Local woman raising awareness of Lyme disease - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Local woman raising awareness of Lyme disease

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

Experts say this winter's warm temperatures have created a surge of springtime ticks -- and they expect cases of tick-related diseases to spike this summer.

We talked with one local woman who wants to spread awareness about Lyme disease, as she fights her way back from the illness.

Laurie Degroote of Parkersburg and her sisters polished up the family's pick-up to have it looking good for a car show in Waterloo Sunday.

Degroote enjoys everyday moments like that, since it wasn't that long ago her health had taken a serious turn for the worse.

"It's like hitting a brick wall.  I mean I've been a natural girl, hiking and camping all my life, and suddenly I couldn't get off the couch.  It was just like, 'What's wrong with me?'" Degroote said.

Three years ago, Degroote found a dark red bullseye rash on her skin, the result of a tick bite.  She later learned it was Lyme disease.  But what she didn't expect, was just how serious the condition would get.

"A year ago, I thought it was my time to go.  I mean, my sisters thought I was going to die," Degroote said. 

With a Lyme specialist's help, Degroote is now in good health.  Like she has learned, experts say Lyme disease illustrates the importance of being cautious with your time outdoors.

"When you're hiking through the woods or on the trails, it's wise to wear long pants, a light weight long sleeve shirt, proper shoes, socks, things like that.  Other little things you can do is put rubber bands around the ankles of your legs, and use insect repellant with DEET in it," said Gary Dusenberry, George Wyth State Park ranger.

As for Degroote, she's doing all she can to spread awareness of the tick-borne disease that took so much out of her.  She's even planning her own "Lyme climb" to the top of a Colorado mountain peak later this summer.  She hopes her efforts will help educate others to protect themselves to limit the spread of Lyme.

After time outdoors, experts urge you to check your entire body for ticks--even combing through your hair.  Remove any tick you find with tweezers.   A health professional can then test it for Lyme disease.

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