Tragedy and hard times come to us all, but few families have been hit as hard as the Nitkey family. In what can only be described as incredible odds and seems almost impossible to believe, Lyme disease has assaulted every member of this wonderful, faith-filled family.
A top oncologist from Duke University calls Lyme Disease the ‘Invisible Assassin’ that is just as deadly as cancer. But it’s the silent assassin, as it attacks from within. He also states that ‘Lyme disease is the most underdiagnosed epidemic in the entire world over the last eight years.’
Lyme disease is deceiving. The Nitkeys have been courageously battling the debilitating symptoms of Lyme for years. Even though they can all make themselves appear healthy on the outside, very few see their ‘at home’ hours filled with excruciating pain, sleepless nights and internal physical anguish. The disease often attacks multiple body systems, vital organs and has been known to completely shut down a person’s immune system. Sometimes, it can be fatal.
The Sisters and Granddaughter
At only 22 years of age, she is almost completely bedridden. During her youth, Sarah excelled in sports, but was forced to stop playing Volleyball and Soccer as early symptoms of Lyme made it too difficult and painful for her to compete. A 2016 graduate of St. Charles North High School, she missed half her high school days, the majority of social activities and had to drop out of everything she had once cherished in school including Choir, Jazz Band, Cross Country and Peer Leadership. She was tutored from bed her entire Senior year. Today, Sarah should be a Senior in College, but has been unable to take any college courses due to the severity of her illness.
Sarah suffers daily with excruciating all-over nerve, bone and muscle pain, Gastroparesis, severe neurological issues, Endocrine dysfunction, among other debilitating ailments. Lyme disease is literally consuming her from within, attacking her organs and creating a pain that can only be described as torture.
Sarah’s body now rejects most nutrients necessary for her body to survive. This has forced her to get the nutrients intravenously. Sarah is in desperate need of a surgically implanted port so that she can receive the nutrients without an I.V. Currently, she’s functioning at only 10%-15% of what a normal 22-year-old woman should be functioning.
Lyme disease has attacked Hannah, 26, with severe nerve pain, often incapacitating fatigue, extreme gastrointestinal and respiratory illnesses, and a weakened immune system that leaves her in bed for hours daily. In spite of agonizing and paralyzing pain, she endures and continues to battle on to get to her two part-time jobs, take care of her daughter, Eissabella, and complete her college course work.
Eissabella (aka Bella)
A spunky seven year old, she is Hannah’s only child. While it is unknown how Bella contracted Lyme, there are many experts in the field who believe that Lyme can be passed down in utero. Bella began to show her first symptoms of Lyme at 3 years of age. She now fights alongside her mother and her aunt. Lyme has affected the part of her brain that controls executive functioning causing impaired cognitive development.
Parents, John and Kelly, have been amazing and courageous throughout the entire ordeal. Endless hours of research, medical consultations, travel to doctors all over the country, night time vigils, and emotional and physical support for the girls has been absolutely exhausting, but they persevere. As parents they never imagined being in the place where they have to reach out to others for help to get their daughters the life-saving treatment they so desperately need to once again live a normal life as a family.