Gigi Hadid honored her mother, Yolanda Hadid, at the inaugural Global Lyme Alliance gala in October 2015, and her emotional speech is finally available online in full.
“Tonight, we are honoring the person that, more than anyone I know, is hope for Lyme disease awareness: my mom,” said a teary-eyed Gigi. “For your fight, for your passion, and for making your journey one that will help so many, I’m so proud to honor you with this award.”
While Gigi herself is Lyme-free, Yolanda took the opportunity to announce that her other two children, Bella and Anwar, have also battled the disease.
“Watching my babies struggle in silence in order to support me and my journey struck the deepest chord of hopelessness inside of me, and it’s because of them that I’m motivated to stand here in front of you today,” Yolanda told the crowd during her own speech. “This award is for Anwar and Bella. This is my token and my promise to you that I will not allow you to live a life of pain and suffering. I will walk to the end of the Earth to find a cure, so that you can live a healthy life that you deserve. No child should suffer in the way that you do.”
Lyme disease can be confusing. Most people know it as a treatable infection you get from a tick, but recently, celebs with “chronic,” or post-treatment, Lyme disease, like Yolanda, have brought the long-term suffering and complications it can cause to light. To prevent further confusion, we answered five basic questions about the disease.
What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is caused by a spirochete, a corkscrew-shaped bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi, and is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 300,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme disease in the U.S. every year. It can affect people of all ages, though the CDC notes it’s most common in children, older adults, and others such as firefighters and park rangers who spend time in outdoor activities and have higher exposure to ticks.
What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?
One reason Lyme is so hard to pin down how similar the symptoms can be to other diseases. In fact, Lyme is often called “The Great Imitator.” Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans, which looks like a red circle around a patch of skin and begins at the site of the tick bite. Estimates of patients who develop a Lyme rash vary, ranging from about 30% to 80%.
Later symptoms of the disease can be more severe, and include severe headaches and neck stiffness, arthritis, facial or Bell’s Palsy, irregular heartbeat, and problems with short-term memory. It’s important to note that post-treatment Lyme disease is far more debilitating, and can be a years-long fight. (Post-treatment Lyme disease is the name for the condition when symptoms last for longer than six months, even after treatment.)
How is Lyme disease treated?
Patients are treated with antibiotics in the early stages, and usually recover rapidly and completely with the right dosage and proper care. Patients who do not recover fully or go untreated, however, are at risk for developing post-treatment Lyme disease, which can be more complicated. Recently, the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society published new guidelines for treating Lyme, after finding failure rates ranging from 16% to 39% for early treatment. No single antibiotic or combination of antibiotics appears to be capable of completely eradicating this kind of Lyme, and patients are often forced to make lifestyle changes on their own, like a stricter diet and a lot of rest, to deal with the symptoms.
How can Lyme be prevented?
Protecting yourself when you’re in the woods is crucial in avoiding Lyme — wear long pants, long sleeves, and long socks while out and about, and keep your clothes tucked in to avoid letting anything in. Spray everything around you with bug spray when you’re outdoors, and keep your own yard as tidy as possible if you live in a tick-heavy area. Always perform a thorough tick check when you’ve been outside, which means having someone else check your body for ticks. The smallest ones are the worst here, because you’re less likely to notice irritation from them, so grab someone you trust and make sure they’re inspecting you closely. And don’t forget your head! Run your hands over your whole scalp a few times to make sure there’s nothing there. Keep an eye on your body for a few days after your excursion, just to be safe.
If you do find a tick on your body, remove it with tweezers; do not use petroleum jelly, a hot match, nail polish, or other products. Grab the tick close to the skin and pull up gently so that all parts of the tick are removed. Wash your hands thoroughly with anti-bacterial soap afterwards. If possible, place the tick in a tightly closed container and bring it to your local health department or healthcare provider for examination.
What are we doing to end Lyme disease?
Efforts to eradicate Lyme disease are underway, thanks especially to efforts like Yolanda’s. Raising funds for research is a great first step, since Lyme has been relatively ignored in federal funding up until recently. Raising awareness and educating people, particularly those who live in areas more likely affected by ticks, on what the symptoms look like and how to find treatment is another great way to help.
Some who have dealt with the disease seem to recognize it instantly, but many spend years in pain before they figure out what’s wrong. More stories about what it looks and feels like are sure to help people find a clearer path to treatment, so if you or a loved one have dealt with Lyme, add your story when possible to the collective pool of knowledge. Know that resources are available if you have questions, and talk to your doctor immediately if you think you’re showing symptoms.