Fifth Grader Bites into Lyme Disease
Graland fifth grader Olivia Goodreau is on a mission this month to educate her classmates about a disease that many know nothing about. For Lyme Disease Awareness Month in May, Olivia is sharing her story about a life-changing experience.
“When I was in second grade, I started losing my vision and I couldn’t think straight,” Olivia remembers. “My teacher Ms. Cheadle suggested that my parents take me to the doctor and I spent a week in the hospital getting tested.”
Mom Holiday Goodreau adds that it took 40 doctors and 18 months to get a correct diagnosis after Olivia was misdiagnosed four times with everything from Wilson's disease to Epstein-Barr virus.
The ordeal started when the Goodreaus visited Missouri the previous summer, where Olivia was bitten by a tick and contracted Lyme disease. Lyme disease is a bacterial infection spread by ticks. It is common throughout the United States and in as many as 60 other countries, according to lymedisease.org. This month, Olivia arrived to her advisory group with a bag of limes and a stack of stickers. Her goal was to talk about Lyme disease symptoms and how her friends can avoid the illness. She wanted her peers to bite into a lime and experience the tart, acidic flavor as part of the Take a Bite out of Lyme Disease challenge.
Her classmates “made some pretty funny sour faces,” Olivia says. “And they earned stickers to promote Lyme Disease Awareness Month and the chance to challenge others to take a bite.”
The campaign is not only personal to Olivia, it is a national effort to bring attention to Lyme disease. Some day she would like to start a foundation and hold fundraising events for a cure.
Olivia is treated by disease expert Daniel A. Kinderlehrer, M.D. and manages her symptoms with multiple medications including antibiotics and antimalaria pills. She wants others to know the disease is not contagious and that it is preventable and treatable.
In fact, Olivia teamed up with classmate Sophia Aalami to create a Tick Kit for the Gates Invention and Innovation Program 2016. They won third place in the competition for their idea -- an affordable, portable packet that contains instructions for someone who is bitten by a tick along with materials to remove the bug and get it tested for Lyme disease. Early treatment is the key to better outcomes.
Did you know? Several celebrities have contracted Lyme disease; Alec Baldwin, George W. Bush, Avril Lavigne and author Amy Tan are just a few names on the list.