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GoFundMe page seeking donations for Lyme disease treatment for Ashley Hawkins: bit.ly/2lTnHP6

For a Redmond woman who suffers from Lyme disease, nearly every day is like having the flu. But Ashley Hawkins doesn’t let it show.

“She’s a friend who makes you want to be a better friend,” said Kaelyn Costa, a friend of Hawkins for several years. “She’s the sweetest, most genuine, kind person I’ve ever met. Even though she’s sick, she’d drop everything to be there for you.”

Costa recently started a GoFundMe page to raise money for Hawkins to be treated for Lyme disease in Mexico. She said that while Hawkins exudes positivity, inside, she is in desperate condition.

“It’s kind of the worst disease you can have, because she feels awful and chronically ill, but doesn’t look it,” Costa said. “Basically, she’s at the end of her rope. If she doesn’t do something soon treatment wise, her organs will shut down completely.”

Slow diagnosis

Hawkins, 23, dealt with sickness and being incorrectly diagnosed for more than 10 years before learning she had Lyme disease in May 2015, while she was a student at Boise State University. Hawkins said she finally was correctly diagnosed by Dr. Payson Flattery, a Bend naturopathic doctor and chiropractor. She had been suffering from body aches and episodes where she blacked out.

“I was in and out of hospitals, I saw lots of doctors,” said Hawkins, who was known by her maiden name, Ashley McNeill, when she was a member of Ridgeview High’s first graduating class in 2014. “But, thankfully, I found a doctor who believed me.”

The doctor had Hawkins take two tests for Lyme disease, one from the Centers for Disease Control and one from IGeneX laboratory. She said she came up positive for the disease in advanced stages in both tests.

While many Lyme disease patients see a large rash after being bitten by a tick, Hawkins had no memory of a bite. But she said could have well been bitten while she lived in Wyoming as a child or during regular travels.

Flattery referred Hawkins to a specialist in San Francisco. She was prescribed eight months of intense in-home treatment for eight hours a day, five days a week.

“I wanted to do treatment while I was at school, and that just wasn’t realistic,” she said. “Now I see why, but at the time, I felt like my world was falling apart. At the same time, it was a big relief to know what was going on.”

While the treatment was effective, it hasn’t put Hawkins in the clear. The Lyme disease has done damage and she said her body is not able to properly remove the toxins caused by the illness. She said she still experiences toxic shock episodes, blackouts, shaking and temporary hearing and vision loss.

“I’ve definitely made progress since then, but it’s been hard,” she said.

More treatment

She still goes to San Francisco every few months. Hawkins said the specialist is now recommending the holistic treatment at a wellness clinic just across the border in Mexico, where some of the doctor’s other patients have gone.

The treatment will be similar to her initial Lyme disease care, but Hawkins said it will take place for eight hours a day, seven days a week for four weeks.

“I’ll be getting a lot of IVs, infusions, a lot of different detoxes, acupuncture,” she said. “They just try to hit it from every angle they can.”

Hawkins said the CDC considers her condition to be post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome, which the agency claims has no proven treatment. According to the agency’s website, “long-term antibiotic treatment for Lyme disease has been associated with serious and sometimes deadly health complications.”

That means insurance companies will not help pay for the treatment in Mexico and Hawkins and her family are responsible for nearly the entire $30,000 cost. But friends have stepped up, with the GoFundMe page and other fundraisers bringing in $19,000, nearly enough to cover a 70-percent down payment to allow her to start treatment.

Hawkins, who would like to go to Mexico by the end of the month, is crossing the border because the treatment can cost up to four times as much in the United States, she said.

Despite the risk, Hawkins expects the treatment to be rewarding.

“They really believe I could be 75 percent better and live a normal life,” she said.

With the help of her husband, Chris, and other family members, Hawkins said she tries hard to remain positive. She tries to work around six hours a week at Willow Wild clothing store downtown when her health allows.

Hawkins said she’s been overwhelmed by the support she’s received. The GoFundMe page has messages like, “I don’t know her, but I’m praying this treatment works,” and “We’re thinking of you and hoping for healing, relief and remission!”

“It’s been amazing,” Hawkins said. “I was so scared to put that out there, but it’s been nice to have the support and feedback.”

Along with the GoFundMe page, which had raised just under $6,200 as of Sept. 9, Hawkins has gotten help from outside donations and a fundraiser Willow Wild played host to with Porter Brewing.

Lyme disease can be isolating, Hawkins said. While 300,000 people are diagnosed with it each year, she said many more suffer from it who are not properly diagnosed. Others think they can’t get it because they don’t think there are ticks nearby.

“Always go in and get tested,” she advises anyone bitten by a tick. “If you catch it early, you can take care of it and take it out, but if it progresses it does so much damage.”

Hawkins hopes she will eventually feel healthy enough to be able to either go back to school or find another way to help people.

“Just to have some good days would be incredible,” she said. “If I could advocate and help and give back to those with Lyme disease, that would be rewarding for me.”

Costa is confident people will provide the needed money for her friend to get the treatment in Mexico.

“She’s the most deserving person of the treatment,” Costa said. “I’m hoping that, with a little more awareness, she can get the funds she needs to get the treatment.”

— Reporter: 541-548-2186, gfolsom@redmondspokesman.com

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