I was 13 years old… A sophomore in high school, trapped in my body that would refuse to cooperate with me. Yes, 13 and it has never gone away. I am 26 now, 13 years later, still dealing with these issues. What issue is it? Lyme disease.
My name is Morganna Hayes. I was born and raised on the North Shore of Oahu, currently living in Santa Cruz, California, working full time as a fire fighter, living with my wonderful boyfriend of 4 years and our crazy but amazing rescue dog, named Dahlia. We love her to pieces! Let me take you back to when I was 13. I was in high school, competing in tennis, outrigger canoe paddling, and track ~ living the normal 13 year old life. I was going to school ~ I was the president of several clubs, involved in student government, and just felt like I was crushing life! Then, I wasn’t. I came down with a sinus infection that just about destroyed my life. I was barely able to attend school, I couldn’t attend P.E. classes which did not go over well with the instructor, had to take time off of all of my sports, and spent months in doctor's offices and living off antibiotics became a daily regime. This lasted about 4-5 months, and then all of the sudden, just like that, I was fine! Or so I thought. Fast forward 12 months almost to the day, and WHAMO! I came down with the worst digestive system issues one could imagine. In 2006, people talking about this stuff was not super mainstream and man, is it embarrassing when you are 14 years old, and dealing with it. Nobody understands and it is painful to talk about. Back and forth to every kind of doctor, every kind of invasive “-oscopy” you could think of, I was put on opiates for pain, antidepressant medication because the doctors thought that it was “all in my head”, restrictive diets ranging from raw vegan, to gluten free, to paleo, to nothing (fasting). It sucked. But it was life. The doctors didn’t know what to say, so I just kept going, but they gave me a blanket diagnosis of IBS and Celiacs Disease. Okay cool, now we know what is wrong. I ate gluten free and everything should have been fine. It wasn’t. I limited my diet more and more every month and got more and more sick to everything else I ate. My energy tanked, my body was achy, I was always getting sick, but, again, doctors said it was in my head. I went on like this for about 9 years, through college, and after.
In 2013, I graduated college and started competing in Crossfit because it was hard to go from being a dual sport NCAA athlete to being involved in no sports, so I had to find something. I fell head over heels for Crossfit. You could say I, “drank the Crossfit Koolaid”. I competed, coached, ran my own business of doing personal training in Crossfit gyms, did nutrition consulting, etc. My life revolved around fitness, nutrition, and most importantly, Crossfit. I was doing so well in it too! Winning competitions, getting the best score on every WOD in every class I did, traveling to compete and making money doing it, etc… But in 2015, my body tanked hard. It said, “no more I am done!”. I developed worsening food allergies, any energy I did have was completely gone, the fatigue was unreal, I gained 30 pounds in about 2 months and it sure as heck was not from eating like crap because I was on a super limited paleo diet and doing intermittent fasting.
I also got so sick that I was in the emergency room in Santa Cruz every day for almost a week with crippling stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, fevers, etc. They didn’t know what was wrong so they just kept sending me home. I eventually got better but Crossfit took the backseat in my life. I just couldn’t do it anymore. My diet basically consisted of white rice, boiled chicken, almond butter, and a little bit of coffee. It sucked. I couldn’t eat anything I wanted ~ no spices, no veggies, very few fruits and even the ones I did eat, usually made me sick. I felt like I had lost everything.
In 2015, I also decided I no longer wanted fitness and nutrition to be my main career. I needed something more. I decided working in Fire and EMS was what I wanted to do. I have no idea why I thought this was a good idea at the time considering what a demanding career it is and how bad my health was, but if you want something bad enough, you do it. I went to EMT school while working full time as a head lifeguard, graduated, got a job on the ambulance, worked mostly night shifts, and loved it. In the beginning of 2017, I got hired by a volunteer fire department in Santa Cruz, and they were going to put me through a 3 month long academy.
My body was barely hanging on but I wanted this more than anything. For three months, I sucked it up, put my nose to the grindstone all while working on the ambulance, as a head lifeguard, and going to the station to train on top of going to the academy 25+ hours a week. My body barely made it, but I finished top of my class out of 20 people, and I was only 1 of 2 females. It was so empowering and so amazing. I couldn’t believe I did it.
The minute I graduated, I went head first into the probationary firefighter life. Working shifts, running calls, doing maintenance, working my butt off to learn as much as I could, and going on wild land fires. I went on three strike teams throughout the very busy fire season in California. After my return from the second one, my body completely crashed harder than it ever had. I could barely get out of bed, my diet was so limited I could barely eat, I had less than no energy, which I didn’t know was possible, my joints ached me so badly I could barely walk at times, my brain fog was so bad I couldn’t think clearly, my skin was breaking out like I was a teenager eating too many candy bars every day, and I just overall felt like a complete zombie.
At this point, I knew something was really wrong. I could barely take my dog on a walk, couldn’t stay awake past 9 pm even if I took a 3 hour nap during the day, my test scores on fire tests, that I had taken before and aced, were drastically going down every time I took them, and I couldn’t focus on anything. I knew I needed to find out what was wrong. UCSF couldn’t figure it out, Stanford wouldn’t take me as a patient, my doctor had tried everything with little success, so I went big. I found a chronic disease specialist in Idaho. Took the next available new patient appointment, and one week later, we packed up the car for a 20 hour drive with the dog and took off.
We arrived Monday morning, and immediately, when I walked in and explained my story and gave him my labs from the past few years, he said “well, I think you have Lyme disease, but I can't prove it yet”. He did some other tests and found TONS of candida and parasites in my blood. Not unusual, but unusual to have without Lyme. I did 5 days at this amazing clinic to get rid of as much candida in my blood as I could. Treatments ranged from high dose vitamin C IVs, Major AutoHemotherapy IVS, Ozone Therapy, HCT Injections, Neural Therapy, Acupuncture, UV Light IVs, and more. While I was there, I also asked to be tested for Lyme, just for the heck of it. I didn’t think I had it, but better to know than to not!
I returned home and went right back to work at the fire department, temporarily took my name off the strike team list since my diet was so limited and my list of supplements was a mile long. The next day the Santa Rosa/Napa fires broke. It hurt me so badly to not be able to go, but I knew I needed to take care of my health and control my diet and supplements. I stayed back and helped at the station, but coincidentally, while I was on shift one night, a huge 400 acre fire broke out in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and I went. We were there for 19 hours the first day and 17 the next. On one minute's notice, I wasn't really able to whip up my ground turkey and kale for the day, so I ate what I had in my gear which was stuff I wasn’t allowed to eat on my candida diet (maple almond butter, larabars, and canned tuna). I survived but definitely felt it! The next week, my doctor called me from her personal cell phone. Test results came back. I have Lyme. Whoa. Hold the phone. I have Lyme!? Everything makes sense now!! The fatigue, the food allergies, the joint pain, the brain fog, the everything!
Although this is a bleak diagnosis, it was also nice to know I wasn’t crazy and that something was actually wrong. The doctor believes it is likely I have had it since my symptoms started back when I was 13! I have been living with this secret disease for that long and have just kept on going. I have to recognize that in myself and give myself credit for that because most days, I feel so terrible, that I question what the point is of even getting out of bed, but I just think back to how much I have accomplished while sick, and it motivates me to keep going. Many people are so bummed for me when they hear this, and don’t get me wrong, sometimes I am too, but what I have realized is, if I can do everything I did while suffering from crippling Lyme disease, what can I do when I am in remission!? Yes, remission. At this point my Lyme will never fully go away, but I can become symptom free and be the best firefighter I can be, living with Lyme, but crushing life!
Just remember, if you are going through hard times, you can feel the pain, don’t hide your emotions or stuff them away, but realize, every trial and tribulation you go through, only makes you stronger!!
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