Manuka Health Clinic in Anchorage, Alaska is named for the beautiful Manuka flower (Leptospermum scopanum). This flowering plant in the myrtle family is native to New Zealand. Manuka honey has a generous amount of methylgloxal, which is why it is so coveted for its antimicrobial properties.
While honey is a hobby, we are pretty sure that's not why you landed on our page. Our small colorful clinic, filled with second hand furniture, is just on the edge of Spenard in Midtown Anchorage. One block over and we would be in the cool, eclectic part of the city. Oh well!
There are two of us, Ginger Scoggin, PhD, DNP, ANP-C (researcher and doctor) and Gen Ellis, NA (captain of the ship, nursing assistant and Ginger's handler). Together we work for and with the most inspiring chronic Lyme-MSIDS patients.
Unfortunately, this syndrome is both serious and debilitating. I was introduced to Lyme disease by a classmate and friend (Dr. Ginger Savely...yup, there are 2 of us!) while doing virology research for my Doctorate at Case Western. At that time, I naively thought Ginger's work, while interesting, had nothing to do with Alaska. At that time, CDC had only two reportable cases of "Lyme disease" in the state, and there were no hard bodied black legged ticks up here.
I was in for an awakening...and an uphill battle! With my focus on viral cluster re-activation and epidemiology, colleagues increasingly began asking me about their patients with medically complex multi-system illnesses.
The focus of my research and interest changed. It did not take long to see the flaws in the CDC diagnostic criteria, and the lack of testing available through commercial labs. I was seeing more chronically ill "medical mystery" patients. My closest friend (who has walked beside me as the voice of reason since 1984) helped me figure out how to open a clinic. Another school mom, Mia, agreed to help me out.
I begged the smartest nurse in the world, Kamille, to help. Purely out of love and a strong desire to help the community, she agreed. Two years later, Mia moved, and the next week I met Gen (we were both gymnastics moms). By sheer luck, I convince her to join us.
In Gen, Kamille and I found someone who shared our passion to help chronically ill patients. But Gen was different. She refers to herself as Manuka's "original" (first actually diagnosed to the species level) Bartonella henselae patient. With the CDC saying chronic Lyme and co-infection syndromes did not exist, my research and experiences were showing the opposite. The three of us took on the world of chronic Lyme in Alaska.
As I learning this was more of a political and financial issue, I was also seeing how lucky we are to have some of the smartest most caring medical folks up here. I may have dragged some of them kicking and screaming along with me, but now they are my "team". A mentor and pathologist who taught me how to read bands on a western blot and how to get the most information possible out of tests that were neither specific nor sensitive. A radiologist who taught me how to look beyond the obvious to see connections. An anesthesiologist taught me that finding a clue that doesn't fit is still a clue. A neurologist showed me that there is no test more important than really listening to a person. Not least of all is a good friend and naturopathic doctor who brings a whole different body of knowledge to the table.
Even though Kamille left us for warmer weather (fortunately, she hasn't changed her cell number!!) it takes the team to help people with this chronic tick-borne pathogen soup syndrome.
Ginger and Gen heading to work