Dominick DellaSala and his daughter
Dominick DellaSala and his daughter. Photo courtesy of Dominick DellaSala.

By Dominick DellaSala, as told to Sarah Kennedy:

There’s irony and sadness, and maybe a happy ending to this story.

I have been working on climate change as a scientist now for over a decade. My daughter is very much an outdoors kid. When she was five years old, she was bitten by a tick in our backyard and shortly after was diagnosed with Lyme disease, which has affected her in many ways, most notably causing stomach issues, pain in her joints, and some challenges at school, because she was too sick to attend classes.

There’s an explosion of Lyme cases that have been happening in the northeast, around the Great Lakes, and in the western United States. We’re seeing the incidence of Lyme disease increasing. We’re seeing Lyme entering counties where it’s never been reported before.

You’ve got a spread of ticks into climates that they previously could not occupy, because it was too cold, and it would kill them in the wintertime. Species like deer and mice have been exploding in parts of the country as we have eliminated most of the top predators. They’re increasing in abundance, carrying with them ticks. We should all be concerned.

As you can imagine, any parent that finds that their kid has a disease that could be could be debilitating – it’s a shock. It’s horrific. And you just want to take their place.

We used a variety of different treatment plans with several doctors involved. And most recently she tested negative for the Lyme infection. And so that’s the good news that, you know, if you get out this infection early on, you can arrest it.

What it’s taught me is that climate change is not an environmental problem. It is much bigger than that. It affects the health of people that we love the most. And if we don’t do something about climate change in a very short period of time, just about everyone is going to know somebody that has a sickness related to the spread of disease caused by climate change.

I originally had grief and sadness, but I turned that around into action. It just made it more important to be able to say to my daughter, “I did my part.”

We’ve got to stop arguing about it and start working on the solutions, because it could affect someone that you love and care about, as it did with my daughter.