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Family urges lawmakers to provide better Lyme disease care

Nurses, advocates and families held a Lyme disease rally at Maybrook Hills Rehabilitation and Healthcare center to urge lawmakers to provide better tests and treatment.

ALTOONA -- Nurses, advocates and families held a Lyme disease rally at Maybrook Hills Rehabilitation and Healthcare center to urge lawmakers to provide better tests and treatment.

Gerry Beisinger has fought Lyme disease since October.

He said the disease prevented him from celebrating his anniversary with his wife, Dianne.

"He was here and I was home," Dianne said.

Gerry's been at Maybrook since November, and his wife has barely left his side. "I live here," Dianne said.

At Monday's rally, Gerry surprised Dianne by asking her out to dinner, "A first date," they called it.

Maybrook provided the money for the two to enjoy a meal at Hoss's restaurant in Altoona after months of a fight that they said could have been prevented.

Nurses said current laws don't provide adequate tests for Lyme diagnoses, and doctors are unable to provide treatment without a positive test. They said the tests are typically 50 percent reliable.

Dianne said Gerry suffered from many Lyme symptoms after a day of target-shooting near the woods with friends.

She said even with the tick she found on him, the hospital couldn't treat him without a positive test result.

Gerry did in fact have Lyme Disease, but since he could not be diagnosed, he did not receive short-term treatment.

Registered nurse,Amber Altiero, attended the rally and collected letters from people to send to lawmakers. She said once the disease spreads the way it did in Gerry's case, the situation becomes much more dire.

"Doctors really should be diagnosing people clinically. They should be looking at their history, their symptoms in their testing and a lot of factors but many times they're looking at just a test and the test is so unreliable that it leaves a lot of people out and then the infection spreads and becomes chronic. Then, it's very difficult to treat," Altiero said.

Altiero said that to make matters worse, insurance now only covers short-term treatment, leaving out a large number of patients who suffer for months or years.

State House representatives will vote this week for health care policies to provide more coverage and access to better testing.

"I'm begging them to pass this. I'm begging them to get this through. They need to start to take this seriously," Dianne said.

After months of long-term treatment, the couple said they will take on a huge financial burden.

"People can't afford this. When this is all done I'm looking at a $200,000 bill when hes done. Yeah. That's a lot of money," Dianne said.

Altiero said people can contact their local senators in coming weeks after the House votes in order to help the legislation to pass. She said people can also find more information on the Altoona Area Lyme Disease Support Facebook page.

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