Three years ago, Eagle Lake resident Todd Condon began to experience a series of unusual and debilitating health problems. At the time, he had a fulltime job at International Paper that he had held for the past 25 years. But he had begun to notice a lack of coordination, chronic fatigue, joint pain and what he calls a “mental fog.” “I couldn’t concentrate on what I was doing.” he said. “Even making a cup of coffee was a chore. I just couldn’t think of the steps to complete a simple task.”
“I couldn’t concentrate on what I was doing.” he said. “Even making a cup of coffee was a chore. I just couldn’t think of the steps to complete a simple task.”
Basic tests negative
Right away, several people around him said it sounded like he could have Lyme disease, a growing concern in the region, that is transmitted by the bite of a tick. Taking this advice, Todd visited his physician for a physical and basic blood work. The doctor did not feel convinced that Lyme was the culprit. Todd was assured that the symptoms he was experiencing were not associated with Lyme, and the doctor put forth several other possible conditions, including fibromyalgia, and frozen joint syndrome. Since basic blood tests revealed no telling results, it was hard to know what the next steps would be in determining his ailment.
Unconvinced that he did not have Lyme disease, Todd demanded more advanced blood testing should be done to reveal the cause of his continued physical decline. As many people with Lyme disease will tell you, basic blood tests often reveal nothing. His appeal was declined. To this day, it is still unclear why the doctor would not proceed with advanced testing.
For the next year, Todd’s symptoms progressed, making it almost impossible to carry out his work responsibilities. He was finally directed to a specialist out of town, who did agree to do the advanced blood testing. What the results showed was astounding. Not only did Todd have Lyme disease, he also had the West Nile Virus and Bartonella, a co-infection, all of which were most probably transmitted by the bite of a tick. The next steps were to get Todd on a series of antibiotic pills taken twice daily for 6 months.
At the end of 6 months, feeling no improvement, Todd was referred by a family member to another specialist in Vermont who had a history of dealing with these tough cases. This doctor had a more holistic approach, prescribing various herbs and supplements, along with a more aggressive treatment of intravenous antibiotics to be administered daily for 30 days at Ticonderoga Hospital. “Everyone at the hospital was very caring and supportive. I drove there every day for my treatments, and was very hopeful that this would be the thing that would work to cure me.”
Unfortunately, because so much time had elapsed between the start of Todd’s symptoms and his actual treatment, the antibiotics had no effect. At this point, he began to lose hope of finding relief from his ever growing list of disabling symptoms. The worst part of all this, was that during this time period Todd had to permanently leave his long-time job. “It was hard for me to leave a job I had done faithfully for the past 25 years, but I just couldn’t continue in the state I was in. My wife who was my biggest supporter now became my full-time caregiver.”
Fast forward to 2019. Todd, now 54, struggles daily just to make it through his day. “I mostly just stay at home and create art on my Ipad, the one thing that I can still do that brings me enjoyment. I can no longer paint in the traditional way. I rarely go out other than to go get groceries, go to doctor appointments, or to attend a Chronic Pain & Illness Support Group that I started at the Ticonderoga Hospital. We meet the second Sunday of every month at 7PM. All are welcome to attend. It’s a place where people can share their stories and feel they have a caring and supportive environment.”
Todd continues to hold out hope that someday a treatment or cure will be found for his condition. At this point, he is now classified as having late stage neurological Lyme disease along with lingering West Nile and Bartonella, which continue to appear in his blood work. Just some of Todd’s current ailments include: muscle and joint pain, joint inflammation, speech problems, chronic fatigue, memory problems, poor concentration, irritability, mental fog, stomach problems (from the antibiotics), lack of apetite, loss of coordination and mobility.
“If I could express just one thing to the general public, is that when a person’s illness isn’t easily visible, it can be difficult for outsiders to grasp the challenges they face. If you look ‘normal’ they may say: ‘you can’t really be that sick.’ Nothing could be further from the truth.”