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From The Reflector
Serving N. Clark and S. Cowlitz counties, WA
November 8-14, 2006
                                        Battle GrouMiguel Perez Lizanond man fights Lyme disease
By Alice Per
ry Linker, staff reporter


Miguel Perez-Lizano suffers from Lyme
disease after he was bitten by a tick while
visiting a rest stop in California on a visit
there.  His dog Bo was bitten as well and
died later.


    A trip to California with his dog resulted in a years-long fight against a relatively unknown
disease for one Battle Ground man, a fight that he has not yet won.

    Miguel Perez-Lizano has spent more than 10 years searching for relief from Lyme disease,
caused by a tick bite.  Along the way, he has suffered fatigue, a heart condition, arthritis—and
Health Maintenance Organizations, also known as HMOs.

    Perez-Lizano has learned that he is not alone with the disease and has become an advocate
for others who suffer.

    For a long time, he did not know what had caused his multiple symptoms.  It was only after
he searched on the Internet and found an article by Dr. John Bleiweiss that he realized his
symptoms matched those of others who had been diagnosed.

    “I was fortunate enough to be one of those who got the circular-shaped rash,” Perez-Lizano said.

    There are about 12 different strains of West Coast Lyme disease, Perez-Lizano said.

    “I know exactly when I got it,” Perez-Lizano said.  “I took my dog to San Francisco, and we
made many stops along the way, I got it at one of the rest areas; they were the only places
we were near ticks.”

    “When I came back, I felt lousy, but not really ill, and I thought it would pass,” Perez-Lizano
said.  “The rash eventually went away, and I didn’t think any more about that.”

    Perez-Lizano’s dog also became ill and showed the same circular rash as his master. 
Over the years, his dog Bo grew weaker and eventually was put down.

    Perez-Lizano’s symptoms persisted to the point that he began to suffer confusion and
memory loss.  Even after he realized what was causing his symptoms, he could not persuade
his doctors to take him seriously, and the doctors did not want to consider Lyme disease,
he said.  Eventually he went to San Francisco for treatment.

    In San Francisco he was given long-term antibiotic treatment, which helped the condition,
he said.  After three years, he stopped taking the antibiotics, but went back on treatment
after heart surgery last year.

    Perez-Lizano has joined a Lyme disease support group in Portland.  Support groups
are important because those who suffer from Lyme disease are often misdiagnosed
and misunderstood, he said.

    “Lyme disease can be misdiagnosed as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia,
multiple sclerosis, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), even early Alzheimer’s”, he said. 
“Nobody is really sure if you can recover.  Maybe your immune system holds it in remission,
but it can be set off by trauma, such as heart surgery.”

    Perez-Lizano believes there are more Lyme disease sufferers, than people suspect.

    “Doctors are not aware of Lyme disease,” he said.  “They don’t think about it.  I just ran
into two new ones (sufferers) in the last two weeks.”

    Perez-Lizano’s story has been told in a book, “Confronting Lyme Disease” by Karen P.
Yerges and Rita L. Stanley, Ph.D.  The book recounts the histories of 14 victims and is
available at the Battle Ground Community Library although there is a wait list.

    Stanley, who lives in Portland, OR, said that when Lyme disease is caught soon after
the tick bite, victims have a better chance of being cured.  Antibiotics are the accepted
form of treatment, she said.  When the disease progresses for months or years, the
chances of a permanent cure are reduced.

    “If he (Perez-Lizano) had been treated right away, he’d probably be just fine,” she said.

    Several people may have flu-like symptoms after a bite.  Stanley, a former Lyme
disease sufferer, said she had a stiff neck.  She remembers when she was bitten,
and she was sure there was no Lyme disease in Oregon.  She went months without
treatment and became very ill.

    The tests for Lyme disease are not entirely reliable, Stanley said.

    “We have to look at testing as only part of the entire work-up,” she said.  “A lot
of cases are missed.”

    Stanley said she co-authored “Confronting Lyme Disease” because there were no
books aimed at sufferers.

“I was a support group leader, and I saw hundreds and hundreds of people who did
not get over the disease,” she said.  “The patients were being shoved to the wayside.”

    The support group that accepts members from southwest Washington meets on the
second Sunday of every month from 1-3 p.m., Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital,
1040 NW 22nd Ave., Portland.  For more information about the support group, call (503) 590-2528.

    Perez-Lizano has become more active nationally, but continues to support other Clark County
people who have the disease.  He can be reached at mikijean@pacifier.com


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