CUMBERLAND - A year ago, the Geraghty family was preparing for the holidays just like they always did, unaware of the deep, life-altering trouble to come.
On Dec. 2, 2013, David Geraghty began feeling discomfort in his diaphragm. By the first week of January, he was intubated in the hospital.
Tara Geraghty said the past year has been one of questions, of desperation, of deep sadness as she's watched her husband's health go downhill, powerless to help him as doctors struggled to diagnose him.
Tara and Dave Geraghty were given more theories than they can even remember on what might be ailing the former principal at Shea and Tolman high schools in Pawtucket. They've faced one roadblock after another as they've tried to figure out what's wrong with him.
In September, students and staff at both high schools joined a national phenomenon and ran ALS ice bucket challenges to honor Geraghty and raise money for him and his family.
But Tara Geraghty now says her husband doesn't have ALS, short for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and she has questioned that diagnosis for much of 2014. Her work as a clinical social worker has given her enough knowledge to know that ALS patients don't show significant improvement from the disease, and her husband improved for two months this past spring.
The symptoms of ALS very closely mirror those of Lyme disease, said Geraghty, including weakness, paralysis of muscles, and difficulty breathing, but she was shocked at the reluctance of those in the medical profession to even consider the possibility that's what her husband had. She said one doctor even laughed at her.
"There's something about Lyme disease that no one wants to talk about it," she said.
The Geraghtys live on 14 acres of wooded land in Cumberland, said Tara Geraghty, and her daughter and a family dog have both had the illness, further convincing her that her husband had a rare form of the tick-borne disease.
After Dave Geraghty's lung collapsed in August, prompting a rush to the emergency room, Tara made an appointment with a Lyme specialist. The specialist said the symptoms appeared to show Lyme. Other doctors just called the specialist "controversial," she said.
Geraghty said she got so frustrated with doctors that she ended up sending a vial of her husband's blood to California to be analyzed at a specialized lab. By mid-November, she had the analysis back: Dave has chronic Lyme disease.
Doctors have a lot to answer for in how they've treated her entire family over the past year, said Geraghty.
"These people took the Hippocratic Oath to leave no stone unturned," she said. She said she was "outraged" to be "judged unfairly" and made to feel that the Lyme diagnosis was out of the question.
She said she informed the Rhode Island Department of Health right away after learning that Lyme was in the blood, hoping there would be some sort of action taken to look into the disease more.
Even with the new information in hand, Tara said she still had to force the hand of the medical center where her husband is on a ventilator to treat him for Lyme disease.
Geraghty is convinced that Lyme disease has reached "endemic" levels in the U.S., but her experiences over the past year, talking with so many others in similar situations, make her believe that doctors are misdiagnosing patients far too often.
Geraghty said she was shocked at how quickly doctors wanted to diagnose a terminal illness like ALS and how reluctant they were to explore other options. She said they wanted to say it was ALS when they hadn't even done the basic tests for the disease.
"Why not just try it? Give us the antibiotics," she said. "You already have him pegged for dead anyway."
The mother of two wants others to question their doctors when they receive a similar diagnosis, to keep fighting for their loved ones even when they, too, are being mocked by those in the medical profession.
Dave Geraghty still has "a long road ahead of him," said his wife, but she and her twin children are holding out hope that aggressive treatments for Lyme disease can bring him back. Callen and Brynn Geraghty celebrated their 13th birthday last week.
According to his wife, Dave Geraghty calls the experience of the past year "humbling, humiliating, horrifying," but he wants to turn all those awful experiences into something good, helping others who may be in a similar situation. Dave's favorite line to his wife is, "My work isn't done here."
As for Tara Geraghty, she's working three jobs to support the family and pay for treatment and therapy that insurance doesn't cover. She remains committed to her "Save Dave" mission even as she continues to raise two children on her own. She says her faith in God and good people has helped her get through it.
Though many supporters, including Dave Geraghty's former co-workers and students, have been very generous, money has been difficult to come by, she said. She recently refinanced their Cumberland home and the couple has liquidated their children's college fund.
To help the Geraghty family financially, visit www.gofundme.com/980n84 . To leave messages of encouragement, comment on this story at www.valleybreeze.com .
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