Deadly Consequences: Stephanie

Chronic Lyme Disease or Lie?
“Lyme disease has ruined my life, 100 percent,” says former model Stephanie Vostry, 25. “I first started getting sick right after a camping trip about five years ago, and I had the flu for an entire year. I kept going to doctors, and they thought I was just crazy.” Stephanie says she suffers from constant pain and fatigue, extreme arthritis and seizures.

Dr. Phil notes that some people refer to chronic Lyme disease as an epidemic, while others don’t even believe it exists.

Stephanie answers to her critics who suggest she might be faking her disease. Plus, cameras capture her in the midst of a seizure.

Dr. Phil introduces The Doctors Promo Producer Debbie Haderle, who is friends with Stephanie.

“You know her, and I know you,” Dr. Phil says to Debbie, referring to speculation that Stephanie may be lying. “What do you think?”

“You can’t fake that kind of pain,” Debbie tells Dr. Phil. “Her whole body is twitching, and she’s shrieking and crying. It’s very scary, and it’s horrifying.”

Stephanie reveals that she has been self-medicating with so-called whip-its, or inhaling nitrous oxide, which she purchases online. She says 24 whip-its come in a box, and she uses up to four boxes a day, giving her about three hours of pain relief. “I’m just trying to numb my body,” she says in a previously-recorded interview.

[AD]Onstage, Stephanie tells Dr. Phil that she has tried every kind of medication that people typically rotate through when they’re chasing a diagnosis, and nothing is strong enough.

Dr. Phil asks Stephanie about her seizures. “I’ve never heard a seizure patient as vocal as you are while you’re having your seizures,” he tells her. “Is there a degree of consciousness there?”

“There is,” she responds. She says she screams because she’s aware of her pain while convulsing. “It’s like somebody’s just beating you and flogging you and stabbing you.”

San Diego weathercaster Brooke Landau joins the show and shares her story: She says one day in 1995, she went to bed feeling fine and awoke paralyzed from the waist down and the neck up. She says she didn’t move again for a-year-and-a-half. Seven years later, she was diagnosed with Lyme disease. Brooke says she had unknowingly been bitten by a deer tick — the most common way of contracting the disease. She says her blood tests had come back negative, despite seven positive spinal tap results.  
Brooke says she lost her short-term memory, hearing in her left ear and part of her sight, and developed colitis, spinal meningitis, heart arrhythmia, palpitations and arthritis. She says she underwent an experimental and beneficial treatment: pumping high doses of antibiotics into her heart, 24 hours a day for two months, and 30 days of treatment in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber.

“Why does it take so long to get this diagnosis for Lyme disease?” Dr. Phil asks.

Brooke says the blood test for determining Lyme disease is inaccurate.

Dr. Phil clarifies that most people who are bitten by ticks do not get Lyme disease or other types of infection.

Dr. Paul Auwaerter, professor and clinical director at Johns Hopkins University, joins the show via Polycom and explains why he does not believe Lyme disease is a chronic illness. Dr. Chitra Bhakta, who specializes in autoimmune disorders and heads the OC Integrative Medical Center in Southern California, is in the audience. She believes chronic Lyme disease does exist.

[AD]Dr. Bhakta explains her reasoning in prescribing long-term antibiotics. “I’m basically a mainstream doctor who has a patient coming in and saying, ‘Look, those treatment guidelines that you treated me with are not working.’ And then I have to make a decision where I need to help these patients,” she says. She offers to help treat Stephanie pro bono.

“Thank you,” Stephanie responds.

For more information on Stephanie and her struggles with Lyme disease, click here.