Pennsylvania is said to have more cases of Lyme disease than any other state. Sadly, a Midstate teenager has a very bad case and she is sending out a warning.
Ticks are rampant this time of year, and no one knows that more than a 16-year-old girl from Mechanicsburg. She has been battling Lyme disease for five years.
"I did gymnastics and cheerleading and soccer and I played basketball out in the yard with my brother all the time," said Josie Gaffney.
But one day after playing soccer, Gaffney realized she had a tick bite. A few weeks later, the bull's-eye rash appeared, which does not always present as a symptom.
Before she knew it, she was diagnosed with Lyme disease. Gaffney said after insufficient testing and other complications, she now has rheumatoid arthritis. She is wheelchair bound and completely dependent on her parents.
"Now, it's just really hard because I used to do all those everyday and now I can't really do anything at all," Gaffney said.
"It's devastating...it's had a profound effect on our family, emotionally," said her mom, Lisa Gaffney.
But Josie Gaffney and her family are channeling those negative emotions into something positive. They started the Journey 4 Josie foundation to raise money for research, education and Josie's uninsured medical expenses, which are thousands of dollars every month.
Journey 4 Josie is also working to pass legislation that would force better research, medical benefits, and treatment for Lyme disease. There is even a bill being drafted in Josie's name.
"Because then more people would know about it and what it is and what it can do to you," Josie said.
"Don't let it go. Don't second guess yourself. Follow your gut. If something's wrong and you think you need to be re-checked or you want more information, there's local support groups that you can go to, there's things you can do," said Lisa Gaffney.
Josie and her family are also encouraging people to become more educated about how to ward off ticks and recognize the symptoms of Lyme disease because it is often misdiagnosed.
There is a Journey 4 Josie 5K this Saturday at Memorial Park in Mechanicsburg. Registration begins at 7:45 a.m. For more information on the event, the legislation, or the organization itself, visit http://journey4josie.org/.