TOUCHED BY LYME: No Lyme in Kentucky? Says who?

13th June 2012

Michael Gatton (KY)

A minister's experience gives rise to a new Lyme support group in Kentucky.

Michael Gatton is the minister of the Hurstbourne Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. He’s also a farmer. One June day in 2010, after mowing his fields, he noticed what he thought was a speck of dirt on his bare skin. When he tried to flick it off, it turned out to be an attached tick. He removed it, and later a small bull’s-eye rash developed at the site. A doctor gave him a short course of antibiotics and said he was good to go.

But he wasn’t good to go. Soon, he developed all kinds of physical problems, and consulted several more doctors, including an infectious disease specialist. The ID doctor told him “Lyme disease doesn’t exist in Kentucky” and refused to explore it as a diagnosis. Gatton was worked up for a variety of maladies such as West Nile Virus, ALS, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. Nothing was resolved.

Then, in April of 2011, Gatton got nailed by a second tick. This one packed a more powerful punch. He soon became deathly ill, with a temperature of 104 and difficulty breathing. He saved the tick this time, and took it to a different ID doctor. This second doctor declared there was no reason to test the tick, because “Lyme disease doesn’t exist in Kentucky.” This doctor also refused to consider Lyme as a diagnosis.

Eventually, Gatton found an out-of-state doctor who diagnosed him with Lyme and prescribed an antibiotic protocol. Still in treatment, Gatton reports he is much improved. (He notes that his congregation has been very supportive throughout his ordeal. He sits on a stool to preach his Sunday sermon when he’s not up to standing the whole time.)

While all this was going on, two women in Louisville contacted Gatton, saying they wanted to form a Lyme disease support group. Could they meet at his church? Now, about 40 Lyme patients, including Gatton, meet there regularly.

For Lyme awareness month, the group put on a community showing of the Lyme documentary Under Our Skin. “We thought we might get 40 or 50 people,” the minister recalls. “Instead, there were 150.”

The Louisville support group has supplied educational pamphlets to scout troops and, says Gatton, “We’re trying to get the local medical society to work with us.”

He also saves ticks found on his farm, which he hopes to supply to a researcher who will test them. He’d like to lay to rest once and for all the harmful notion that “Lyme disease doesn’t exist in Kentucky.”

Click here for the website of Hurstbourne Christian Church. Contact the church for details about Lyme support group meetings.

TOUCHED BY LYME is written by Dorothy Kupcha Leland,’s VP for Education and Outreach. Contact her at

Related posts:

  1. TOUCHED BY LYME: “A lost childhood: The hidden faces of Lyme disease”
  2. TOUCHED BY LYME: Misdiagnosed Lyme turned into horrific experience
  3. TOUCHED BY LYME: Miss Sonoma County contestant chooses Lyme awareness as her platform
  4. TOUCHED BY LYME: Serving up IDSA Facebook comments to Congress
  5. TOUCHED BY LYME: Bringing Lyme message to college students

14 thoughts on “TOUCHED BY LYME: No Lyme in Kentucky? Says who?

    • LYME needs to be recognized thanks to migrating birds it is now accross every state in the US….and some of us get very sick were others dont! i never even got the bulls eye and suffer still from the damage a lil tick has caused me.

  1. We were told it doesn’t exist in Alabama, too. But after out of state diagnosis and treatment my daughter no longer has to have a wheelchair, has stopped losing weight, can keep food down, and has regained much of her lost muscle and energy level, as well as improvement in migraines and sensory overload, arthritis and other symptoms being relieved. She now has hopes and plans for the future. Thank you for your advocacy. Praise the Lord for his healing touch!

  2. An infectious disease specialist as Massachusetts General told me recently that Lyme was only in certain parts of the country. We all need to contact our Congressmen and Congresswomen to make them aware of the problem of all tick borne illness.

  3. The more stories like this that are shared, the better the chance that the medical community in Kentucky will wake up and take notice. Thanks for sharing!

  4. I finally got a positive Lyme test in KY after 7 years of serious illness. It turns out that 2 people who live within 5 miles of me also positive. I cannot find a doctor who is willing to take my case within an 8 hour drive. I have my diagnosis and now no one is willing to even consider treating me. If anyone knows an MD who will treat, please post. Keep up the great work on getting the news out there. Maybe our children will not have to suffer as we do!

  5. We just built a house in the woods. We have been cleaning brush up out of our yard the past few weeks. I took my sons for a hike, & started feeling bad with a headache, dizzy & sick to my stomach. The next afternoon my leg was
    hurting. I had a tick in it with its head under the skin. With a bullseye rash already. Would systoms show this fast. I’m on 100 mg ofdoxycycline & they did a Lyme test the next day. Is there anything else I need to do? Am I already having systoms or maybe just a virus? And even if it is Lyme wouldn’t the medicine so early take the infection away. I’m clueless about Lyme, I had never even heard of the bullseye.

    • The Lyme test looks for antibodies–which can take 4-6 weeks to develop. So, a negative Lyme test now wouldn’t mean you don’t have it. The bull’s-eye rash is considered diagnostic for Lyme. They were right to start treating, but Lyme-literate docs probably would not consider 100 mgs of doxy to be adequate to the task. Ticks can also give you more than one infection at a time. Start researching and looking for a Lyme-knowledgeable doc right now. Here are links to get started:

      • It was a positive test. I had told my husband there’s no way it would come back positive that fast but it did. My husband is in the military & just left last week for a school until May. I have been really tired and which usually I’m fine while he was gone but it makes me wonder if its not that. Thanks for the info. Prayers for our family please.

  6. Lyme disease has been present in Kentucky since the turn of the century. I was diagnosed with Lyme disease at 13 in 2000. I was given two courses if antibiotics and was sent on my way. Although I was never “the same” function was restored. About five/six years ago I was in a fender bender which may have “re-activated” the dormant spirochetes. Now I have developed “fibromyalgia,” degenerative joint disease with severely progressive osteoarthritis, Epstein-Barr, significant tmj disorders, not to mention the mental and neurological toll the disease has taken. Still treatment is near to impossible as a chronic or recurring state of Lyme disease is not recognized. I am 26 and fight every single day to get out of bed, work a full time job, and do the daily necessities everyone takes for granted (brushing my hair, showering, climbing stairs, cleaning, doing laundry). I hope to live a long life and I keep running uphill but it is getting steeper and steeper by the day. Raise awareness because you do not want to watch your children deteriorate at the same rate as your parents :(

  7. I would love to hear of physicians who will help educate and treat. I am so tired of being treated like Im an idiot. This disease is horrible and I cant find any supportive Dr.

  8. Lyme disease is definitely becoming more widespread in Kentucky. I live just outside of Paducah and just recently tested positive for lyme, although I never experienced the hallmark “bullseye rash”, not everybody does. My neighbor also tested positive last year. Lyme not being in Kentucky is a myth!

    • My wife tested positive for lymes. We live in Sebree ky. No local doctors are much help. We are trying a Louisville next month. She has had shingles complications from the lyme

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