Jane Lindsay thought that by age 64, she’d be shopping for a home in Arizona.
But instead, she has come out of retirement for an unusual and tragic reason: Her 40-year-old triplet daughters all have Lyme disease, which has damaged their ability to walk, talk and eat.
Michelle, Melissa and Melinda Lindsay of West Fargo first got sick about four years ago, all within a few months of each other.
“They started to lose the use of their hands,” Lindsay said. “One of them ended up losing her speech and doesn’t walk now.”
Lindsay believes her daughters contracted the illness, which is spread by deer ticks, at a lake cabin the family rented in August 2011. Lindsay got a tick bite while they were there, so she was treated for Lyme. A few months later, the family’s dog had to be put down, possibly for Lyme.
“The girls at that point were fine,” she said. “But then a year later, all this other stuff started.”
“The only thing they can hold is a 4-ounce paper cup half full of food. They can’t chew. All their food is bulleted down to liquid,” said Lindsay, referring to the high-powered blender she’s had to replace four or five times.
For years, Lindsay wondered whether her daughters had muscular sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease, but they declined to be tested because they said they didn’t have those symptoms. Recently, one of the triplets had an MRI and it didn’t reveal anything
“We tried a muscle therapist, we tried a prolotherapist, we tried laser, we tried acupuncture, we tried chiropractic … and we tried the medical field,” Lindsay said. “They would get some relief, but then it wouldn’t last.”
Last fall, a naturopathic doctor in Moorhead diagnosed them with chronic Lyme disease.
There is much controversy in the medical community over whether “chronic” Lyme disease exists, as well as how to diagnose and treat it, and Lindsay realizes that.
“I think it’s kind of a thing that people aren’t acknowledging,” she said.
Although a course of antibiotics is the typical treatment for Lyme disease, Lindsay said that’s less effective for chronic Lyme “because it’s already been in you so long.” Her daughters take tonics three times a day.
“Sometimes it works rapidly. Most of the time, it takes over years to get better, and sometimes you don’t get better,” Jane said of their treatment program.
Before they got sick, the Lindsay daughters, who are their parents’ only children, owned a day care and lived together.
“They were 100 percent healthy. Healthy, happy young women,” Lindsay said. “So it literally turned their lives upside down.”
The illness turned her life upside-down, too, and that of her husband, Tom Lindsay, 67.
Tom has been unable to retire, and Jane went back to work so that they could pay for the triplets’ health insurance and other expenses. Typically, Tom works 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Jane works 5 to 9 p.m., though she has recently taken a leave of absence to care for the triplets.
During the day, “the most I can leave is for an hour, because I need to be there,” she said.
That’s why Jane Lindsay’s friends have decided to help
“They just don’t have time together; they don’t have time off,” said Susan Schrader, who works with Lindsay. “It’s too physically exhausting for anyone to keep doing that.”
“We’re very concerned about her and her husband,” echoed Cheryl Neil, another co-worker.
Neil and Lenore King, an outreach specialist with Community Options, are planning a June benefit for the Lindsay family, with the hope of raising enough money for the couple to buy special equipment and hire a professional caregiver for their daughters. They want to see Jane and Tom take some time for themselves again, like they used to.
“We were at the lakes every summer. We went on trips together all the time. So hopefully we can get back to that again someday,” Jane Lindsay said. “That’s our goal. We’re hoping.”