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  • Model with Lyme disease will be on the Today Show the week of November 8th

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    Old 11-08-2004, 07:00 PM   #1
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    Model with Lyme disease will be on the Today Show the week of November 8th

    Ex-Ridgefield model reveals 1/2-year Lyme disease battle
    By Robin DeMerell

    NEWS-TIMES CORRESPONDENT

    Brooke Landau had it all.

    The former high-fashion runway model had just graduated from college and was
    embarking on a career as an international marketing manager with a Fortune
    500 company.

    Then a bite from a bug no bigger than a poppy seed changed all that. Her
    life was put on hold as she spent the next seven years battling a disease
    that almost cost Landau her life.

    A 1990 graduate of Ridgefield High School who lives in California, Landau
    was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 1995.

    "Doctors told me I might not live. But I had a different plan in mind,"
    Landau said. "I've spent the last 7? years fighting for my life and my
    health - and surviving."

    Later this week, Landau will tell her story on NBC's Today show on a segment
    that features survival stories.

    "I wanted to talk to others because I would not have been sick for 7? years
    if the insurance companies didn't make money off of sick people. It's
    business," Landau said. "They were unwilling to help find a cure."

    Despite all the warnings, Landau, now a 32-year-old freelance reporter and
    producer, never worried about contracting Lyme disease. "I lived in
    Connecticut my whole life with deer in the back yard," Landau said. "I never
    thought twice about it. It's very scary. I don't think people can realize it
    can be a death sentence."

    While at her parents' home in Ridgefield in 1995, Landau remembered finding
    a tick on her leg. But the first symptoms didn't appear for more than five
    months. "I literally took a walk out the door to the mailbox," Landau said.
    "I didn't think anything of it."

    Landau, daughter of Frank Landau, now of Southbury and Dianne Landau of
    Malibu, Calif., said the disease attacked her suddenly. One day, she was
    fine and the next day she couldn't move her head or her legs.

    "On that fateful day, I was rushed to the (Norwalk) hospital," Landau said.
    "Doctors there informed me that I would die within 48 hours if I did not
    undergo an emergency spinal tap. From the tap, the doctors diagnosed me with
    Lyme disease and spinal meningitis."

    She gave up her job and spent the next several months in her parents'
    Ridgefield home. Every day brought crippling headaches, muscle and joint
    pain and fatigue. Landau said she often was rushed to Danbury Hospital for
    emergency treatments.

    She experienced short-term memory loss and loss of hearing in her left ear.
    She began to lose sight in both eyes, developed heart arrhythmia, gallstones
    and colitis. She lost 30 pounds from her already thin frame - at one point
    the 6-foot-tall former model weighed 120 pounds.

    She has undergone various invasive procedures and treatments that included
    taking 27 pills a day.

    "Yet nothing has restored me to the pain-free condition I once knew," said
    Landau, who has undergone seven spinal taps and two surgeries.

    In 1996, Landau moved to Miami in hopes a warmer climate would lessen her
    joint pain. But, as the illness progressed, so did the pain.

    She eventually met a doctor who Landau said saved her life.

    By undergoing experimental treatments five years ago, Landau is able to do
    everything she could before - including working out at a gym, salsa dancing
    five days a week and playing volleyball on the beach. "None of which I could
    do for years," she said.

    "Brooke is a fighter," said her father. He remembers when she had several
    operations as a baby to correct a congenital heart defect. "It made her very
    tough. As a child, she always knew what she wanted. Her stick-to-it-iveness
    really showed during her illness. We're proud that she's never given up. But
    nobody should go through this stuff."

    Because she was considered a research subject, she wasn't responsible for
    the medical costs that mounted to several hundred thousand dollars.

    Treatment consisted of pumping high doses of antibiotics into her heart for
    24-hours a day for two months. She also underwent 30 days of treatment in a
    hyperbaric oxygen chamber.

    "It felt much like lying in a glass-enclosed coffin," she said. "The
    treatment was torture, but on the last day of treatment, I awoke free of
    joint pain for the first time in years. My hearing improved, my sight was
    better and I even regained my short-term memory."

    Although she was bedridden for more than a year during treatment, Landau
    wanted to be productive. She started a non-profit foundation working on her
    computer in bed. Sponsored by MAC Cosmetics, The Children's Alliance Network
    (CAN) organizes models and make-up artists to do makeovers for sick
    children.

    "I was doing a lot while I was sick," Landau said. "But I would pay for it.
    One day of work could put me in the hospital for a week. I really believe
    that you can't curl up in a ball and let the illness get the best of you."

    Since the treatment, Landau considers herself almost cured. The only symptom
    left is the headaches.

    "They say I'm cured and that it's out of my system," Landau said. "They've
    determined I don't have Lyme disease anymore."

    Landau went on to be a television anchor and reporter for CBS and ESPN. She
    now works as a freelance reporter for ESPN and a freelance producer for E!
    Entertainment.

    The "Today" show opportunity came when she and an NBC reporter were covering
    the same story.

    "Though I will probably have some measure of chronic pain throughout my
    life, I consider myself among the lucky," Landau said. "Through it all I've
    found an inner strength to fight and survive."

     
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