Alex and Sara Lloyd and their two daughters Sophie and Suzanna live in Rockford, Michigan and spend their days running their two small businesses and spending time as a family.
Four summers ago, the entire family came down with a nasty stomach bug. One by one, each family member started to get better—except for 11-year-old Suzanna, who just kept getting sicker. Over the next couple weeks, Suzanna went from having a low-grade fever and chills to not being able to eat or even get off the couch.
“I have never been so terrified,” said Sara. “She was literally screaming in pain.”
That’s when Alex and Sara decided it was time to visit Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in downtown Grand Rapids. As they prepared to leave for the hospital, Suzanna fell down as she attempted to walk to the bathroom. Her hands were trembling and her eyes began fluttering uncontrollably. The family rushed to Helen DeVos where the hospital staff immediately completed an MRI of Suzanna’s brain. But when the results came back, there didn’t appear to be anything wrong with her. The Lloyds and doctors were baffled. Suzanna was admitted to the hospital for further testing.
Over the next week, Suzanna became weaker and weaker as the nurses and doctors tested for everything they could think of that could cause her to be so ill. After many blood draws and a spinal tap, the Lloyds finally had a positive test result: Lyme disease.
The Lyme disease had caused Suzanna’s brain stem to swell, so her official diagnosis was Lyme Meningitis, which occurs when the bacteria invades the nervous system.
“The doctors at Helen DeVos were amazing,” said Sara. “They were so understanding, they were patient, they explained everything to us and they refused to give up until they had an answer to what was happening.”
Within a few hours of the diagnosis, Suzanna was put under general anesthetic to have a PICC line inserted just above her heart for a month-long treatment of antibiotics. She started to improve and within a few days she was ready to move from Helen DeVos to a rehab location.
Because Suzanna hadn’t been able to walk since arriving at the hospital, she was moved to Mary Free Bed for rehabilitation. Any task that required hand/eye coordination, like reading or writing, was now very difficult for her.
But Suzanna was a fighter. The staff at Mary Free Bed talked of the potential of a wheelchair as well as a special room to rest in at Suzanna’s school because she was still unable to sit up for more than a few minutes at a time. Suzanna was having none of that. She worked hard and when she was discharged a week later she was walking on her own.
“I remember the nurses at Helen DeVos telling me they work miracles at Mary Free Bed and that was definitely the case in our situation,” said Sara.
At the time of Suzanna’s illness, the Lloyds were covered by Priority Health through Sara’s employer.
“Because of the way we were treated during Suzanna’s illness, we knew that we wanted to stay with Priority Health when I went down to part time and we purchased insurance ourselves.”
This summer, Sara reflects on how getting through this scare brought the family closer.
“Sometimes I wonder if we’ll ever get over the scariness of it, but in a way I kind of hope we don’t because it makes us so appreciative and grateful for good health.”
The Lloyds are four of 996,000 reasons that Priority Health works to provide a healthier approach to health care.