Walla Walla Lyme disease victim aids other local victim

While the disease is uncommon in the Northwest, two local women are battling it.


WALLA WALLA - One Walla Walla woman aims to make a difference in the life of a fellow sufferer of Lyme disease after her life was lifted up by the generosity of others.

Paula Klipfel has been diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease. Last year Klipfel was chosen by the board of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans as someone who needed help raising the funds to buy new equipment for her treatment. The equipment Klipfel received has been an asset to controlling symptoms and aiding in treatment. The fundraiser was a blessing to Klipfel.

"I felt overwhelmed, in a good way," said Klipfel, "I felt and still feel deeply blessed, very humbled and truly grateful."

This year the Walla Walla-Columbia County Chapter of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans is raising funds for another local woman, Cathy Desmond, with Lyme disease, co-infections and complications. The funds will help Desmond pay for specific treatment needed for her medical needs.

Klipfel's experience with the fundraiser last year and her friendship with Desmond encouraged her participation this year.

For Desmond this experience is giving her hope to continue through the tough times.

"I am being held up by hands of friends and strangers. They are carrying me through love to health," Desmond said.

She acknowledges the sacrifices made by the people participating in the fundraiser "might give me my life back or at least extend it." Her thankfulness surpasses words to all involved.

Lyme disease doesn't affect all individuals as severely as it has these two women. Exposure to Lyme disease is most commonly transmitted through ticks. A tick will attach to the exposed skin of a human and from one to three weeks later a small red rash resembling a bull's-eye will show up on the skin, Crowder said.

Treatment for Lyme disease is antibiotics. When not treated early, the disease can present a variety of symptoms, both minor and severe. Many cases of chronic Lyme disease leave patients with arthritis.

"Lyme disease is incredibly uncommon on the West Coast of the United States," said Harvey Crowder, the public health administrator for the Walla Walla County Health Department. It is rare for a person to be exposed to Lyme disease in the Northwest, and specifically in the Walla Walla Valley because the ticks that carry the disease require specific ecology that is rare in this area.

Still, precautions should be taken when traveling east and hiking in the mountains.

"Wear long pants, long- sleeved shirts and tuck pants into (your) socks and on exposed skin use insect repellent," Crowder said.

After returning from the outdoors check the skin for ticks and if a bull's-eye lesion appears, visit a doctor for a diagnostic test called a western blot test to determine if the tick was carrying Lyme disease.

Contact Jennifer Jorgenson at jenniferjorgenson@wwub.com.


Chili Feed and Silent Auction Fundraiser, 5 p.m. May 21 at Christ Lutheran Church, 1420 S. Second Ave. Suggested donation for dinner: Adults $7, Children $4. RSVP by Monday to Bob at 529-4169


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