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St. Charles motorcycle ride to aid Loop Rock Girl recover from Lyme disease

Published: Friday, Aug. 22, 2014 9:20 p.m. CST • Updated: Friday, Aug. 22, 2014 11:08 p.m. CST

ST. CHARLES – Fox River Harley-Davidson, at 131 S. Randall Road, St. Charles, will host a charity ride on Sept. 7 for an employee’s cousin who is suffering from Lyme disease.

Registration is at 8:30 a.m. at the dealership, with the 65-mile round-trip ride beginning at 10:30 a.m., sales manager Brian Rapier said. When riders return to the dealership, they can participate in an after-party from 1 to 4 p.m., with food and a band.

The cost is $15 for a single rider, $25 for two and $10 for the party, he said.

“We host charity rides at the dealership, but we never put on one of our own,” Rapier said. “This is for Erica Gustafson-Valker, the original Loop Rock Girl from 2005-2006.”

Valker, who lives in California, is the cousin of Shannon Bell, the dealership’s motor clothes and general merchandise director.

Rapier said a video of Valker’s suffering was “gut-wrenching,” especially since the insurance does not cover care for chronic Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, that is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected tick, according to the Centers for Disease Control website.

The blacklegged or deer tick spreads the disease in the northeast and north central United States and the western blacklegged tick on the Pacific coast, according to the CDC.

Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and a characteristic skin rash. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system, according to the CDC.

The International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society strives to improve doctors’ understanding of diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease.

Valker has been suffering from chronic Lyme disease for the past three years, with severe and debilitating symptoms, Rapier said.

She did not get treatment until late in the infection because doctors were unable to diagnose it properly, Rapier said. 

“This is like their 10th to 12th doctor,” Rapier said. “Her husband posts [online] from time to time.”

Valker is so ill, she needs full-time home care, and treatment for the next six to 12 months is estimated to cost $100,000. In 2005, Valker was voted WLUP-FM 97.9’s first Loop Rock Girl. 

“It helps a young lady to start her modeling career,” Rapier said. 

While serving as the Loop Rock Girl, Valker met her future husband, Paul Valker, who worked at the station, according to a statement from the station.

Information about the charity ride and Valker is available online at www.Lyme-Aide.org.

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