JOHNSON CITY, Texas (KXAN) — For $50, Johnson City teenager Maura Ibanez painted her father’s nails lime green. When she reached $100, Ibanez dyed her horse’s mane lime green.
“That was really fun. Dad was so uncomfortable having green nails. Oh, so much fun to watch,” Maura said.
“And we made him keep it for almost a week! He’s a volunteer firefighter here in town and so we made him go on fire calls with the green nails. It was great,” her mother Sharon Ibanez said.
Why this specific color? Lyme Disease. It’s the official color for it and a play on the word lime.
Maura and Sharon live with Late Stage Lyme Disease. Doctors diagnosed Maura with the disease two years ago. They diagnosed Sharon several years ago.
“I just noticed this unexplainable fatigue. Like I could not get through half a day without needing to take a nap on my lunch break or go home and sleep,” Sharon said.
She saw doctor after doctor, one after the other, only to be told “We don’t have Lyme in Texas” by many. Her symptoms worsened to joint pain and more. Finally, when she dug into her own research and pushed to be tested for the disease, doctors positively diagnosed her — a course of seven years.
“I finally found a different doctor in Marble Falls and she did much more extensive testing, which was also much more expensive, and that one confirmed that I had Lyme.”
Not taken for grant-ed
Each is raising money to pay-it-forward for financial grants and kids’ “Smile Boxes” through the Lyme Warrior Foundation. The foundation helps disadvantaged patients get access to medical care through these grants. The boxes are full of uplifting gifts for children suffering from the disease.
“I felt known and noticed,” Maura said about receiving a box from her mother.
Sharon said the disease has been incredibly difficult for her family’s health and finances. Thankfully though, they received a substantial grant to help with Maura’s treatment, including a smaller one for Sharon through LymeLight Foundation.
The foundation emailed them Sept. 30, saying they got a grant for her youngest daughter.
Despite Maura’s health challenges, she stays positive, motivated, and is an active member of the community, participating in:
- 2019 Blanco County Rodeo Queen’s Court
- Blanco County 4H
- Blanco Phoenix Riders Equestrian Drill Team
- First Christian Church
- Johnson City Young Life
- LBJ High school cross country team
“[She] is truly an amazing young warrior,” Sharon said.
If interested to apply for a grant, you must find an organization, go to their website and fill out an application. You tell them your story including reference letters from work and home.
“You send all of that in and hope and pray,” Sharon said.
Maura is $100 away from her goal of $1,500. She hopes to raise enough for at least two treatment grants for teens. You can view her progress and breakdown of the challenges on her Lyme Warrior webpage.
“It feels pretty cool because I know that people are willing to give and help out with this, so that feels pretty amazing that we’re slowly getting out there that Lyme does exist and it’s real,” Maura said.
Sharon’s goal is to help others suffering from chronic illness. She joined Lyme Warrior last Spring. You can view and support her progress on her Lyme Warrior webpage. So far she’s raised $400. She also wrote a blog to offer support and information for Lyme patients, their caregivers, and loved ones.
“You don’t take anything that you don’t earn, so reaching out to receive grants, that was really hard. I had to do a whole lot of soul searching, praying about it cause I didn’t feel right, so this makes me feel good that we can be a part of this and I feel like God has put it on my heart to be a part of the bigger picture and to help raise awareness,” Sharon said.
The Lyme Warrior Foundation extended the fundraising event deadline to Oct. 17. More participants joined the last minute. Anyone can sign up and take part. You can learn more about the foundation on their website.
Lyme Disease in Texas
Texas Health and Human Services states on the department’s website that between 50-275 human cases of Lyme disease are reported annually in Texas. The disease is endemic to the southern state, particularly in the black-legged tick, Ixodes scapularis.
“Most doctors in Texas don’t recognize Lyme Disease nor do they know anything about it,” Sharon said. “It’s kind of demeaning and offensive, and it makes me… I’ve lost complete faith in local doctors… I don’t know if they don’t want to grasp the legitimacy of Lyme or they just don’t get it. I’m not sure where the lack is… I’ve even had my [veterinarian] tell me that we don’t really have a problem with Lyme in Texas.”
The Texas Lyme Disease Association states on its website: “patients often are unable to get a proper diagnosis due to their physician’s unfamiliarity with Lyme and its co-infections. Tests that are routinely given for Lyme are known to give false negatives or false positives.”
According to the CDC, in 2018, only 20 cases were confirmed in Texas, a decline from past years, compared to more than 7000 in the northeastern state of Pennsylvania. Vector Disease Control International states this is due to “tick and host habitat range expansion, longer seasons for tick activity, and increased human exposure seasonally.”