A loving wife and mother overcomes the challenges of a debilitating illness and returns to living life to the fullest
Four years ago, Brandi Dean and her husband Christopher were on cloud nine. They had just welcomed the newest member of their family into the world, a baby boy named Finn. Together with their two-year-old son Rylan, they were overjoyed with the excitement of their new family of four. Unfortunately, things would soon change drastically for the Dean family.
Just a few months after Finn’s birth, Brandi was rushed to the Emergency Room with symptoms of muscle weakness, heart palpitations, severe panic and disorientation. At the hospital, she was told she had Lyme Disease, a tick borne illness that can cause a range of symptoms including fever, migraine and fatigue, and if left untreated, can spread to the joints, heart and nervous system. Brandi’s initial diagnosis would later be retracted by another physician, only to be diagnosed yet again by another doctor. She was prescribed medication to treat her symptoms and sent home. This would be the first of many visits to the doctor and a long, tumultuous road for Brandi and her family.
“I continued to have the same debilitating symptoms – often overcome by vertigo, hearing loss, heart palpitations and severe panic attacks,” said Brandi. “With each incident, I struggled to walk the three blocks to the doctor’s office, only to return home with a new prescription to a different anti-depressant or anxiety medication. I was told that the symptoms were just being caused by my anxiety.”
Brandi’s health was deteriorating quickly. Once lively and athletic – Brandi had served four years in the United States Coast Guard performing difficult search and rescue missions on a 110 foot cutter before starting her family – she had become so fragile that she could barely walk, let alone care for her two young children.
“I was overwhelmed with guilt,” said Brandi. “I prayed every night that I would wake up in the morning able to be the mother I always dreamed I would be – the kind that swings her kids around in circles while chasing them through the park and snuggles up in bed together pouring over books.”
After many excruciating months and numerous different doctors, Brandi was finally able to get the care and treatment she needed by a physician who knew and understood Lyme Disease. “I realized that I had become a shadow of my former self,” said Brandi. “I am now able to manage most of my symptoms through the proper medications, although living with this illness is still a daily struggle.”
Unfortunately, Brandi’s story is not uncommon to those who are living with Lyme Disease. Often referred to as the ‘silent’ or ‘invisible’ epidemic, Lyme Disease is frequently misdiagnosed and misunderstood by the medical community – its symptoms mistaken for other psychological challenges like anxiety, rather than for the debilitating chronic illness that it is.
After Brandi’s experience, the Deans turned trauma into action. Through their generosity, the Dean Center for Tick Borne Illness at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital opened its doors in June of 2015. The Center offers a specialized clinical and research program for those with challenges related to tick borne illness. The goals of the Dean Center are to improve the care and function of patients with Lyme Disease and other tick borne illness by focusing on individualized treatment, ongoing education and emerging science.