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SLAMming Lyme disease

Sturbridge advocacy group standing up against illness

SLAM teamed up with Senator Brewer to convince Deval Patrick to name May as Lyme Disease Awareness Month. From left to right, SLAM members Elise Provost, Trish McCleary, and Mary Lee. (click for larger version)
March 01, 2011
STURBRIDGE — It took the temporary paralysis of Trish McCleary and several months of sickness for doctors to eventually determine that she was suffering from chronic Lyme disease.

Through the efforts of legislators like Sen. Stephen Brewer, D-Barre, she hopes fewer people will grapple with the adversity she faced.

McCleary was paralyzed for nearly 36 hours in 2006, following several years of pain and misdiagnoses. Many doctors believed she was afflicted with fibromyalgia, and it wasn't until four and a half months after her paralysis that chronic Lyme disease was recognized as the culprit. She was then treated by a Lyme disease specialist in Connecticut, and three difficult years later the disease was in remission.

While she struggled to recover from the effects of this insidious disease, McCleary often thought about forming a group to advocate for people with Lyme disease and to seek the support of legislators in approving stronger testing solutions for the disease. With the help of her husband and a few friends, she formed Sturbridge Lyme Awareness of Massachusetts (SLAM), the only Lyme disease support group in the region. Members of the group often meet at the Joshua Hyde Public Library and participate in informational sessions at various venues throughout the state.

"I was horribly sick for years, and I never would have had to go through that sickness had the Lyme disease been caught earlier," McCleary said.

For more on this story, please see tomorrow's Southbridge Evening News.

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