Student raises LD awareness in friend's memory
Date: Sunday, August 26 @ 04:00:00 EDT
Topic: Lyme In The News

Olathe student raises money, awareness of Lyme disease

Kansas City Star
August 21, 2007

There is no dollar amount that will satisfy Amanda Piltz as she prepares for a fundraiser in her friend's memory.

Rather, she said, the goal Friday evening at McAlister's Deli in Olathe simply be to remember her friend who succumbed after battling Lyme disease for several years.

'I just want people to know and to be aware of who Brittany was and what this disease can do,' Piltz said, tears beginning to come to her eyes.

Though just 16, Piltz is the organizer of a fundraising event that's expected to draw many of Brittany Gallagher and Piltz's friends from their respective high schools, Olathe East and Olathe South.

They were friends, both transplants from California to the Olathe area. Their families were connected by a long friendship after Piltz's father built the Gallaghers' home when the family moved to the area. The families and the girls shared their stories of living in California. Brittany and Amanda danced together and spent much of their youth traveling west on summer vacations and enjoying weekend trips together.

But over time, the effects of the Lyme infection took its toll, Piltz said, as Gallagher became tired and weaker. She was forced to drop put of dance and couldn't participate in many of the school activities she had once loved. But even that didn't dampen she spirit, Piltz said.

'Even after her treatments she would still have that bright smile of hers,' she said. 'Even a few days before she died she was still making big plans for the future.'

Gallagher died in February after fighting the degenerative disease for several years. But Piltz wants to remember her friend, but the wake of her death she wants people to be more aware of Lyme, a disease that can infect anyone -- and one many doctors can overlook in initial testing.

That, in part, is what Piltz hopes to bring to center stage in her efforts on Friday. All of the money raised at McAlister's will benefit the Lyme Association of Greater Kansas City, an organization run by individuals with Lyme disease. The association serves as a resource for others, offering information on treatments needed and how to live a full life.

'We are small group of people trying to cover a lot of bases,' said Patty Spehart, a vice president with the Lyme Association. 'We are just thrilled that Amanda has decided to take this on.'

The Lyme Association works mainly with schools and organizations to spread the word that Lyme disease, while not completely understood, is a reality in Johnson County and can have devastating effects if ...

not treated.

'There are only a handful of doctors that will even take Lyme patients and even then they still say that Lyme disease is not something you can catch around this area,' she said.

But Spehart, a Lyme disease patient herself, says that it is time that misnomer is eliminated.

'With the money we can get the word out and get people informed,' she said.

The organization specializes in creating Tick Kits, packets of information on how to keep ticks -- a carrier of Lyme disease -- from spreading the potentially deadly infection. The kits are distributed to nurses, teachers and other professionals in the Kansas City area.

Presently, there's no cure for someone who has Lyme disease, but there are treatments and practices to help an infected person live a normal life even as the disease begins to take its toll.

'Sometimes it is just so overwhelming' Spehart said. 'I know how hard it is to take care of yourself. It is like having mono all the time.'

Spehart echoed Piltz's wishes for this Friday's fundraiser. While the money can go a long way to help get the word out, simply letting people know about Lyme and the effect it can have on anyone -- especially a close friend -- can do wonders in the fight against a disease that's widely misunderstood.

Lyme disease fundraiser

** What: A remembrance of Brittany Gallagher, an Olathe East student who died of Lyme disease in February , and awareness-raising event about the disease.

** When: Friday, Aug 24, 5 p.m. to close

** Where: McAlister's Deli in the Olathe Pointe Shopping Center, 119th Street and Black Bob Road.

** How to help: Fifteen percent of food and drink sales will be donated to the Lyme Association of Greater Kansas City for individuals mentioning Brittany Gallagher or Lyme disease.

** Learn more: Tables will also be set up at the restaurant to disseminate information about Lyme disease and the Lyme Association of Greater Kansas City.

** Association Web site:

This article comes from LymeBlog

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