My Approach to Treating Chronic Infections
I believe that the interaction of numerous factors leads a person to succumb to chronic infections. Besides the obvious exposure to the pathogen the person is usually physically, emotionally and spiritually depleted. They are overly stressed with their busy lives and have probably not been taking the best of care in regard to rest, exercise, proper nutrition and relaxation. Recovery from complex chronic infections is a complicated matter too. Unlike a simple infection, which can be cured quickly with an antibiotic, the treatment for Lyme, other tick-borne infections and/or Morgellons disease is long, slow and requires patience and commitment on the part of the patient and the health care provider.
I treat tick-borne diseases according to the guidelines of the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS) which believes that antibiotics should be given for as long as it takes the patient to get well. We in ILADS believe that Lyme and other tick-borne infections are way more prevalent than the medical mainstream would lead us to believe and that they are extremely difficult to treat.
I would be less than truthful if I were to say that we can eradicate the spirochetal bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb) that causes Lyme disease (which is the infection almost all of my patients share in common). If a health care provider promises you that they can do this, they are being naïve, untruthful or showing their ignorance about the complexity of this bacteria. Unfortunately, Bb has way too many survival techniques for us to hope to achieve this. Pick up a copy of Arno Karlen’s book Biography of a Germ and you will be amazed to learn the complexities of this microscopic parasite!
Therefore, our goal is to control the infection by reducing the bacterial load and strengthening the immune system so that it can take over the job of keeping the infection under control. Do not be dismayed by this news! Many patients go on to live happy, healthy productive lives after treatment. They learn to live with the disease, much as migraine patients learn to live with their disease by avoiding the triggers that provoke their disabling headaches.
Antibiotics are an essential adjunct to care, but they are not the only thing that is required to regain good health. In order to facilitate the body’s ability to heal, there needs to be a systematic approach to strengthening the immune system. Patients who continue to do harm to their bodies by smoking cigarettes, drinking too much alcohol, eating junk food and exposing themselves to tremendous stress will not get well. Those who seek to regain their health must become aware of how everything affects it – their environment, their diet, their habits, and their attitude.
I believe in a team approach between the health care provider and the patient. I see myself as a facilitator for patients on their journey to recovery. They are the experts – about their bodies and their life values. I have tools to help them along their way and the experience of guiding others through the process. If a patient is interested in going to an all-knowing provider to whom they can hand over their bodies and say “cure me” they are not going to be happy with the way I approach things. I simply do not believe that this “hierarchical” approach to medical care is appropriate for treating patients with complex, chronic infections. I expect my patients to become very well-educated about their illness and provide me with information that will help me to help them. A provider needs to be open-minded and responsive to the constant feedback of the patient because each patient is unique. I am suspicious of any provider who thinks that their way is THE way.
I provide each of my patients with a handbook that I have written which provides guidelines for different approaches to strengthening the immune system. Even after the infection is under control, patients need to live the rest of their lives following these guidelines, so that their immune system will stay strong and able to keep the “bugs” at bay!
Most of all I believe a positive outlook is crucial for getting well. I strive to give my patients lots of hope, humor, hugs and love, because without these it is too easy for them to sink into a well of despair. My goal is to have my patients look forward to their office visits and leave the office feeling a little bit better than when they came in. Nothing makes me happier than when a patient tells me I have achieved this goal!
Ginger Savely, DNP