Family shares story of Lyme disease, a tick-borne illness

(Provided Photo/Leann Barta)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The CDC estimates that each year there will be about 30,000 new cases of Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness that comes from the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. It is transmitted to people through bites from infected ticks.

The main disease causing ticks seen in Indiana are Deer Ticks and Lonestar Ticks. Sometimes people will get a bulls-eye rash which is a good indicator of an infected ticks, other times no rash will appear. There are many symptoms involved with the disease.

“If you know you’ve gotten bit, you just have to be vigilant. If you start to have fevers or headaches or joint pain, or muscle aches or whatever within a few weeks after that bite then you need to have that in mind and say ‘oh I need to get that checked out,” said Lyme disease Physician Kimberly Lentz.

No one is immune to Lyme disease.

“You can get bit anywhere so you might live in the suburb and you might think, ‘Oh I’m not going to get bit because I’m not out in the woods.’ It can be in your grass. It can be in your mulch,” Lentz added.

Lentz recommends pets wear tick collars because animals could bring the ticks into the home from the yard. She said it is very important to spray clothing with permethrin as a preventive measure. It is non-toxic to humans but will kill ticks when they get on the clothing.

The Barta family knows all about Lyme disease. Four of the family’s five children have Lyme disease.

“One day I woke up and couldn’t get out of bed or move really. Couldn’t really talk at all and it was that way for several years,” said Paul Barta who is now 24 and still overcoming the disease.

His mother LeAnne said they were an outdoor family and went on hiking and backpacking trips. She often pulled ticks off the children but never thought it could be Lyme disease.

“It is here in Indiana, it is a serious disease but the signs and symptoms may not be what people expect,” said Leann Barta who is also the Co-founder of Indiana Lyme Connect, a non-profit that seeks to educate and raise awareness about the harmful effects.

Since she has had multiple children infected with the disease, she has made it her mission to help others know what to do and how to prevent the same thing from happening.

It is possible Paul was bitten as a young child. Throughout the years he would get strange illnesses but it wasn’t until he graduated high school when the disease really hit hard. The disease had gone to his brain.

There was a long period of time where he had to be isolated in a dark room because due to extreme light and sound sensitivity. The disease destroyed parts of his body and now he is has to take many medications and go to constant therapy appointments to try and heal. He has had to relearn how to walk and speak. He is getting better everyday.

“Even six months ago if you were to sit down and ask me questions like you’re doing right now it would probably take me 15 minutes just to answer one question,” Paul added.

Even though the disease has crippled Paul for a long time, he has learned a lot about life.

“Ultimately what has kept me going and the reason I’m still fighting today is because of my faith. It’s given me kind of a new perspective and greater appreciation on life so really it’s kind of been a blessing,” said Paul of the disease.

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