Courier Journal

Teacher, Mentor and Friend Remembered

By: Kristin Hendrix

Published in the March 30, 2016 issue of the Putnam County Courier Journal.

The Putnam community lost a beloved educator and friend Saturday, February 27. Christine Cheshire taught school at Middleton Burney Elementary for 26 years and is described as a teacher, mentor, friend, and more to hundreds of lives she touched in her career and personal life.

Christine Cheshire
Christine Cheshire

“She saw the good in everyone,’ said coworker Tammi Buckles, ”She was a role model, lots of students and teachers looked up to her.” Her death was unexpected and caught all who knew her by surprise. Cheshire was only 55 years old and fought Lyme disease for a year.

Lyme disease is a bacteria that can invade your entire body, organs, and brain. Cheshire caught the disease after being bitten by a tick in her own back yard. “She was passionate about getting the word out to the community that she so dearly loved, especially the children,” said fellow Middleton Burney faculty member Billie Jo Carmichael.

The last year of her life was focused on educating everyone she knew about the dangers of Lyme disease and how to avoid the disease. “Living with Lyme disease was very hard on her, ”said fellow teacher Karen Bowling, ”She persevered for a long time and continued to love and care for everyone she knew. Even during the worst of her illness she inspired me to grow as a teacher, she touched everyone’s hearts.”

Middleton Burney parents, students, and colleagues were stunned and heartbroken in the days following Cheshire’s death. As the shock turned into action, people felt a responsibility to continue her crusade against Lyme disease in our area.

“If we can prevent even one person from having to go through what she endured, then we can be comforted knowing that her death was not in vain,” said Carmichael.

A tribute soon took form to celebrate her life and her passion; donations were collected from the staff of Middleton Burney Elementary School. Sawyer, a company whose products Cheshire recommended during her fight with Lyme disease, donated samples and literature to the school, to give out at a booth procured at the popular Crescent City Catfish Festival.

Kelvin Haire, of Crescent Termite and Pest Control sponsored the booth fee for volunteers. Many people worked to put together an information booth for the Catfish Festival to educate, give out samples, and prevent future cases of Lyme disease.

Everyone who knew Cheshire agrees it is a way to give honor to her memory that she would approve of. “I know Mrs. Cheshire is smiling down on our efforts,” said Carmichael.

Lyme Disease is spread, as in the case of Cheshire by ticks. Deer ticks infect an estimated 300,000 people a year. The longer the tick is attached, the more opportunity they have to transmit the disease.

An important part of prevention is covering up exposed skin while in the woods or even one’s own backyard. Insect repellent is very important in keeping ticks off the body.

The CDC recommends an insect repellent with 20 percent or more Deet content. Products containing permethrins are also very successful at repelling ticks. For those that do not like exposing themselves to chemicals, essential oils can be helpful as well.

Lemongrass, tea tree oil, eucalyptus, and lavender oils make ticks drop off on contact. Whatever product is used, bare skin and clothes should be sprayed to keep ticks away.

Ticks can be as small as the head of a pin so people need to be vigilant. It is helpful to keep brush and leaf piles cleared from yards and to store firewood in a sunny place to prevent places for ticks to hide. Check family and pets for ticks anytime they have been outside. Once a tick has attached, quick removal is important.

There are several tick removal tools on the market but a pair of tweezers can work as well. Grasp the tick near its head or mouth while being careful not to squeeze or crush it. Applying a generous amount of hand sanitizer will often stun or kill the tick into letting go itself or it can easily be removed with tweezers.

Melaleuca oil, oregano oil, and lemongrass can be applied directly to the tick bite and the tick will back out of the skin itself. Save the tick in a dated plastic bag. Store it in the freezer in case symptoms appear later, so the tick can be tested.

Symptoms to watch for are a bulls eye pattern rash around the bite area, fever, rash, facial paralysis, and arthritis like symptoms.

For more information about Lyme disease visit www.lymedisease.org

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