Film to get under Auburn watchers skin

Documentary features former area ranger
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
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When a tiny insect the size of a poppy seed crawled under Chris Ryland’s skin, the Meadow Vista woman’s life changed forever. About 12 years after Ryland was infected with Lyme disease, the 52-year-old said she considers herself a “new normal.” “I will never be who I was before,” Ryland said. Those who have suffered or are curious about Lyme disease may find the upcoming showing of the documentary “Under Our Skin” cathartic and informational. The film set to be nationally released in June features the story an Auburn-area ranger among others who have had Lyme disease. It also includes interviews with doctors and health-care providers about the challenges of identifying and treating the potentially de-habilitating disease. Jordan Fisher Smith is the former Auburn state parks ranger in the film who became infected with two tick-born illnesses – Lyme disease and Babesiosis – in 1998. Fisher Smith said his road to recovery took more than seven years because he was not diagnosed early on with Lyme disease so therefore did not receive proper treatment. “My doctor in 1998 said it’s a rare disease that’s hard to get,” Fisher Smith recalled. “In fact, it’s a common disease that’s easy to get.” Dr. Mark Starr, a veterinarian with Placer County health department, said the county has so far recorded 10 cases of Lyme disease this year. Last year during the same time frame, it saw 12. He said Lyme disease is easier to diagnosis and treat at the early, acute phase of the illness. It’s more difficult to diagnosis later on when someone is suffering from chronic Lyme disease. Fisher was taped over the course of three years for the documentary. Crews watched him at his house, followed him out onto the trails he roamed as a ranger and flew with him to a New York doctor’s appointment. Fisher Smith was also asked to narrate the film. “What I went through really was totally preventable,” Fisher Smith said. “I didn’t want it to happen to other people in Placer County.” Often times the disease is misdiagnosed, especially since there is no strong clinical test to detect it. Other times, some medical professionals say the symptoms a patient says they are feeling such as extreme fatigue and joint pain are psychological. Fisher Smith and Ryland both were victims of a misdiagnosis. Ryland said her battle with the disease hit some very low points. At one point she was dependant on a wheel chair and family members thought that her death was near. A series of what Ryland calls miracles occurred and her slow recovery began. Today she no longer needs a wheelchair or walker, but she’s not the same vibrant woman she was before who enjoyed several activities including skiing, hiking, backpacking and more. “I will always have Lyme disease,” Ryland said. “I’m ‘recovered’ as possible.” Ryland said she hopes the film will help others realize the seriousness of Lyme disease and the frustrations that come along with it. Fisher Smith agreed. “I think it’s a very, very effective communication on a subject that people just don’t know enough about,” Fisher Smith said. “These types of illnesses are sometimes catastrophic and they’re preventable.” The Journal's Jenifer Gee can be reached at or post a comment. ---------- National film in Auburn What: “Under Our Skin,” film documentary that investigates the untold story of Lyme disease When: 10 a.m. May 9 Where: Beecher Room, Auburn Library, 350 Nevada St., Auburn Cost: Free Call: Auburn library at (530) 886-4500 or visit ---------- Lyme disease prevention tips Lyme disease is a potentially de-habilitating illness passed on through an infected tick that imbeds itself into human or pet skin. Below are some tips that can help prevent a tick from jumping on your and what to do if one does. - Walk in the middle of trails; don’t lean on logs or trees - Wear a hat, long pants and long-sleeve shirt, and shoes. Tuck in your hair and tuck your pants into your socks when walking or working outdoors. - Wear light-colored clothing so it’s easy to spot the tiny, black ticks - Apply insect repellant to skin, especially with the chemical deet - When coming off a trail or inside from work outdoors, check for ticks - If you find a tick, remove it carefully and don’t squeeze the body. The best way, according to Mark Starr with Placer County Health Department, is to use a gentle, firm grip and pull the tick straight out. Take it to the Placer Health Department. - Seek treatment immediately. Antibiotics administered at the immediate onset of any symptoms help speed up the recovery process - Have pets treated for and vaccinated for Lyme disease ----------