay close attention to other symptoms.

"You really have to be your own advocate. You have to go and just research," said Marnie. "There are so many things out there and you kind of have to create your way."

LePage and her mom said people who frequently go camping or into the bush shouldn't ignore the signs and push for tests and treatment if they feel there's a chance they have the disease.

"If you have been even outside or if you're playing in the bush, check yourselves immediately after," said LePage.

LePage and her family hope sharing their story will help others from contracting the disease.

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