Up to age six, life for Danny Baxter, or “Danny B” as his parents like to call him, was pretty much like that of any other youngster growing up in Placerville.
But his life was dramatically changed after he was bit by a tick, a tick carrying the bacterium responsible for Lyme disease. That bite, and the subsequent infection, took his life in a very different direction that continues to this day.
The youngest son of Chris and Nancy Baxter, one day after church Danny complained to his mother that his ear hurt. A registered nurse, Nancy examined him and found a big tick behind his left ear. “I wasn’t sure what it was at first,” she said. “I called a friend who told me and then I removed it with tweezers.”
Baxter says she now suspects the tick came from their beagle, Teddy, who liked to sleep on the kids’ beds.
Thinking that was the end of it, no one in the family gave any more thought to the incident until symptoms of the disease started showing up eight years later in 2000.
At the time Danny was attending El Dorado High School. Baxter said her son would occasionally not want to go to school or do his homework because he claimed his joints or stomach hurt. At the time she thought it was normal teenage behavior although she did notice that his hands sweated a lot which, she later learned, is one of the symptoms of Lyme disease.
In 2004, Danny left home to attend college at UC Santa Barbara. In his first month, he contracted strep throat and a few months later mononucleosis.
“The bacteria had stayed in his system,” said Baxter. She believes the strep and mono made his immune system so weak that it caused the bacteria to surface.
Too sick to continue because of constant nausea and vomiting every day, Danny left college in 2006 and came home.
Wanting to complete his degree, the next year he returned to college. But he continued to be ill and miss classes. He went to a throat specialist who found nothing wrong. Another doctor, a psychiatrist, told him his problem was anxiety disorder. By that point he was vomiting blood. His mother then gave him two choices: “Either come home or I move into the dorm with you.”
In 2008, he came home with much of his time spent vomiting into a bucket or curled up in a fetal position.
It was around this time that Danny and his parents finally caught a lucky break. Baxter was at work one day in July and was talking to another nurse named Connie. Baxter told Connie her heart was heavy because her son was nauseated and vomiting all the time although their doctor had told her there was nothing to worry about. Connie then told her to contact a Dr. William Mora in Sacramento because he did blood tests “outside the box.”
“I’m a practicing Catholic,” said Baxter. “I believe this was God’s way of sending Connie my way. So she could direct me to Dr. Mora.”
At their appointment with the doctor, Danny described all his symptoms. Dr. Mora then asked if he had ever been bit by a tick. With the blood tests and confirmation of what had happened 16 years earlier, Danny was told he had Lyme disease.
Baxter said she beat herself up at first when Danny was diagnosed with Lyme disease but was also relieved as she thought,”Thank God we finally have the name of the monster that is making my son vomit every day.”
Later when she called Connie to thank her, she learned that Connie had Lyme disease herself for 17 years.
Danny then started treatment with Dr. Mora. Twice a month he would visit for an infusion of antibiotics to get the bacteria under control. But it wasn’t working so Connie advised Baxter to take him to a Lyme specialist. Apparently Danny not only had Lyme disease but three co-infections, which is not unusual in Lyme cases.
In 2009, Danny went to see Dr. Steven Harris, a Redwood City doctor who specializes in treating Lyme patients. According to Baxter he has patients from all over the world.
Danny is continuing to be seen by Harris with his treatment changing every six to 12 weeks as they chase the bacteria around his body, since it has since made the jump from his blood to his body tissues.
Baxter said the treatment by Dr. Harris is helping Danny to manage his symptoms. “He’s not vomiting, or getting headaches or joint pain,” she said.”It’s like emptying a swimming pool with a cup. He went untreated for 16 years so we’re four years into treatment.”
Now on a mission to warn others, Baxter does what she can to educate people on Lyme disease and how to avoid suffering the way her son has.
“My recommendation is get the tick tested if possible. If they knew how much my Danny B suffered, they wouldn’t object to it,” said Baxter. “If people are educated, then they can make the decision of whether or not to get it tested.”
Her son Danny concurred. While not wanting to be interviewed, he did have some advice for others. “I just hope people get educated so they don’t have to go through what I’m going through.”
Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or email@example.com. Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.