Lyme disease awareness forum

Signs and Symptoms

Christine Wood / Staff Writer
June 12, 2014 03:18 PM

Nancy Heard is helping her husband Gord Birtch battle chronic Lyme disease and is organizing a public forum to educate others so they don’t suffer the same fate.

Nancy Heard wants everyone on the Coast to know about the signs and symptoms of Lyme disease and how to avoid becoming chronically ill. That’s why she’s hosting a free Lyme disease awareness forum on Sunday, June 22, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Sechelt Legion on Wharf Street.

“We truly need a massive education and awareness about Lyme disease across Canada,” Heard said.

Heard’s husband Gord Birtch was bitten by a tick carrying Lyme disease in Secret Cove in November 2011. At the time he developed the “bull’s eye rash” a small percentage of those bitten display, and he went to the doctor.

He had the standard Canadian Lyme disease test done, which came back negative, so he wasn’t given the standard course of antibiotics to rid the body of Lyme.

After suffering worsening symptoms of fatigue, back pain, a weakened immunity, memory loss, headaches, sleep disturbances and neurological problems, Birtch sought medical help, only to have dozens of tests done that found nothing.

In late 2013 Heard and Birtch learned about a Lyme disease test in the U.S. that checked for more strains of Lyme than the Canadian test detects. That test, through IGeneX Inc., came back positive.

Now Heard is searching for some type of treatment for Birtch here in Canada, but the medical profession is split on Lyme disease and how to treat it, with some unwilling to even acknowledge the existence of chronic Lyme disease.

“ILADS, the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society, has its own set of guidelines, doctors, scientists and researchers who are all over the chronic Lyme thing, and they are up against the Infectious Diseases Society. They’re at odds with each other,” Heard said.

The more Heard read about the issue the more angry she became, especially when she scanned a report written by Brian Schmidt in 2010 that contained eight recommendations to address the “inadequate” state of “diagnostic methods for chronic Lyme.”

That report, written for the Provincial Health Services Authority, was only released years later through a freedom of information request by Gwen Barlee, the policy director for the Wilderness Committee in Vancouver.

None of Schmidt’s recommendations were ever acted on.

Barlee will be at the upcoming Lyme disease awareness forum, along with David Cubberley, a former provincial health critic who’s concerned about the under-diagnosis and poor treatment of Lyme disease in Canada.

Heard saw Barlee speak at a Lyme awareness event in Surrey recently, which spurred her to organize a forum locally.

Barlee and Cubberley are volunteering their time to come to the Coast, and Pharmasave and Claytons have stepped up to sponsor the event, paying for things like posters and the rental of the Legion.

“It’s my hope that many people come out so we can find some support for the silent sufferers, and there are lots on the Coast, and so we can make the general public aware that ticks out here do carry Lyme disease,” Heard said.

Those who come to the forum will learn more about Lyme disease in B.C., ways to prevent it and proper tick removal. There will also be time for a public question and answer period with Barlee and Cubberley at the end of the event.

Learn more about Lyme disease at www.canlyme.com 


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