There's also nothing like Christmas for realizing not everyone is as lucky as you are and that your luck and your life can change in a millisecond. It's also, if you're anything like me, a time when you really feel like giving back to the world in some way. Contributing to someone less well off than yourself is one way of counting your lucky stars and hoping that karma will pay back to you when you need it most.
I work with lots of lovely people and Vicki Jones is one of them. She's an invaluable member of our Education Support Staff and she works in the Home Eco room, preparing for classes by doing the shopping and collating the ingredients; helping the students with their cooking and then when everyone else has eaten and gone, she gets to clean up behind them. More importantly though, she's a mentor to many of our kids, especially the troubled ones. She talks while they cook, she encourages and cajoles. She praises and scolds when necessary and she has made an amazing difference to the literacy and the confidence of countless numbers of young people. Vicki is also one of the most positive people I've ever met. She wears pretty tops and bright lipstick and she always has a smile on her face.
That smile is the smile of a true professional because beneath it Vicki has been facing an unbelievable challenge over the last 18 months.
Vicki's daughter Sheridan, (pictured with Vicki in the photo above), turns just 26 today. At the beginning of 2012, Sheridan suddenly felt very tired and fatigued and strangely, her handwriting became messy. The initial diagnosis was a vertigo type illness and possibly carpal tunnel syndrome. She was advised that some Bowen therapy should soon see her right. Unfortunately, she began to experience other symptoms including loss of feeling and function in one leg. A barrage of MRIs, CT scans and blood tests pointed to a devastating diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. Having clearly inherited her Mum's positive outlook, Sheridan tried to slow the progress of the disease with pilates and physio and water aerobics and speech therapy but to no avail. The symptoms worsened quickly and she was no longer able to work. Further tests indicated that perhaps it wasn't MS but a rare condition called Spinocerebellar Ataxia, for which there is no cure.
I can't fathom how a family copes with devastating news like that :-( and as the months went by it just got worse. Sheridan's speech deteriorated, she had difficulty swallowing and had to give up driving. The diagnosis changed yet again to another obscure and incurable disease before discovering from DNA tests that this was also incorrect.
By July this year she was confined to a wheelchair and her future looked very bleak. Then, a chance encounter with a doctor in Western Australia uncovered the real cause of her symptoms ; LYME disease. In late 2011, Sheridan had been camping in the bush and on her return had found and removed a tick from a friend who had been with her. Sheridan hadn't found one on herself but in hindsight, she must have been bitten. Many of you will have seen the 'Today Tonight' stories on Lyme Disease during the last year. Like me you probably half listened to the tragic stories of victims of this disease that officially doesn't exist in Australia! It's an insidious bacteria that mimics the symptoms of many other debilitating diseases and is therefore very hard to identify.
Hard as it is to diagnose, it's even harder to treat and will involve high dosages of antibiotics and other medications for many years. Sheridan will have to follow a completely organic diet; gluten, sugar, dairy and yeast free. Her doctor is in Western Australia and to get the best treatment she may have to go overseas. And because, despite many people having been accurately diagnosed with Lymes, it is still not officially recognized as existing in Australia, there is no funding for the treatment!
Sheridan's family and friends have worked out that the overwhelming figure of $50 000 needed for her treatment can be broken down into a more manageable 100 lots of $500, hence the title 100 Lyme Light Keepers and they have started a Facebook page to gather support for their fundraising effort.
It's no secret that I love the internet and I believe very strongly in the power of social media to change the world in a positive way. I have 398 Facebook friends. If everyone of them donated just $1 to this cause then we'd almost cover one of those $500 lots on our own. If everyone donated $5 then we'd cover 4 lots! (For the record, I did that calculating all by myself ;-) If everyone on my Facebook list shared this story with their friends and some of them donated a dollar too, imagine how quickly we could make a difference for Sheridan and her family.
Of all the money you spend this Christmas, this could be the most satisfying.
Donating is simple. Just bank transfer your dollar, or five or ten to
ACC: 395 357 425 with your full name as the reference.
Or you can write a cheque (do people still do that these days?) and make it out to 'Sheddies Light on LYMES' and post it to P.O BOX 179 Mortlake, Vic, 3272