T he relationship between Alyssa Goodale and the women treating her for Lyme disease ended abruptly in February 2010.
It had not been inexpensive, costing Alyssa's parents more than $10,000 out of pocket over a four-month stretch on "energy machine" sessions and vitamin and nutritional supplements, not to mention a pile of prescription drugs that were supposed to help her heal.
But money and a quirky treatment protocol are not why, more than a year later, 19-year-old Alyssa remains embittered and a little confused.
"They would have killed me if I hadn't stopped going to them," she says in a matter-of-fact way that belies an anger that runs deep.
She is speaking of Dana Rosdahl and Janet Love, co-owners of Chandler's Remnant Health Center.
Rosdahl is a family nurse practitioner and former Arizona State University professor. She prefers to be called "Dr. Dana," a title she employs because of her advanced degree in nursing.
Arizona is one of six states that allow nurse practitioners to prescribe and dispense medication and to give diagnoses without a doctor's supervision.
That is what Rosdahl was doing for Alyssa Goodale and continues to do for what she estimates are 225 patients. The clinic also sells patients herbal and vitamin supplements as part of its protocol.
Its motto should be: "Lyme disease is everywhere — and we mean everywhere!"
Lyme is the nation's fastest-growing infectious disease. But Love and Rosdahl (among many others) seem convinced it is far more ubiquitous than those in authority are letting on.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says symptoms of Lyme can include fever, headaches, arthritic-like aches and pains, chronic fatigue, and sometimes a small skin rash that looks like a bull's-eye.
As with a urinary tract infection or strep throat, most doctors say Lyme can be treated easily in its early stages with a few weeks of antibiotics. But if undiagnosed and untreated, Lyme disease can cause all kinds of issues, physiological and psychological.
Janet Love and Dana Rosdahl come across as sincere in their belief that doctors routinely misdiagnose the disease, leading to unnecessary pain and bad health for literally millions of people.
"We know how Lyme works, and we know how to fight it," Dana Rosdahl says. "But it's not an easy road for the patients or for us."
Therein lies the dilemma at the heart of this story, which examines the pitfalls that emerge when a clinic focuses on one diagnosis — Lyme disease, in this instance — to the exclusion of all others.
Such single-mindedness blurs critical thinking that is central to the proper care of any patient.
Naturally, that process has an acronym — WYLFIWYF, which stands for "what you look for is what you find."
Remnant Health Center looks for and finds Lyme disease.
"I believe that at least 70 percent of the population are infected [with Lyme], whether they know it or not," Love says. "I didn't, in my own case, for 15 years. We are passing infected blood directly into the blood supply. Some people think this is wacko, but it's not."
Last October, a professor who specializes in the history of infectious diseases told an audience at an Institute of Medicine seminar in Washington, D.C.: "Lyme disease is anything but a simple story."
Dr. Robert Aronowitz of the University of Pennsylvania was referring to the controversy and confusion that dominates discussion of the illness.
What happened to Alyssa Goodale at Remnant Health Clinic is a case in point.
Alyssa never did test positive for Lyme disease, despite extensive blood work and other evaluations.
But that didn't stop the clinic from continuing to treat the ailing young woman for full-blown Lyme.
That included a regimen of potent antibiotics that landed Alyssa in a Gilbert emergency room in February 2010.
"This young woman is very lucky to be alive," says Dr. David Arneson, a naturopathic physician who began treating Alyssa shortly after that hospital visit.
"She almost died of an opiate overdose from all the drugs she was on. I can't say the people at that clinic had any intent to hurt her. But they needed second or third opinions. They got none. Lyme disease is real. But some people make a grave mistake by calling everything Lyme."
Dana Rosdahl points out, accurately, that Lyme disease remains very difficult to diagnose, mainly because standard lab blood tests for it are imprecise.
The most common blood test for Lyme, called the ELISA, provides so many false-positive readings that most doctors won't use its results as a sole basis for diagnosis.
Prescribing long-term antibiotics to treat what supposedly is "chronic Lyme disease" (in itself a controversial diagnosis) is a practice most doctors see as perilous.
But Rosdahl and Love say what went awry was not their fault.
"Alyssa is a sweet little girl," Love says, "though I didn't think she would have the discipline for our program. But Dana decided to treat her out of compassion. We never hurt her."