http://www.sun-sentinel.com/sports/coll ... ubcol071...
Is there a doctor in the newsroom?
Published July 17, 2005
People looking for the answer to a football, basketball or golf question could do no better than heading for the Sentinel's Sports Division, a gold mine of athletic information.
Those with a medical question, however, probably wouldn't even think of going there.
The wisdom of that distinction became painfully clear the past few weeks in the coverage of the case of Wyatt Sexton, who was found the evening of June 13 doing push-ups on an otherwise quiet Tallahassee
street, yelling at neighbors and proclaiming himself God. Police took him to the hospital, suspecting that he was under the influence of a drug.
This was more than just another college kid on a buzz, though. Sexton, a rising junior at Florida State University, was expected to be the starting quarterback this fall for what annually has been one of the
top college football teams in America.
His father, Billy, an assistant football coach at FSU, said, "doctors have informed us that drug abuse is not the problem." So what could it be?
The Sentinel kicked off its speculation with a column stating, "Let's hope it's drugs," and, "That is so much better than the alternative."
"The" alternative? There was only one?
Lamenting the possibility that Sexton might be stigmatized as "crazy," it explained that "the alternative" was mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder. That diagnosis, made from more than 200 miles away,
came not from a specialist but rather from a writer comparing reports of the football player's recent behavior with the description of that affliction on the National Institute of Mental Health's Web site.
It included as evidence that Sexton had forgotten about an annual postseason banquet more than a year before and had been photographed wearing a Florida sweatshirt at a Gators football game.
We learned a week ago, though, that just as Sexton's father had said, it was not drugs. Neither was it "the alternative" the Sentinel column had announced.
A doctor examined the 20-year-old and determined that it was Lyme disease, which is caused by a tick bite and can have neuropsychiatric effects.
The Sexton family responded in a statement that it had "been hurtful to Wyatt and our family to see media reports that were simply not true."
The Sentinel was not alone in publishing such incorrect speculation. At least one other Florida newspaper, the Palm Beach Post, did something similar in a news report. It, however, went to a professor of psychiatry for a discussion of the condition and quoted the president of the Florida Psychological Association as saying, "The symptoms in and of themselves do not give you a diagnosis. It's important to get a thorough evaluation."
Columns deserve -- and get -- wider latitude than news reports. That's because they express the personal opinion of someone with established expertise in a given subject, such as sports. Consequently, restaurant
columns don't critique films, and movie columns don't tell you where to skip the sushi.
The Sexton column, however, wandered from the locker room across town to the examining room -- and got the diagnosis all wrong.
Once that was established, though, the Sentinel surely would express contrition for having practiced medicine without a clue, right?
Not quite. Explaining that it had not been the intent of the earlier column to be hurtful, it went on to state in absolute terms that Sexton "never will play quarterback for the Seminoles again" and suggest that
he "never come back to Tallahassee."
We all know that if you're going to play football, you have to be tough. I always thought that was because some 300-pound lineman might land on you and break something you might later find useful.
It hadn't occurred to me that it was because a newspaper might kick you while you're down.
http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/s ... 8123.shtml
ACC EXTRA: Sexton on recovery road
Support key as former FSU starting quarterback battles Lyme disease.
By BOB THOMAS, The Times-Union
The simple pleasures of parenthood -- a son's smile of satisfaction after passing a test, siblings chasing each other around the house, or playing guitar -- are cherished more than ever in the Sexton home.
Five months ago, Joy and Billy Sexton had no idea what the future held for their son, Florida State quarterback and honors student Wyatt Sexton.
Today, the entire Sexton family will share the traditional Thanksgiving dinner with the FSU football team while reserving some private time to count their many blessings. Back in school and practicing with his teammates on a limited basis, Wyatt Sexton is recovering from a frightening battle with a disease that led to his nearly month-long confinement in a Tallahassee hospital ward. Countless tests and treatments failed to reveal the source, or provide a cure, for Sexton's mysterious illness, which came to a head following a June 13 psychotic episode requiring a police intervention.
"I truly believe that God had his hand in this in the beginning because there were so many doors that were closed that had to be opened," Joy Sexton said. "From the beginning, going into the hospital, the emergency room doctors said, 'We've run all the tests. There's nothing here that causes this type of behavior. You're in for the long haul because your son is sick, and I don't know what it is.'"
"That was a nightmare," said Billy Sexton, who had been looking forward to spending his 29th season as an FSU assistant football coach with his son as the starting quarterback. Thanks to the persistent efforts of longtime friends -- Ernie and Sandy Lanford, and Lance and Heidi Scalf -- the Sextons agreed to have their son tested for Lyme disease. "If it hadn't been for those four people that we're very good friends with, we wouldn't have known to go in that direction," Billy Sexton said. "I'm eternally grateful."
That test confirmed the suspicions of the two families, who recognized the symptoms because their lives have been touched by the spirochete bacteria often transmitted by a tick bite. When untreated, the disease can lead to symptoms ranging from rashes, headaches and lethargy to tremors, facial paralysis, mood swings and cognitive disorders. For the first time since their son's diagnosis, the Sextons agreed to an exclusive
interview with the Times-Union, hopeful that their story will bring greater awareness to a disease that's often misdiagnosed as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, lupus or bipolar disease. Wyatt, however, declined to be interviewed for this story. According to his mother, he remains "pretty raw" about published
accusations of alleged drug abuse following the June 13 episode, which came on the heels of his return from the Bonaroo Music Festival.
"Hopefully, over time, he will realize that he's in a position where he can bring a lot of great attention to this disease and hopefully be able to help get more money for research and better treatment and better diagnosis by the doctors," she said.
That's the problem the Sextons and many other have countered.
"Four years ago, I was diagnosed with the disease after it was misdiagnosed for 20 years,"
said Sandy Lanford, the wife of former Florida State golf coach Ernie Lanford. Lanford organized a support group -- Life Lyme -- in Tallahassee for the some 400 people she said are infected with the isease, "because I thought education was the way to change things. "The sad thing is we don't have a Lyme-literate doctor in town and we have to travel out of state."
Ernie Lanford and Lance Scalfa accompanied Joy, Wyatt and his sister, Leslie, on a chartered plane to Hermitage, Pa., home to doctor Chandra Swami. An expert in the field of Lyme disease, Swami put Sexton on the road to recovery, ordering a 12-week course of the antibiotic rocephrin, to be administered daily intravenously.
"[Wyatt] was very, very lucky," Sandy Lanford said. "He could be in a psych ward the rest
of his life if they hadn't learned what he has."
Within a few weeks, Sexton began to show signs of improvement on a daily basis, telling his father what he described as a "brain fog" was lifting. It hasn't been an easy recovery on a number of fronts.
"There were doors that were closed," Joy Sexton said. "You had to be extremely persistent and not
accept no as an answer from many people through this process."
Resistance came from some in the medical community as well as insurance companies, many of which will not pay for the extended antibiotic care required.
"Many people that have talked to me have lost their jobs, lost their health, lost their house, lost their marriage, lost their businesses," she said. "It's devastating. If the doctor tells you that you need this treatment and the insurance companies won't pay for it, then you'll do whatever you've got to do to get the treatment. We did and other families do also. When you have chronic Lyme and you don't get the right treatment [or] when the insurance companies won't pay for it, you either have to stop it -- many people that have stopped it die -- and it is devastating."
Throughout the ordeal, the Sexton family was receiving letters, e-mails and telephone calls of support, many from people suffering from Lyme disease.
"They call each other Lymees," Joy Sexton said. "Hundreds of Lymees wrote letters, called, sent e-mails, saying, 'I've had it. I went through it. There's life in the end of the tunnel.'"
Many wrote personal letters of encouragement to Wyatt.
"I'd go out to the mailbox to get the mail and a car with a stranger in it would roll down the window and say, 'How's Wyatt? We're praying,'" she said.
With the start of the school year approaching and his health improving, Wyatt convinced his parents to allow him to enroll as a part-time student. He registered for micro- and macro-economics courses. The Sextons remember the countless hours Wyatt spent studying for his first exam about a month into the school year. The disease had compromised his short-term memory, but not his determination.
"When he got out of this car he had this smile from ear-to-ear and I broke out in tears," Joy said.
"You don't realize that his processing had really slowed down because of all the infection and he knew it. ... So when he drives up and he has this smile on your face, you cry. I hadn't asked him how he's done on a test in 10 years."
It was just one of many small battles Wyatt has won on his way to recovery, though there is no cure for the disease when it has reached the chronic stage he suffers from. "My understanding is that with the appropriate treatment, which is tailored by your symptoms and your degree of infection, you can become symptom-free," Joy said. "But you have to be in touch with yourself so that when the symptoms start coming back, if they do -- and most people I've talked with [say] they do -- you have to go back on the antibiotics to make sure that the spirochete doesn't become rampant again."
According to his parents, Wyatt's recovery has also been fueled by his desire to return to the FSU football team in a full-time capacity next season. By working out in the weight room, he has already regained the more than 20 pounds he lost and has resumed running and throwing with teammates on a limited basis.
"He has a goal to come back and compete, to be the starting quarterback at Florida State, the position he left before he had this," Joy said. "I think he's well on his way."
In the process, he has brought much-needed attention to a disease Lanford said is reaching "epidemic" proportions. Her research, which will help support a state legislature bill to aid those suffering from Lyme, has uncovered approximately 1,800 diagnosed cases of the disease in Florida alone. Wyatt Sexton's case will undoubtedly put some teeth in that legislative cause.
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