Living with Lyme


Joseph Jackson, Contributing Writer

Eli Antoniello is a senior and an active student at Goffstown High School. He takes part in the school’s Student Council, National Honors Society, and takes on very challenging, advanced placement classes. He is also on our school’s baseball team, enjoys singing in the GHS chorus, and is best known for his “brighten-your-day attitude.” His older sister, Ashley Lynch, contracted Lyme at a young age but was not diagnosed until many years later. More recently, Eli helped his sister travel to the Envita Medical Center in Scottsdale, Arizona to get better treatment.

Growing up in such a close family, Eli thinks fondly of his sister, commenting that “she is by far the strongest person… I have ever met in my life, and she is so independent.” He continually reminds me of his sister’s selflessness toward those around her (having great memories of the times she babysat him) and her drive to be successful on her own (hence her career in the medical field). One of the last comments he left about his sister revolved around this selflessness and her constant battle with an illness that she does not deserve to have, saying “it’s just kind of hard, because no matter how much people love her and no matter how good of a person she is, it just seems like she can never win.” Eli discussed with me his frustration over the fact that, while Ashley continues to be a wonderful sister and helpful member of society, her health has continued to decline. Going to Envita is the best option for Ashley, but it is very costly, adding up to around $101,000 for three months of treatment! One of the most helpful things for Eli (which can be just as important as the funding for his sister’s medical bills), is support from the community. When people first began to send him their condolences, he felt that his family was not quite alone anymore and could receive help in tackling a disease which has proved to be quite daunting. Through spreading awareness about the disease and Ashley’s tough situation, following his sister on Instagram (Instagram name: lymekhaleesi) to receive updates from Ashley herself, and attempting to show care for his family, you can show your support.

Growing up, Ashley dealt with numerous, seemingly random symptoms. These symptoms include those of leg numbness and loss of mobility at age 2 and  12, sporadic ear infections all throughout her childhood, and major back problems in her 20s. One of the worst moments of her illness occurred during a shift of work at the Elliot hospital. Eli discussed a moment during her sickness where she had to leave work early. She later told him that she had forgotten the entirety of events that took place in her prior two weeks working at the hospital and considered herself unfit to serve her patients. The concept that his sister’s issues had interfered with the work that she loved was hard for him to accept.

Eli noted that one of the more shocking aspects during the discovery of his sister’s Lyme was the reactions of Ashley’s doctors. Despite her strong belief that her many issues throughout life were tied together, Ashley’s doctors were still surprised by her failing health and were late in her Lyme diagnosis. What physicians had once assumed to be a collection of many differing issues was eventually questioned to be Lyme disease, revealing itself in a large number of symptoms. The eventual discovery of the illness in her body came only after five back surgeries, two misdiagnoses, and an incredible amount of medical bills. During this time, she became the youngest person in the world to have undergone a specific type of back surgery in the hopes that it would result in increased support and mobility. Around one year after her previous Lyme tests came back negative, she got tested again. This time, Ashley tested positive, leaving Eli at a loss. He stated that “if anyone else would have gone and seen my sister and some of her last couple of days in New Hampshire, they would have said the medical system failed her.” One of the more disappointing aspects for him stems from his understanding that “unofficially, doctor… don’t like diagnosing people with Lyme Disease, because if you diagnose someone with Lyme Disease, then you are now that person’s primary care physician.” This title then gives you the responsibility of treating a disease seen by many doctors as nonexistent. Watching his sister endure so much pain, it was deeply upsetting for him to think that doctors were avoiding making the diagnoses. It was also upsetting to hear the physicians announce that she was most likely born with the illness in the embryo. Her mother must have been a carrier, unaware that she had the Lyme bacteria dormant in her body. In his frustration, Eli points out, “you’d think with all the modern technology we have that maybe they’d be able to do something about” Lyme.

A speck of hope did arise as of recent, however. Making the decision that he wanted to replicate his sister’s selflessness, Eli traveled to the new facility that would help his sister; the Envita Medical Center in Arizona. Eli did this without much question or research, because more than anything, he wanted to have the ability to help his sister. This being said, he traveled multiple hours by plane to another region of the country, through which he had the arduous task of transporting all of Ashley’s medicine. At the journey’s end, he was pleasantly surprised by the facility and staff. The physicians seemed to care and understand the pain his sister was going through. At one point, the doctors reassured Ashley that she was not crazy, that her concerns were legitimate, and that they would try to help as best as they could. Eli seemed to be refreshed by these transactions and complimented the doctors on their wealth of knowledge in the area of Lyme Disease. He seemed to understand why Ashley was willing to travel to such great distances to receive medical care, and seems a little bit more hopeful about his sister’s recovery.