Ticks Know No Bounds
It isn’t every day you meet someone that has no memories of the seventh or eighth grade. Those are cringeworthy years, for sure, but instrumental in someone’s childhood. Meghan Preto-Rodas had these years stolen from her. She wasn’t kidnapped, so don’t expect a heartbreaking story. Instead, this nurse-in-training was a victim of Lyme disease for nearly six years.
Preto-Rodas is an exceptional human being, to say the least. It’s her third semester here at Housatonic, and Meghan is studying to become a nurse based on her experiences in the hospital (or “home away from home” as Meghan referred to it) during her time suffering through a horrid chronic illness.
At the age of 12 on a crisp October afternoon, Preto-Rodas came to her mother complaining about a headache. It wasn’t a feeling she had really experienced before, at least not to that degree. They went to the doctor immediately, and it was dismissed as a virus. She was prescribed some basic medication and sent on her way. The migraine worsened, however, and she was bedridden for a week.
“I didn’t really know what was happening, I just know I had never felt something as painful as that headache. And I kept telling my mom ‘it’s not a virus! it’s not a virus!’ but it ended up going away, how could I argue?” Preto-Rodas said.
All was well until the migraine returned in the seventh grade. It came back worse than ever and she couldn’t function or even think. She sat in her dark bedroom, alienated herself from everyone around her and technology too. This migraine lasted 18 months straight.
“Some days were worse than others, ” she said. “I’d spend a lot of time in the dark. I got room blackening shades and never used my phone. I’d say in that time sleep was probably my favorite activity. My dog really helped me through it. He didn’t bark, he didn’t move. He’d just lay with me. I liked that.”
In those 18 months Preto-Rodas and her mother would make regular trips to the neurologist, probably once or twice a week. There she was put through every test in the book: CT scans, MRI’s, and EEG’s. Doctors originally thought she could have had a tumor. By this time she had missed seventh grade almost entirely and the end of eighth grade was approaching quickly. Although tons of tests were done, she was virtually undiagnosable.
“Originally my doctor tested me for lyme and it was positive. But he ran it by another doctor and their test said it was negative, and it caused this big argument between the two of them until my doctor backed down and said ‘no, you’re probably right, she doesn’t have lyme’,” she explained.
In 2010 Preto-Rodas was admitted to the ER complaining of a severe stomach ache. It turned out to be appendicitis. It was also then that she learned just what was wrong with her–she was officially diagnosed with Lyme.
“I was unfathomably pissed off. All this time I had been worried it was a tumor, or it was something worse, I couldn’t believe that this was happening.” she said. To make matters worse, the disease had taken such a toll on her health that it compromised her nervous system.
RND, or Reflex neurovascular dystrophy is a rare nerve disorder that causes extreme chronic pain. As a result of having this disorder Preto-Rodas was forced to reside in a children’s hospital in Pennsylvania for two months. This took a chunk out of her high school career as well.
She missed out on some many great things: going out with friends, the laughter, the beginnings of freedom, and even the heartbreak and petty drama.
Yet, when you talk to her, she has this strange positivity about her. Her story is sad, but she never for one minute let her disease define her. She lived her life, struggled through school but prevailed in the end. She stayed positive and counted the blessings she did have as opposed to the ones she didn’t. Meghan Preto-Rodas will go far one day.