VICTORIA, Minn. (KMSP) - A Victoria, Minn. family is going through something most of us can't even imagine. Four out of five family members are sick with Lyme disease. It's been emotionally and financially draining for them and now they're living in two different states.
For Luke Vanzo, his nine-year-old son, his six-year-old son and even his wife have all been diagnosed with Lyme disease. His nine-year-old son Ari has been impacted the worst. It started with leg and joint pain, but eventually he lost his ability to walk.
“I can deal with whatever, but I can’t reconcile,” said Luke. “He’s nine years old.”
They took Ari to a local hospital and left with no answers and a wheelchair.
“He’s had everything, rheumatologists, infectious disease – whatever the cancer doctors are - he’s had all that done and all came back negative,” said Luke.
Both Vanzo’s wife and six-year-old son share some of the same symptoms, which Vanzo describes as having strep, mono, chronic fatigue and rheumatoid arthritis all at once.
“What in the world did I just do to my family because this is like an autoimmune version of cancer,” he said.
If seeing your family battling Lyme disease isn’t enough, try caring for them while fighting it yourself. Luke thinks he contracted Lyme disease when he was nineteen and it’s been a rollercoaster of health issues with the official diagnosis three years ago. He recently told his family he was cured, but that’s not exactly true.
“I had to stop being treated,” he said. “Quite frankly, I did what any husband would do. Wanted to get her treated instead of - we just couldn’t afford to get us both treated.”
Luke and Nicole's oldest son Eli is in seventh grade and so far does not have the disease. Clearly though, he is still suffering.
“He broke down a few times and just saying like, ‘Why not me?’” said Luke.
Doctors disagree on whether chronic Lyme disease is even real. There are various ways to test for it, which not all doctors trust.
While it may seem odd for so many family members to have Lyme, Vanzo says he knows of several families with the very same issue, but it’s simply not talked about in the same way as other diseases. He says insurance only covers the initial, traditional treatment for Lyme disease. If you’d like to help, click here.