Greenwich resident Rachel Robards and North Stamford’s Marissa Swann, have been named Co-Chairs of Global Lyme Alliance’s (GLA) “Time for Lyme” Gala. The event will be held Saturday, April 2, 2016, at the Hyatt Regency Greenwich in Old Greenwich, CT.
Both Robards and Swann said they are “thrilled” to co-chair the event and are committed to raising awareness about the devastating impact Lyme disease can have, particularly on children.
Robards, who formerly was Program Manager for Global Women’s Initiatives at IBM, says her experience with Lyme disease dates back to 1995 when she was a student at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in upstate New York. “I kept feeling really sick, but the ER sent me home two times saying it was the flu,” she said. “Then I found the bulls-eye rash.” Soon she was unable to move without extreme pain. Fortunately, Robards was eventually treated with IV antibiotics and made a full recovery.
Yet despite Robards experience with the tick-borne illness, Lyme was not top-of-mind when her two-year old son began having “tons of off-and-on unexplained fevers, night sweats and knee pains,“ she said. “We were living in New York for part of the time he was sick so it was understandable the doctors weren’t thinking Lyme.” After two years, and what they thought was toxic synovitis, a condition that causes hip pain in children, the pediatrician suggested her son be tested for Lyme. “Here I had gone through Lyme myself, and my son had it for two years, yet Lyme wasn’t on my radar,” she says.
Robards friend, Marissa Swann, who formerly worked as a portfolio manager at a hedge fund, says she first started feeling ill about three years ago when her son was eight months old. “I thought my post-natal hormones were unbalanced and hadn’t recovered,” she said. “I was an Olympic level athlete, so I knew my body, its limitations and what extreme exertion and depletion felt like. This was very different.” After being told she was suffering from “one virus or another, and maybe even M.S.,” her condition worsened. At one point, she says, “my body was under acute attack, in complete siege.”
It took one year of repeated doctor visits and tests before Swann was finally diagnosed and treated for Lyme in spring 2014. She has now recovered, she says, but is determined to raise awareness. “Some people still don’t believe Lyme exists and that’s heartbreaking,” she says. “It’s an ignominious disease.”
The mother of two children, ages 6 and 4, Swann hopes this year’s Gala raises significant funds for the continued research to develop a highly accurate diagnostic test and better treatments. She is particularly hopeful that a pediatric vaccine will one day become available. “For a child to be debilitated by something like Lyme is awful,” she says. “It’s incredibly sad.” Robards agrees: “I hope this event will help us get answers so that no children or adults have to suffer from Lyme.”
The “Time for Lyme” Gala is a major fundraising event for Global Lyme Alliance, a leading Lyme and tick-borne disease nonprofit. “We want to thank Rachel and Marissa for taking on this important leadership role,” said Robert Kobre, GLA’s Chairman. “We know they will do an incredible job and we will all work with them to make our 2016 Gala a huge success.”