In this episode, Sarah speaks with another champion for Canadians living with Lyme, Green MP Elizabeth May. She describes how she first learned about the severity of Lyme disease when speaking to a woman from Pictou, Nova Scotia who required a wheelchair for mobility. After moving to British Columbia, Elizabeth met others who were experiencing life-altering illness due to the tick-borne diseases. She was frustrated to learn that these patients were dismissed and told there was no Lyme disease where they lived. Elizabeth was determined to develop a Private Member’s Bill to address Lyme disease in Canada after meeting so many people who were struggling to regain their health and find treatment for Lyme disease within our borders.
Private Member’s Bill C-442 , An Act Respecting a Federal Framework on Lyme Disease, passed unanimously through the House of Commons in June, 2014 and the Senate in December, 2014. Bill C-442 was the impetus for the Conference to Develop a Federal Framework on Lyme Disease, which was hosted in May of 2016. This conference brought together patients, family members, advocates, physicians, researchers, public health officials and Lyme disease experts with the intention of creating a federal Lyme disease strategy. As a result of the Conference, 4 million dollars were set aside for Lyme disease research in Canada. Elizabeth explains that, although it was her intention to help people who have become chronically ill with Lyme disease, much of that grant money hasn’t gone in the intended direction.
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Elizabeth outlines the need for physicians to become better educated about Lyme disease, so that when patients come in with symptoms of Lyme disease they can start treatment right away, avoiding further health effects from the disease. She points out that when patients cannot access the healthcare they require in Canada, they often will travel to the United States to get it there. With the expansion of ticks in Canada due to climate change, Elizabeth points out that unless needed changes take place, the problem is only going to get worse.
Elizabeth would like to see a change in attitude regarding Lyme disease, along with updated education about Lyme disease, including looking at what other countries may be doing to address the disease. She would also like to see further public health changes in response to Bill C442. She points out that there are many MP’s that are also passionate about this issue due to the overwhelming number of their constituents that come to them suffering with Lyme disease and unable to get the treatment they need. Finally, Elizabeth leaves us with a vision for the future where there is better awareness, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and breakthroughs in research that will get people out of wheelchairs and back to their full life.
“Every patient with Lyme disease needs to access the help they need within our healthcare system. I know far too many people who’ve mortgaged their homes to get family members the treatment they need for Lyme disease and they’ve had to go to the United States to get it”