Tierrasanta resident Margaux Gunning was just 23 when she found herself bedridden.
“I went from working 12 hours a day to being completely bedridden,” she said.
It took 15 doctors, more than eight misdiagnoses and two years before Gunning was diagnosed with long-distance Lyme disease, an infectious disease transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks.
However, she considers herself rather lucky. According to the Bay Area Lyme Foundation, the current gold standard diagnosis of Lyme disease misses 60% of early-stage cases.
Now 29, Gunning says she aims to help others by raising awareness about Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses.
This Saturday, Gunning will join the Bay Area Lyme Foundation and the San Diego Lyme Alliance in reviving their annual Walk for Lyme San Diego, a 5k walk/rally to raise awareness about Lyme and tick-borne diseases, where all donations will go to Lyme Disease Research.
The walk is also a celebration for the Kearny Mesa Lyme Disease Biobank, which opened just at the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
The biobank provides researchers with the vital blood, urine and tissue samples from people with Lyme in different regions needed to improve diagnostics and treatments in the hope that one day Lyme disease will be easily diagnosed and simple to cure, according to the foundation.
The Kearny Mesa Biobank is one of seven collection sites in the United States — and one of only two collecting samples from people with long-term Lyme — that provide examples of the differences in Lyme disease. between regions, said Linda Giampa, executive director of the foundation. .
Lyme disease — named after Lyme, Connecticut, where it was first documented in 1975 — is most common on the East Coast. But it continued to spread over the years and can now be found in all 50 states plus Washington, D.C.
California reported an event as early as 1978. Infected ticks have been found in 42 of California’s 58 counties, including San Diego County. Giampa says new research shows ticks can even be found on beaches along the coastline.
Giampa says San Diego has an interesting location in Lyme due to its heavy military and tourist presence. Frequent travelers can bring infected insects from around the world to the region.
“It provides a really interesting ecosystem in the San Diego area, which is why we’re so interested in collecting these samples,” she added.
Among the biobank participants is Gunning, who is registered to donate tissue, joints and organs to researchers if she undergoes future surgery.
“I’m proof that more research is needed,” Gunning said.
In its early stages, Lyme is an uncomfortable but highly treatable disease. But when left undiagnosed, it can become a seriously debilitating condition that is difficult to identify or treat.
That’s true for Gunning, who says it’s had a huge impact on his life.
“Because I’ve gone so long undiagnosed, a lot of my symptoms are neurological and chronic,” she said. “Now 90% of my energy is used to heal and stay a bit basic.”
Although Gunning is an aspiring chef, she is currently unable to hold a job due to brain fog, fatigue, and an inability to regulate her body temperature.
The California native says it was myths, such as Lyme being just an East Coast disease, that led her to fight to raise awareness to prevent others from getting it.
Giampa suggests wearing insect repellent outside, then first tossing clothes or towels in a hot dryer for 20 minutes before washing them, and taking a hot shower to wash off ticks before they set in. become established.
Ticks look like tiny bumps or tags on your skin, and you should look for them from the top of your head to between your toes, as well as on pets. They like to hide in the armpits, groin, waist, neck, hair, ears and back of the knees, and should be removed immediately using fine tweezers.
Walk to Lyme San Diego
When: 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. Saturday April 9
Or: De Anza Cove Park, 3000 Mission Bay Drive, Mission Bay Park
Tickets: Free; donations are welcome
In line: bayarealyme.org/events/