Seventeen year old Elle Debreceny has experienced a bit of a rough road over the past few years. Diagnosed with Lyme Disease in 2014 – a tick-borne infection caused by bacteria in the Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato group, Elle was plagued with headaches, chronic fatigue and seizures. Elle would like to spread awareness of the disease and treatment options – she now believes she’s cured, after extensive treatment in both Australia and Malaysia. Perhaps it’s no surprise that Elle has now gone on to study nursing – with an interest in unusual diseases being one of her focal points!
Hi Elle. Tell us a bit about yourself, your family and growing up in the Manning.
My name is Elle, and I am 17. I moved to the Manning at the age of six from Comboyne. I am one of four kids; I have an older brother, Jack 21, older sister, Gina 19, and younger sister, Maxine 16. My very supportive parents are Julie and Ivan.
You’ve faced a pretty tough battle over the years, with Lyme Disease. When were you diagnosed with the disease – and how do you think you came into contact with it?
My battle with Lyme Disease was long and difficult; it felt as if the tunnel was never-ending. I was diagnosed in 2014. After having a course of antibiotics for acne, I became very ill and fatigued. Weeks later, I started having violent seizures that would last for 15 – 20 minutes; these seizures stopped me from doing simple life tasks, like going to school, hanging out with friends or going to social events. Most things were incredibly hard to do.
We believe that I came in contact with Lyme Disease when I was six years old, camping in Comboyne. I was bitten on the eyelid by a deer tick, not having any idea that it was going to affect my life the way it did.
What can you tell us about Lyme Disease; what were your symptoms?
Lyme Disease is mostly a tick-borne illness, the Borreliosis (Lyme disease) can lay dormant in your system until something starts to kill it (i.e. antibiotics). Lyme Disease can carry co-hosts, which also feed off the body’s cells.
I had multiple symptoms. These including blacking out, seizures, peripheral shakes, loss of sight and hearing, chronic fatigue, splitting headaches and loss of memory.
How big an impact did having this disease have on your day to day life?
Lyme Disease impacted my life in many ways. Having chronic fatigue made day to day life extremely hard – making things that were easy challenging, because you feel so exhausted. The seizures I had were not only extremely hard on the body, but for anyone around me it was hard on them to see me in this state, or to know how to administer first aid.
Being in Year 9 going to school, everyone was affected. Having multiple seizures in class made it hard to do school work or focus on anything, and for the people in my class it was hard for them to watch what I was going through. The first aid ladies knew me by first name, as they attended many of my seizures to help me.
Lyme Disease impacted my family, who not only had to see me go through the seizures, but who financially supported the medications and tests I needed throughout many years.
What treatment options did you explore in Australia?
In Australia the treatment I had was a strong antibiotic and herbal treatment, as well as a detoxing treatment. This helped rid my body of any toxins and co-hosts that the Lyme bacteria had grown in my body. This made the treatment I ultimately had in Malaysia work better, as hyperthermia doesn’t kill many co-hosts.
You mentioned you travelled overseas for treatment too. Where did you go, and why did you decide to follow this option?
I travelled overseas to Johor Bahru, Malaysia in February 2017 for my first hyperthermia treatment. We decided to go to Malaysia, as we had heard so many people getting better after the hyperthermia treatment. I had also fought most of my co-hosts, which helped the process of the treatment. It was really our last option to see a better life.
What was involved with your treatment in Malaysia?
The treatment consisted of three days of detox and antibiotics, one day of hyperthermia, where my core body temperature was heated to 42.2 degrees Celsius to kill off bacteria that was in the system – this was a 12-hour process. Slowly heating to 42.2 degrees Celsius, then holding this temperature for an hour, followed by slowly cooling the body down to the normal body temperature. After the hyperthermia, I then had four more days of detox and antibiotics.
The treatment was repeated four weeks later, to ensure any bacteria that had grown back was killed in the second treatment.
How are you now – and what’s your future prognosis?
In February this year, 2018, I was pronounced cured, as I have had no signs or symptoms of Lyme Disease in a year. I feel as if I could run a marathon (hypothetically) but am feeling fantastic! I only have to make doctor’s appointments as needed.
You’ve recently moved to Armidale for university. What are your study plans – and what do you hope to do once you graduate?
I moved to Armidale in mid-February to start university in March. I am currently studying a Bachelor of Nursing at the University of New England. I intend to work as a nurse in an emergency department, health clinic or in third world countries and hopefully do some scientific research on Lyme Disease and other weird diseases on the side, when I have completed my studies.
Photo (top), L – R: Gina, Jack, Ivan, Julie, Elle and Maxine Debreceny.
Photo (inset): Elle undergoing treatment in Malaysia.