CRESTVIEW — Lime balloons and homemade signs on Saturday complemented green T-shirts on attendees’ backs to educate people about Lyme disease.
Key Lyme Time at Old Spanish Trail Park last weekend raised funds for lymedisease.org, with a portion benefiting the Nikki Murray Lyme Disease Fund, a medical expense account for its namesake, a Crestview native.
Zumba demonstrations, children's activities and food vendors provided plenty to do and eat. The event also featured door prizes.
Connie Murray, Nikki’s mother, organized the occasion.
"The reason we did this was because Nikki had a dream when she was in treatment. God told her that she needed to have an awareness event in Crestview to let people in our hometown know about Lyme disease," Connie Murray said. "I had to do this for her and to help prevent this from happening to other people."
Nikki Murray, 26, contracted the disease following a tick bite in 2008. Ticks are the disease’s main carrier.
"It literally took over all of the parts of my body," Nikki Murray, who lives and works in Tallahassee, said. "I have chronic arthritis, which will never go away."
Other ailments include fatigue, muscle soreness and migraines strong enough to cause temporary blindness.
The most frustrating thing about the disease is the lack of awareness, she said.
"I was placed on a plethora of medications that had terrible side effects and never made me any better," Nikki Murray stated in a handout at the event. "No one ever looked at the big picture to see if there was possibly a single underlying cause."
Nikki Murray plans to file an appeal with her health insurance company, which declined coverage for hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Each HBOT session costs $150, and Nikki Murray said she needs at least 40 sessions for it to be effective.
Key Lyme Time underscored the importance of awareness, some attendees said.
"I think we all need to know more about this ... because it's a shame that (Nikki Murray) didn't get diagnosed earlier," said Wanda Austin of Niceville. "If this event could help someone get diagnosed early, then that is good thing."
Bidi Wilks said awareness efforts like Saturday’s could promote preventive efforts.
"I don't think everybody who takes children into the woods knows to check them (for ticks) when they come back," she said. "I know I do."
Wilks said she admires Nikki Murray’s resilience.
"I admire her courage and her spirit," Wilks said. "None of this has seemed get her down."
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Matthew Brown at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbMatthew.