A southeast Saskatchewan woman is heading overseas for a second time to receive treatment for a life-threating condition.
Sheri Vincent is a former Estevan resident who now resides in Glen Ewen with her husband Guy and their five children, four of whom were adopted from the foster care system and have special needs.
She has been diagnosed with Stage 3 neurological Lyme disease with a bartonella co-infection. Vincent will travel to the Klinik St. Georg in Germany this summer to receive treatment, because she says the Canadian government doesn’t provide sufficient treatment or support for people with the disease.
The federal government recently announced $4 million in funding for research and diagnosis of the disease, but Vincent still has to travel to Germany for the treatment.
She travelled to the German clinic last year to receive treatment for Lyme disease. Their main treatment is a hyperthermia treatment, which she said is used in Canada to treat cancer. It has been used for cancer in Germany as well, but Vincent said they have discovered it can be used to cure people of Lyme disease.
“They put you under, like you’re asleep, and they raise your body temperature up to 41.5 C, and when it gets to that temperature, it actually kills the spirochetes, the Lyme bugs,” said Vincent.
After two weeks of treatment, about 80 per cent of people have been cured of the disease, she said. Some people aren’t cured, but are left with some symptoms that can be managed. Others are like Vincent and have very severe and life-threatening symptoms.
“The way they describe it is like cancer,” said Vincent. “The worse it is, the more treatments you may need.”
The treatment and care she received in Germany were outstanding, she said. The people are very knowledgeable, and are known internationally for being leaders in Lyme disease treatment.
While she was in Germany the last time, Vincent noted there was a map of the world where people could indicate where they were from, and there were dozens of people from Saskatchewan, and many more from other parts of the world.
When she returns to the Klinik St. Georg from July 30 to August 13, there will again be several therapies performed, but this time there will be three main components: a hyperthermia treatment, several rounds of blood cleansing and stem cell regeneration.
Vincent was diagnosed with neurological Lyme disease last year, but suffered associated symptoms, such as extreme dizziness, blurry vision, numbness on the left side of her body and extreme pain at the base of her skull for the first time in December 2014.
She was hospitalized for eight days, had an MRI to rule out a stroke, was given steroids, and prescribed antivirals, antibiotics, seizure meds and pain killers. She left the hospital with no explanation or diagnosis regarding what she was experiencing.
Since then, Vincent has never been symptom free. She suffers from pain all over her body, pain at the base of the skull and inner ear pain. She also suffers extreme fatigue and weakness. To make matters worse, she often can’t sleep well, if at all, and when she doesn’t get sleep it drastically worsens the other symptoms.
She experiences light headedness and memory loss, has difficulty thinking, and has sensitivity to light, heat and weather changes.
The first time someone suggested she might be diagnosed with Lyme disease was in July 2016 by Dr. Toby Bridgman, a naturopathic doctor who was practicing in Weyburn at the time. Vincent had to send test results to the U.S. before she was diagnosed with Lyme disease, and has since had it confirmed several times.
“If you have functional Lyme … where you can more or less function, but you have some symptoms that kind of bother you, that kind of thing you might be able to have some help with in Canada with a naturopath or a doctor who is able to prescribe a few things for the actual symptoms,” said Vincent.
“But once you hit third stage Lyme, the Lyme is winning, and that’s when it becomes life-threatening, and people really need adequate treatment.”
Her cousin, Sherri Tessier of North Portal, has started a GoFundMe page. A total of $4,240 had been raised as of Monday afternoon. The campaign has a goal of $50,000.
Tessier noted that Vincent’s total expenses thus far have been $1,500 for an MRI in Red Deer, Alberta, $20,000 for a stem cell treatment in Arizona in May 2016 and $50,000 for her first round of treatment in Germany.
Her monthly medication and supply costs are approximately $4,000.
She then has the cost associated with the next treatment in Germany this August, which are projected to be $40,000.
Vincent said the support from the community has been excellent. People are behind her desire to go back to Germany, and they support her desire to raise awareness of Lyme disease.
“It’s still important to me that the story is heard, and we want change, because even if it doesn’t happen in time for me, I want it to happen in time for others,” said Vincent. “I want the government to see that people are suffering and dying. And even if it’s not in time to save me, I want others to not have to go through that.”
A fundraising barbecue will be held at the Peavey Mart in Estevan on June 24, starting at 11 a.m.