SPECIAL REPORT: Searching for a Cure
HORSEHEADS, N.Y. (WENY) -- For Wellsboro resident, Luke Dunham, his life changed completely with one little tick bite.
"I found in my waistband area and I removed the tick and didn't recognize any symptoms right off the bat, so I didn't do anything at that point," said PA Lyme Resource Network Regional Leader, Luke Dunham.
Soon after, Dunham felt things weren't right. In 2014, he was diagnosed with Lyme Disease. From there, he says life has been like a roller coaster where you don't know where the hills and turns are.
"After the diagnosis, it was antibiotic treatment," said Dunham. "Along with supplements, vitamins and things like that, and trying to change lifestyle, habits, eating habits. Doing everything that you can to try to be as healthy as you can so your body can cope with the illness."
People with Lyme disease are often looking for that magical treatment, or medicine, which will help restore their life to the way it used to be. Some spend thousands of dollars on treatments and antibiotics here in the U.S., just to continue dealing with the same symptoms day in and day out for the rest of their lives. Now, a controversial treatment at the Klinik St. Georg in Germany called "Hyperthermia" is said to get rid of those Lyme Disease symptoms once and for all. The science behind it is heating up the body to 106.8°F in order to make antibiotics more effective.
"As soon as you heat the tissue up, then the efflux pumps are turned off and then the antibiotics can penetrate also into the cells," said Klinik St. Georg Medical Director, Dr. Frederick Douwes.
While at the Klinik, patients undergo heating two times for six hours each while sedated. The entire treatment protocol lasts two weeks, and includes other detoxing therapies.
"70% of our patients, they get an improvement, so it comes close to a cure," said Dr. Douwes. "That means they can go back to normal life, they can go to work, they can participate in normal life, they can think normally, they can go back to school, whatever you name it and they can do it."
Overall the treatment costs around twenty thousand U.S. dollars. For Katie Breck and Jennifer Guenther, they battled with Lyme disease for years before taking a chance and flying to Germany for the treatment.
"Living with Lyme was horrible," said former Klinik St. Georg Patient, Katie Breck. "I kept going through different treatment protocols. I kept getting more and more symptoms. I started with a handful of symptoms. By the time I went to St. Georg I had 47 symptoms."
"It's depressing and you feel like crap everyday," said former Klinik St. Georg patient, Jennifer Guenther. "Everyday I would feel like I had the worst hangover of my life. I just never better. I never recovered."
The two women met in 2017, while in Germany undergoing the Hyperthermia treatment. Both of them are now back in the United States and they say they're cured of Lyme disease.
"I don't have any of the 47 symptoms of Lyme disease that I did have prior to going to Germany," said Breck. "The treatment was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. The recovery was even harder than the treatment. It's certainly not a cake walk. It is not for the faint of heart. But if you're sick enough, and if you're desperate enough, it is absolutely worth it."
But don't think the battle will stop there. According to Breck, when you get back home, you need to continue stay on top of your health.
"I have a lot of work ahead of me," said Breck. "I have to exercise, I have to eat clean. I take a lot of supplements. I do a lot of things to detox my body still and to really stay on top of my health because I was sick for 6 years, so I need to plan on treating my body with the utmost care for at least 6 years of recovery."
As for why Hyperthermia hasn't made its way to the U.S., Dunham believes it's due to little research done on Lyme disease.
"Sometimes a research can take quite a while to actually get into clinical trials and before it's approved by the FDA , that can take years," said Dunham.
While the PA Lyme Resource Network doesn't endorse any specific form of treatment, Dunham understands wanting to do whatever it takes to feel normal again.
"I can tell you personally that there were definitely times in my journey that if I had the financial means to fly to Germany and pay x amount of dollars to feel better then I would have," said Dunham.
To learn more about the PA Lyme Resource Network, you can visit their website at: https://palyme.org/.