ROCK SPRINGS — What would it be like to be suffering from a debilitating disease that prevented you from finishing high school and took two years just for the doctors to diagnose?
Rock Springs local Joel Chambers knows. The 20-year-old has been suffering from Lyme Disease since he was 16 years old.
An outdoor fence-building project in Kansas led to Joel being bitten by a number of ticks–not the Rocky Mountain Wood Ticks more native to Wyoming that carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, but the Deer Ticks that carry Lyme Disease.
Joel fell ill some time later, seemed to recover, and then hit a brick wall, according to Ruby Chambers, Joel’s mother.
Ruby said that in the research she’s done, she’s learned that Lyme Disease is often very difficult to treat if it’s not treated with antibiotics very early.
Joel’s case was not caught early by doctors.
“Doctor after doctor couldn’t tell us what was wrong with him,” said Ruby. “At first they thought he had mono, but then when rest didn’t work they did lots of tests and ruled out thousands of things. It took about 2 years.”
Since the beginning of the illness, Joel has had a horrific headache. Ruby said that on a pain scale from 1 to 10, his headache was never below a 7.
The headaches interfered with his schoolwork because Joel couldn’t study for long periods of time, which was a bummer because Joel was once a great student with aspirations of attending a university like MIT.
Joel is now 20 and he’s been sick since he was 16. They’ve tried oral antibiotics and other treatments in Salt Lake City. They helped some, but symptoms returned after a short time and his body began to reject the antibiotics.
“He has a lot of brain fog and insomnia. The last 6 months he started to sleep more and more, sometimes as much as 18 hours straight. The docs said that’s a sign his body is trying to shut down. I knew that I needed to find a next step,” said Joel’s mother.
That next step was a set of set of innovative, experimental treatments at the Envita Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz. That’s where Joel and his mother are currently, undergoing full days of exhausting treatments–which will continue for at least 8 weeks.
A team of family and friends are fundraising to help offset the costs of the medical treatments, which must be paid for up front for experimental procedures, and housing, which is costly in Scottsdale.
Ruby said that finding a place to stay through treatment has been difficult and their future is uncertain. They are only able to stay in their current housing until March 1 and then they must find somewhere else.
“This is my child. I have felt like he’s climbing a big ole mountain and he hasn’t even gotten to the top. He can’t get a break,” said Ruby. “Our goal is that this will turn this disease around enough that he can start feeling better and improve and go on to a normal life.”
How to Help
- A chili dinner fundraiser will be hosted from 4-7 pm on Saturday, February 24 at the Rock Springs Evangelical Free Church, 125 Firestone Road. They will serve chili, corn bread, crackers, and a variety of desserts. Cost is $10 each or $45 for a family. Baskets will be raffled off with tickets selling for $1 each or six for $5.
- There is a GoFundMe page.
- Donate to “Joel Chambers Medical Fund” at 1st Bank, 601 N. Front St, Rock Springs.