Lyme Disease Gives Pat Kessler A Reality Check

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Spend some time with WCCO-TV political reporter Pat Kessler at the Minnesota State Capitol and one thing is clear, he loves the place. He even leads Capitol tours for kids.

Still, he’s not just the Cliff Clavin of Capitol facts. He’s one of its longest serving reporters, with a well-earned reputation as one of its hardest workers.

“It’s very difficult to be away because I’m always thinking, ‘I’m missing something,'” said Kessler. “I mean, I’m missing something somewhere in this Capitol.”

That’s why WCCO was so shocked when he called in sick one day last July.

“I thought I was going to die,” he said. “It was terrible.”

It happened after a very scary Sunday night.

Kessler spends a lot of time outdoors and admits he’d noticed a bull’s-eye-shaped rash on his right thigh.

He worried about Lyme disease. But he’s Kessler, so he planned to squeeze in a visit to the doctor the next day. Then he started getting sicker and sicker.

“Temperature of 99, 100, 101, 102, 103,” he said. “Headache, fever, chills, throwing up. I didn’t know what was going on.”

His head was throbbing, he could hardly see and barely walk. His wife rushed him to Region’s Hospital, where the ER staff treated him with extreme caution.

“I go into isolation. Everybody who comes in to see me is wearing a mask and gloves,” he remembered. “I’m like ‘Oh my god. What happened? What’s going on?'”

Kessler doesn’t remember much after that, which is why he returned to the hospital months later to thank his doctors and find out why they were so concerned.

“You just looked so sick, which is why we went on to do the spinal tap and all that, because we were really worried about you,” said Dr. Stephanie Taft, the supervising physician.

They started treating him for Lyme disease immediately because of the bull’s-eye rash. But they suspected something more.

He had the classic symptoms of meningitis, in part, because the second stage of Lyme disease can be a form of meningitis.

“To rule out the meningitis, we do what’s called a lumbar puncture and put a needle into your back,” said Dr. Marc Ellingson, a resident at Regions.

“That’s a spinal tap,” said Kessler, wincing at the memory.

It’s a painful procedure, but fortunately, Kessler’s spinal fluid was clear and the Lyme disease was both caught and treated early.

“There are side effects to medications but I feel like the treatment is better than missing the diagnosis of Lyme and not treating it,” Taft said.

That’s because missing it can have dire consequences, according to Taft.

“Like the potential heart problems, developing a true meningitis and then even more chronic problems down the road,” she said.

In Minnesota, there’s an average of 1,110 cases per year, mostly between May and July, and then again in the autumn when more people are out in the woods.

Even though Kessler’s case was diagnosed and treated so early, his recovery wasn’t easy.

“I was off work, just completely out of it for days and coming back, it was hard,” he said.

This hard-driving reporter, known for working such long hours in the Capitol in his cramped basement office, admits that he sometimes struggled to make it through the day.

“I was tired all the time,” he said. “I had fatigue, I still had headaches, soreness and aches.”

Even now, more than three months later, he still feels lingering effects.

“Every few days I’d be really sick,” he said. “Very tired. Then it got a little farther apart. Now it’s once every few weeks.”

Imagine if this wasn’t a relatively mild case of Lyme; caught early.

Kessler certainly does and he hopes this story will make others more aware than he was.

“This is the kind of thing that makes you pay attention,” he said. “Makes you sit up and pay attention.”

Kessler hopes this will make people more aware of Lyme disease and, since the ticks are so small, to really watch for the rash. If you see a bull’s-eye, go straight to the doctor.

More from Amelia Santaniello
  • Dawn

    Thanks for sharing your story, :Pat. I am glad to hear you are feeling better.

  • harlan isom

    i has lymes disease 3 years ago. it was like a summer from hell. Bullseye on arm. Went back to CA when symptioms ocurred. Each night around 6 p.m. a servere pain started in back of both legs from waist down to ankles. Pain lasted all night and subsided each morning around 9 a.m. Went to Eisenhouwer emergency room 2 nights in a row. Took several tests. They had no clue about Lymes disease as it is not common in CA. Finallly we convinced the Dr to prescribe th 21 medication. It solved the problem. Now 3 years later i don’t seem to have the same leg strenght and seem to have slight balance issues. It is not something to leave untreated..

  • S. M. Smith

    People are under the mistaken belief that tick disease happens only in isolated, woody areas of Minnesota. Unfortunately, there are several cases in the Twin Cities and suburbs as well. These diseases include: Rocky Mtn Spotted Fever, Erlichiosis, Lymes, and the viral infection Powasson. Thanks to Pat for putting the word out to everyone to be aware. Often, especially in very early Spring the ticks are so small that they go unnoticed. When symptoms of fever, headache, muscle aches occur, please go to the doctor and ask for testing for tick borne illnesses. Test results now return in just a few hours. We have had both bacterial infections and viral encephalitis infection in our family this year from tick bites. It is common. Be on the alert, especially with children, please. If you get resistance, as we have in the past from your medical provider, go to another doctor. Unfortunately, not all medical professionals are up to date on this problem. The antibiotic Doxicycline works within 24 hours. There is no medication for Powasson, so it is the most serious.

  • Carol Raines

    Pat, I’m so glad you are ok now,

  • Tammy Mohs

    I just had a deer tick on Sunday crawl on my arm while watching tv. It must of came from my small dog that I let out just to go to the bathroom as I didn’t do anything outdoors in the yard to think I could pick up one. That is my third deer tick for this year. I have had 2 attach that started the bullseye, I could feel a weird inflicting pain coming from where it was attached to find an extremely small tick that was already starting to infect me. Year after year, I am seeing more and more of them in central Minnesota. It is so difficult to look for them on dogs! Good story Pat, glad to hear you are better.

  • Ed Horsmann

    Pat, happy that you were one of the lucky ones who were treated for your lyme disease. I have been tested positive but they will not treat me with the doxicycline. Maybe there is a shortage of it or maybe it is because I only have medicare and ucare.
    good luck with your battle
    Ed Horsmann
    Grand Rapids

    • Angela Castle

      Ed, there are doctors who have extensive training in Lyme disease and associated infections in MN who will treat you appropriately. Contact for information on a Lyme Literate Physician. This is not something to mess around with.

  • Ellen S

    Glad to hear you are much better. I know first hand some of your struggles with Lyme. I’ve had Lyme for two years now originating from a tick bite with NO INITIAL RASH and NO FLU-LIKE SYMPTOMS. It was months later that I was positively diagnosed with chronic Lyme having many of the classic symptoms. It’s my understanding that a bull’s eye rash only occurs in 50 percent of cases so I now tell anyone bitten by a deer tick to bring the tick in for testing and get medical treatment immediately if the tick tests positive for Lyme. Seems a bit extreme but if I would have heard this advice early on I would have avoided a life-changing disease. Thanks for writing this article and raising awareness!

  • Dorothy Leland

    Mr. Kessler, glad you and your doctors figured out what was wrong and got you the treatment you needed. Alas, untold thousands of Lyme patients are routinely denied appropriate medical care because they don’t have a bull’s-eye rash and/or they “flunk” a lab test that’s highly unreliable for finding Lyme in the first place. You know how bad you’ve felt the past few months? That’s how bad many Lyme patients feel for 3…or 10…or 30 years. And still they are denied the treatment they need. Thank you for your efforts to raise awareness of Lyme disease. It’s a serious health risk in this country that is largely being swept under the rug by the medical establishment.

    Dorothy Leland

  • Julei Engle

    Hi Pat, I’ve always been impressed with your work. So glad to hear your Lyme disease was caught early and you were treated effecitvely immediately.

    For most Minnesotans, it doesn’t happen that way!

    Many of us have suffered the devastating and debilitating effects of Lyme disease for years, even decades, without appropriate or effective treatment; often dismissed by Drs and medical “professionals” who refused to help us as “nuts”.

    The best advice I can give you is to please watch the movie, “Under Our Skin (available from NetFlix or at the UOS website.) Being a political reporter, you’ll be able to appreciate the political nature of the medical controversy surrounding Lyme disease, which the movie exposes, much better than most Lyme sufferers.

    I find it almost criminal that the IDSA and other forces that influence our medical care, are allowed to prevent Minnesotans from getting proper antibiotic treatment for Borellia and related tick-borne co-infections. Insurance companies are putting doctors who adequately and agressively treat patients with chronic Lyme disease (aka Lyme Literate MDs, LLMDs) out of business by manipulating medical boards and launcing malpractice suits against those doctors that prescribe more than 3 or 4 weeks of antibiotic treatment. Long term antibiotic treatment of persistant neurological symptoms is the only treatment proven to be effective for patients whose initial infection went untreated or inadequately treated in the beginning.

    Just this week, Dr. Hoffman in Wisconsin was being threatened with loss of his license to practice medicine in that state until thousands of his Lyme disease patients wrote in with their support demanding an end to the witch hunt against him. (He was lucky, because many LLMDs before him, ie, Drs Charles Ray Jones, Joseph Jemsek, Joe Burrascano, and others nationwide were railroaded out of practice or threatened by similar events perpetrated by insuarance companies to keep their costs down.)

    Just last month, Dr. Timothy Burke, an Infectious Disease specialist in Duluth accepted a referral of a patient with a confirmed case of Lyme disease from a primary care physician in Central Minnesota for further treatment. But even though the patient’s case of Lyme disease had been recently confirmed with positive antibody test results, Dr. Burke stated that, “In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit I don’t believe in chronic Lyme disease. If you’ve been treated with 3 weeks of antibiotics, you’re cured” (despite overwhlming evidence to the contrary!) When the patient reponded, “But obviously I’m not cured. LOOK at me, I’m terribly SICK! Aren’t you going to do ANYTHING to help me?” The Dr. replied, “That’s just your opinion!” and refused to even consider any further testing or treatment. Dr. Burke also mentioned that his colleague, Dr. Kevin Stephans, (who has publicly acknowledged use of long term antibiotics for treating his Lyme patients) no longer prescribes long term antibiotics for chronic Lyme infections either. When asked why not, or if the policy of refusing antibiotic treatment longer than 3-4 weeks was mandated on the doctors by St. Mary’s Duluth Clinic, Essentia Health, or some other entity, the doctor refused to answer, claiming it was irrelevant. (On the contrary, I believe the answer to that question is at the heart of the debate over Lyme disease in this country and why Lyme patients in all 50 states, including Minnesota, are suffereing unnecessarily with chronic Lyme disease.)

    Minnesota is one of the top 10 states in the country for prevalence of Lyme disease, yet most Minnesotans are left inadequatley treated, or completely untreated. Many have sought treatment in other states because of the polical climate in MN surrounding Lyme disease, since they can not get adequate care for chronic Lyme disease at home.

    I urge you to dig deeper into this story and help expose the injustice and mistreatment of Lyme disease sufferes in Minnesota. It’s a public health disaster that deserves further investigation!

    I’d appreciate hearing from every representative at the state capital on how they plan to address these Lyme Disease issues and improve the Lyme-related health care of all Minnesotans.

    Julie Engle
    FIfty Lakes, MN

  • Wendy in NYS

    Mr. Kessler, You are very lucky to have been diagnosed and treated right way because 93% of the time, it doesn’t show up in the spinal fluid. I am not so lucky, mine is chronic…..and I also have chronic Babesiosis. It can be brutal, I am very sick. Every single night my pillow is soaked from sweating. This disease is LIVING HELL! The government better wake up and get on this because everybody is getting it now! It is a public health epidemic here in NY! I have heard alot about Minnesota being infested too! It is in every state now, and around the world.

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  • recovering

    Because you were so sick at the very beginning, be sure if you do not fully recover to ask your doctors to test for co-infections. I have had Lyme disease for several decades and have been on continuous treatment for a long time. It wasn’t until it was discovered I also had another tick=born disease of bartonella and began treatment for that that I finally am getting better. Co-infections are common in endemic regions like MN but seriously under tested. They can be transmitted by the same or another tick. Good luck in your recovery and keep yourself informed!

  • Denise Presnell-Weidner

    Please note – Doctor Hoffman has not been cleared by the Wisconsin Medical board. They have suspended his license – leaving hundreds of patients searching for a doctor. Please Mr. Kessler – take your skills as a reporter and your personal experience with Lyme (which most of us would suspect is not over) and investigate this case in Wisconsin. Many of Dr. Hoffman’s patients are from Minnesota.

  • silvia england

    Mr.Keller you are lucky to get help,my lymes went undiagnosed for 7 years because doctors really did not believe me until I was in the hospital for heart problems,meningitis and still got very little treatment(guidelines they told me)and so I am still suffering.good luck and please make some noise about the disease so people like and thousands more have a voice.

  • Shannon Devine

    Mr. Kessler. Please check out the slide show by CBS titled Lyme Disease : Lies and Truths. Do something about this terrible article. There is immense evidence contradicting most of the important “points” they state. Please also note the bacteria can cycle every 4-6 weeks so if you notice a pattern of getting sick the same time every month or so– that is the bacteria, still cycling. Liquid Samento is the only thing that has worked for me. Thank you.

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