After spending years studying Lyme disease, Enid Haller and husband Sam Hiser opened the Martha’s Vineyard Lyme Disease Center last Thursday off Panhandle Road in West Tisbury.
The educational center provides pamphlets and books on Lyme disease, a list of so-called Lyme-literate doctors and individual consultations with Ms. Haller to talk about medical history, symptoms and steps to getting accurately diagnosed and treated.
“We are Lyme advocates, more than anything,” said Ms. Haller.
Added Mr. Hiser: “If you don’t have a free information center like this on the Vineyard, people don’t know what steps to take.”
Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. Symptoms are broad-ranging including flu-like effects, fever, headache and skin rash. There is debate about whether the disease causes chronic, long-term illness. High rates of Lyme disease have been documented on the Vineyard, and a five-year public health study about the disease is underway through a grant with the Island boards of health.
Ms. Haller has a PhD in psychology. She and her husband became involved in studying Lyme disease when their daughter was 11 and became ill with the tick-borne disease. Later they discovered that they, too, had Lyme.
Ms. Haller said because of the controversies surrounding the issue of chronic Lyme disease, finding reliable information and physicians can be difficult. The idea of the center, she said, is to “help people help themselves” through education and free information.
Ms. Haller also hosts a Lyme disease support group on the first Wednesday of each month at Howes House in West Tisbury.
“Everybody has their own Lyme story and I’ve heard hundreds of them over the past few years. They’ve been to hell and back,” Ms. Haller said.
The new center is open Monday through Thursday from noon to 6 p.m. at 38A Panhandle Road. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 508-693-1846.