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Content warning: This article discusses the topic of suicide which may be sensitive for some readers.
Amélie Champagne, 22, recently died by suicide after a years-long struggle with Lyme disease.
The daughter of Alain Champagne, the president of Jean Coutu Group, shared the news on his LinkedIn page.
"It is with the heaviest of hearts (and still in shock) that I share the tragic news that our sweetheart Amélie took her own life this past Sunday," he began in the post. "Every day is extremely difficult."
Champagne went on to explain how "challenging" Lyme disease made Amélie’s life after years of waiting for a diagnosis.
"We were witnesses as to how challenging life had become for her in dealing with the evolving Lyme disease symptoms (after years of medical errance and finally getting a positive test in the U.S. this past June, over time and despite the recent treatments, the disease had evolved way beyond the numerous physical symptoms and was now severely impacting her brain)," he continued.
Champagne ended the post by championing his daughter's courage.
"Over time, Lyme essentially highjacked her…She was so courageous throughout this ordeal…she decided to free herself from the unbearable pain...You made us all better people," he concluded.
Overall, Lyme disease is difficult to diagnose because it has a wide range of symptoms. In serious cases, the condition can impact the joints, nervous system and heart.
According to Dr. Amir Khadir, who treats patients with Lyme disease, it is imperative that health professionals avoid trivializing the impacts of Lyme disease.
"They are left with symptoms of extreme fatigue, pain all over the body, difficulty concentrating. Has there been exposure to a tick? Did we see a tick? Was there the erythema migraines – the kind of redness?" Khadir explains. "What sometimes hurts these patients very badly and plunges them into a disarray that increases their problem is the lack of recognition, it is to suffer contempt."
Read on to learn more about Lyme disease.
What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is an infection caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, spread through bites from an infected tick.
According to the Government of Canada, ticks can attach themselves to any part of the body but are often found in the groin, armpits and scalp. They are typically attached to the body for 36 to 48 hours before Lyme disease bacterium can be transmitted.
Symptoms of Lyme disease
Lyme disease symptoms can often be mistaken for the flu. Within the first three to 30 days after a tick bite, a person can experience fever, chills, headache, swollen lymph nodes, muscle aches and fatigue.
A rash (Erythema migrans) at the site of the tick bite can occur in about 70 to 80 per cent of infections, on average a week after infection. The rash can grow up to 12 inches in size and may feel warm or hot to the touch.
Days to months after infection, symptoms can progress to include a severe headache, neck stiffness, additional rashes may develop on other areas of the body.
Facial palsy, arthritis, nerve pain, dizziness, heart palpitations, shooting pains or tingling in the hands or feet as well as problem with short-term memory.
What to do if you’ve been bitten by a tick
If you’ve been bitten by a tick, the Government of Canada suggests removing the tick with fine-tipped tweezers, and seal the tick in a container and keep in the freezer. If you develop symptoms within a few days, bring the tick with you to your doctor.
Wash your hands and the bite site with warm water, soap or rubbing alcohol.
Contact your doctor if you are unable to remove the tick as soon as possible, if a rash appears and gets bigger or the bite site gets infected.
Preventing tick bites
While there is no human vaccine against Lyme disease, the best form of protection from Lyme disease is to prevent tick bites.
Before going outdoors, be sure to spray yourself and clothing with a bug repellent that contains DEET. You can also find Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved insect repellent to suit your needs. If you’re an avid camper or hiker, you can treat your clothing and gear with products that contain 0.5% permethrin that will last for several washings to ensure your protection.
Be sure to examine yourself thoroughly for ticks around your hairline, ears, armpits, groin, belly button and the back of your legs for ticks once you return indoors. The CDC suggests showering to help wash off potentially unattached ticks that you may not have seen. Examine your clothes and if possible, put them in the dryer for at least ten minutes to kill any ticks that may have made their way indoors.
Ticks often migrate through animals, meaning your pet could be a carrier or ticks into your home. Aside from asking your vet about a suitable tick prevention product, be sure to check your pet around the ears, eyelids, tail, collar and under their legs for ticks.
Reduce ticks in your backyard
While many people used to believe you had to travel into a wooded area to come across ticks, many ticks are living right in their own backyard.
You can help reduce the possibility of ticks by ensuring that your lawn and property is not a suitable environment for the bug. Make sure your lawn is frequently mowed, trees and bushes trimmed to allow for sunlight (which ticks don’t like) and remove any weeds or brush from your yard. Remove any excess furniture and keep swing-sets and garbage away from wooded areas.
Additionally, you can create a barrier around your property of wooden chips or gravel to restrict tick movement and migration into the rest of your lawn.