High hopes for senate inquiry into lyme disease
FIGHTING a disease that technically doesn't exist in the country you live is only half of the battle for these four Lyme disease patients.
Diagnosed through overseas testing, Coffs locals Lyndy Rees, Jamie David, Steve Young and Sara Walker - along with thousands of other Australian sufferers - hope the senate inquiry into Lyme-like illness will enable the tick-borne disease to be recognised here as it is abroad.
As submissions for the Senate inquiry into Lyme-like disease close on Thursday, Lyme patient and long-time advocate Steve Young says the inquiry is a strong start towards medical recognition in Australia.
"The Senate inquiry is good, its highlighting what's going on and hopefully we can draw some positive stuff out of this because there is a couple of very substantial GPs who have so much evidence-based proof not only from test results but the diagnosis," Mr Young said.
For Lyme patient Lyndy Rees, it's about Australia coming into line with the rest of the world in the medical field.
"And recognise overseas testing that is internationally accredited rather than telling us that these are just private labs profiting on our health care," Ms Rees said.
But the threat of a double-dissolution election in Federal Parliament could spell the end of the inquiry due to the possibility of all the senators who initiated the inquiry losing their seats.
Ms Rees said it would take the fight "back to square one" with no federal support or money for research.
A common factor between the four is their exposure to the outdoors - Mr Young and Ms Rees worked for National Parks, Ms Walker lived on a farm in Bellingen and Mr David conducts research in bushland for his PhD in environmental science and engineering.
Ms Walker said exposure to the outdoors may be one defining factor that may help Australian doctors accurately diagnose the complex disease.
"It's the whole clinic picture including environmental factors," she said.
"The best ones for identifying it are the integrative medicine GPs who look at the whole body."
Bellingen GP Dr Gull Herzberg agrees with Ms Walker that a "holistic approach" is needed to address Lyme-like disease.
"It's not necessarily just about finding the infection and getting rid of it," he said.
Diagnosed under different names internationally, Dr Herzberg said Multi-Systemic Infectious Disease Syndrome is a useful way of describing Lyme-like disease and its multitude of symptoms.
Dr Herzberg said a "really good outcome" of the inquiry would be to enable doctors treating the disease to be recognised and patients respected.
Scottish national Jamie David was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2014 after spending time in bushland studying for his PhD on the Coffs Coast.
Coming from Scotland where the disease is recognised along with parts of Europe and the US left Mr David astounded at the Australian health system.
"I look at Australia as a progressive, western country and to come from the UK where it's always been accepted as a thing," Mr David said.
"I am completely flabbergasted as to why the Australian Government won't accept that."