Bonifay - The medical community used to believe lyme disease did not exist below the Mason-Dixon line. But the high number of young people in Northwest Florida who have recently contracted the disease has proven that theory very wrong.
The illness is caused by lyme bacteria which is carried by deer ticks. Once infected, the bacteria hides in the body, making the complex disease very difficult to diagnose. A Bonifay family impacted by the disease, is taking a big step to help others find the same healing their daughter did.
Today Megan Guthrie is a thriving 25-year-old. Her story was very different 3 years ago. "She went from a vibrant young teenager to a bed-ridden young adult and it was heart wrenching," said Melea Flanary, Megan's aunt. For months Megan went from doctor to doctor trying to figure out where her painful symptoms were coming from. "I had MRI after MRI, cat-scan after cat-scan, they could not figure out what was going on," said Megan.
Because lyme disease mimics other illnesses it's often misdiagnosed as fibromylgia, MS or ALS. "I finally had the right test done and I tested positive for the lyme bacteria. I was on antibiotics for 2.5 years and still I wasn't getting anywhere," said Megan. That's when she went online and found Robert Sand's clinic in San Diego.
The first person to open an outpatient hyperbaric oxygen center in the US, Sands credits the power of oxygen for saving thousands of patients. He is the founder and CEO of Healing Chambers International. "I call oxygen God's gunpowder, we give all those little white blood cells a big boost. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy actually, at the correct pressure, actually produces something that everybody thinks are bad...free radicals. Free radicals are good if you are sick. You need them because your body actually uses them as poisons to kill bugs. Once they've killed the bugs, your body comes along and scavenges them all and gets rid of them."
He won't go so far as to say these treatments will cure lyme disease, but his patients will. "I'm doing so much better, I am completely off my pain medicine, compared to how I used to be I am a totally different person compared to where I was," said Megan. "When she came home we had our Megan back after 45 days and if that doesn't spark a passion in you about something, then I don't know what will," said Flanary.
It's the miracle in Megan's life that prompted the Guthrie family to build a hyperbaric chamber facility in Bonifay. "We saw what a wonderful thing it did for her and we felt actually called to go into this," said Megan's dad David Guthrie.
Tuesday night at ten, we'll introduce you to another local lyme disease patient who is just begining her hyperbaric chamber treatments and update you on Bay High graduate John Branch who is on the road to recovery.