Montreal artist Donna Jacobs is hoping her charcoal drawings on display at Parrsboro’s Main & Station will raise awareness about the horrors of Lyme disease as well as the urgent need for improved diagnosis and treatment.
Jacobs says the exhibit, called Drawing Out Loud, Many Faces of Lyme Disease, tries to expose the emotional torments of the tick-borne illness both for those who suffer from its potentially disastrous effects and for their families.
“Lyme disease is not very well recognized in Canada,” Jacobs says, “nor is it properly diagnosed, nor do we have proper testing.”
Jacobs adds that her own daughter, Bronwyn, was likely infected 20 years ago at a Girl Guide Camp in Quebec. However, the disease went undiagnosed until she married a U.S. citizen and ended up in an American hospital where her husband insisted that she be tested.
Today, Bronwyn, who just turned 29, is being treated for multiple health problems.
“She suffers from severe gastroparesis, which means that her stomach doesn’t work any longer,” Jacobs says. “She is on a feeding tube attached to her intestines. She has no gall bladder and she has only 50 per cent vision.”
Jacobs says Bronwyn also suffers seizures and dementia-like symptoms.
“Her husband will find her in the middle of the road looking for a bus in the middle of the night so they have to lock their doors now. But her spirit is still intact and she is still fighting as hard as she can and loves every minute of her life.”
The power of art
Some of Jacobs’ charcoal drawings are based on sketches she drew while her daughter was in hospital in Kansas. Jacobs says her sketches helped break barriers between the doctors and her daughter.
“She became human. She even had doctors who would drop in to her room just to see the sketches and talk about them because they were being talked about in the hospital. So we took those sketches and made them much louder.”
Jacobs says that in Canada, tests for Lyme disease are only 20 per cent effective, so there’s a need for better testing and more awareness among doctors who often misdiagnose an illness that can be treated effectively with antibiotics especially in its early stages.
In her exhibit catalogue, Jacobs refers to an article in Maclean’s magazine, which asks why Canada is lagging behind in treating Lyme disease. The article, by senior writer Anne Kingston, also raises questions about differences of opinion within the Canadian medical profession that may be hindering patients from getting effective treatments.
The Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation, which is campaigning for better diagnosis and treatment, has a wealth of information — as well as the latest news — on its website.
Health Canada’s website also has extensive information on Lyme disease including steps people should take to prevent it.
Donna Jacobs’ exhibit will be on display in the second-floor gallery at Main & Station until Friday, July 24.
She is currently working on getting bookings so that she can show the exhibit across Canada.