|Originally published in Public Health Alert, December 2007.
This is Georgia born Les Roberts’ first and perhaps only novel. It was inspired by a true life experience with a bizarre and mysterious disease which remained un-diagnosed for ten years, almost claiming the life of the author. Les felt led after self (correct) diagnosis and professional treatment to put a human face to an epidemic now sweeping across America. Blessed, or perhaps cursed, from young adulthood with a fertile and vivid imagination enhanced by recurring episodes of precognitive dreams and apocalyptic visions, the idea and basic plot for this novel was revealed to Les in a space of only five minutes.
Resisting the urgings and later proddings from the Almighty for a period of time, Les finally relented, grabbed a legal pad and began writing.
Les Roberts was born and raised in Northwest Georgia. At the time of the onset of symptoms of Lyme disease, he had been living in South Alabama for sixteen years. So much for the nonsense of; “You can’t possibly have Lyme disease… you don’t live in an endemic area”. In 1979, Les founded an investment brokerage firm in Pensacola, Florida which he sold in January of this year.
Les is now retired from the investment business but not from the business of battling Lyme disease, and those with strident voices that make it their business to tell us and the media that we are not sick. Les Roberts is a brilliant Author, on a mission to spread the truth about Lyme disease to the entire world through his absolutely jaw-dropping work of passionate creativity! Welcome Les!
Can you share with me your personal struggle with Lyme disease?
A brief summary is as follows. In 1990, I began experiencing fatigue and a feeling that something was just not right. Attempts to continue my vigorous lifestyle of running, biking, swimming and lifting weights left me exhausted with a fatigue more intense than anything I had ever experienced. A few weeks after those symptoms began; my heart quite suddenly became very weak. I was rushed to an emergency room and immediately placed in intensive care with symptoms of a heart attack. Blood tests revealed that it was not a heart attack.
A subsequent echo revealed that one wall of my heart was akinetic (not moving). The doctors were puzzled, and I was transferred to a larger hospital for further tests and evaluation. This began a series of hospital visits, more extensive tests, and referrals and finally a third cardiologist’s opinion that my heart had been attacked by a virus of some type.
Having said that, the cardiologist told me that there was nothing he could do for me, and I was either going to get better, or I was not. In other words, you are either going to live or you are going to die so you may as well get out of here! I was eventually released with a discharge diagnosis of myocarditis, cardiomyopathy and depression. I had no rashes, no joint or muscle pain, paresthesias, etc. The only other discomfort that was not related to my galaxy of heart problems was an aching in the eyes.
I immediately began a routine of vitamin and mineral supplementation that included approximately 36,000 milligrams of vitamin C taken in divided doses throughout the day in an attempt to kill whatever virus I was suspected to have. Someway, somehow, I gradually improved and after about four years I was approximately 85% of my former self. Even back to running some 5-K races (slowly). Then, in 1998, my symptoms returned. This time I had it all. Along with the heart problems that resurfaced, I had every other symptom imaginable except irregular menstrual cycles (I’m male).
You struggled for so many years; did you finally receive a diagnosis of Lyme disease?
Finally, after seeing 23 doctors, representing every specialty you can think of, losing 53 pounds and coming very, very close to death, I diagnosed myself, and demanded to be treated for Lyme disease. I think the internal medicine doctor I was seeing thought I was either going to commit suicide, kill him or both of us, because he whipped out a prescription pad and within thirty minutes nurses were sticking a needle in my arm for the infusion of Rocephin®.
The antibiotics induced a massive Herxheimer reaction so severe that I could not walk. My clinical Lyme diagnosis was also confirmed by a positive Lyme PCR, and Lyme Urine Antigen Test, (LUAT). I eventually had 136 infusions of Rocephin® (2 gm), 73 IV Zithromax®, 16 weeks of Bicillin LA® in the buttocks and years of orals. Was I cured? No!
Why did you decide to write a book?
Anger! One afternoon as I sat on my deck looking at the waters of the beautiful lake I live on, I glanced down at the PICC line hanging out of my arm, and began pondering my plight. Lyme disease had wrecked my life, my previously excellent health, my respect for a sizeable portion of the medical profession, and my bank account. I was out at least a quarter of a million dollars in lost business and non-reimbursed medical expenses. I had been through hell sideways with all of the problems and obstacles I had endured and I was and still am “mad as hell!”
So there you sat suffering, looking down at your PICC line, and realized you had a message to send to the world?
I realized at that moment that something had to be done to get our message to the general population. The book is designed to appeal to a very broad audience of people that may be simply looking for a good read but come away with much, much more.
Can you tell me a little about the plot of the “Poison Plum”?
The heroine of the book, Susan Collins, is a single mother with an eight year old son that becomes ill with a mysterious disease shortly after they relocate to Connecticut for her to accept a position as a microbiologist with the Plum Island Animal Disease Research Center.
As the plot unfolds, and Susan’s son Toby becomes sicker and sicker, the reader shares Susan’s concerns, fears and revelations of discovery as she experiences fully the gamut of mystery, intrigue, suspense, frustration, government lies, cover-ups, murder and deception that are so very much a part of the Lyme disease conspiracy.
What do you know about Plum Island?
Plum Island is but one of several top-secret government biological research laboratories that are scattered about the nation. Their stated objective is defensive germ research designed to protect us and our livestock population from diseases. In my humble personal opinion, the research is also offensive, meaning they are genetically engineering germs to be used as biological warfare agents.
I think Lyme disease is but one example of this type of research and development. Offensive not defensive! The end sheets of my novel are maps of the coastline of Connecticut and the tip of Long Island which are constant reminders to the readers of the very close proximity of Lyme, Connecticut to Plum Island.
How is the “Poison Plum” different from other books on Lyme disease?
To my knowledge, “The Poison Plum” is the first and only novel to be written about the shadowy and murky world of Lyme disease. It is a novel with powerful and passionate fictional characters which portray clearly their real life counterparts. Some have called the book “true fiction” and perhaps that is a good description. Some readers have suggested that I changed the names of the guilty and they are correct. Indeed, on the title page, I have the admonishment that “The guilty among you will know who you are.”
What are the most interesting discoveries you made about Lyme disease?
First, Lyme disease is unique in that it is a “do it yourself” disease. All too often the hapless victim must endure the gauntlet of a frequently inept, if not downright hostile medical community, to finally diagnose themselves, develop through an extensive research program a treatment regimen and then somehow find a doctor that will agree to their self- prescribed treatment protocols. How much sense does any of that make? This insanity has to end and it has to end now!
Secondly, as an investment professional, my personal research quickly revealed to me that with the current infection rate of Lyme disease throughout America, it will only be a matter of time before our nation will be facing a health crisis of unprecedented proportions.
How serious of a national health crisis do you think Lyme disease truly is?
It is my personal opinion that if every person in the United States that is currently infected with the Lyme germ were properly diagnosed and properly treated, the resulting financial strain would bankrupt every health insurer in the nation!
Obviously, insurance executives are not stupid people. Clearly, they understand these potential risks to the bottom line of their companies’ balance sheets and it is certainly logical to assume that at least some of the opposition to long term antibiotic therapy, indeed the very existence of Lyme disease itself as a common health problem, emanates from this quarter.
What has the feedback from the general readership audience been?
Stunning! I have been surprised and delighted with the book’s reception! Every single reader to date has responded very positively with several purchasing additional copies to give to friends and associates.
Have you received any negative feedback from the anti-Lyme camp?
Yes. Some of my paid advertising for the book has been rejected with no explanation provided and I have been the target of some very vicious blogs. All of this and more I fully expected in the beginning. We must realize that this is a war that we are engaged in. Now is not the time to make nice or equivocate on issues we feel strongly committed to. The closer you get to the truth, the more you are attacked. Expect it!
What do you feel has to be done to give Lyme disease the awareness and respect it deserves?
Unfortunately and unpleasantly the problem will be self-resolving. Let me explain. As the numbers of sick and dying Lyme victims continues to grow exponentially, the cacophony of voices screaming for help will drown out the politically prostituted doctors and scientists whose numbers are finite. The squeaking wheel will get the grease as members of state legislatures and state attorney generals respond to the outcries and there will appear many more Blumenthals stepping up to the bat on our behalf.
The final crisis will be the launching of a massive class action lawsuit against the government’s bio-labs that will make the government’s compensation payments to the Tuskegee syphilis experiment’s survivors look like a Sunday school picnic.
Thank you Les, you certainly hit the nail on the head with your answers. Any parting thoughts?
In conclusion, I would like to make one more point. If the doctors that are members of the IDSA and others of the “No Such Thing as Chronic Lyme” camp; Feder, Shapiro, Steere, Wormser, Johnson, O’Connell, et al, are so firmly convinced of the correctness of their positions, I would suggest it’s time for a public affirmation of their faith. I would like to offer several pints of my blood which the doctors with compatible blood types could infuse into their bodies to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the four years of antibiotic therapy I received completely eradicated every single wiggling and twisting spirochete in my body. I will hold my breath while eagerly awaiting a volunteer to accept this challenge.
“The Poison Plum” can be purchased online at Les Roberts’s website: www.poisonplum.com
For the readers that might want all of the lurid details of Les’s story it is available on Scott Forsgren’s website, Betterhealthguy.com. Look for the article entitled “Les Battles Lyme”. There, Les includes a long and comprehensive list of what treatments were beneficial and those which were a waste of time and money. A portion of the article also deals with interactions between Les and various physicians which should be sufficient to raise the average Lymie’s blood pressure.
|Les Roberts, Author of the Poison Plum|
|Update: Sad news. After a brave battle with both Lyme and Cancer, Les Roberts is no longer with us. It was an honor and a privildege to work with you and call you my friend. May you sleep peacefully Les, you were a warrior and a hero to so many. Bless you and your family and may your spirit soar always!
(December 4, 1938 - March 3, 2012)