Mystery Illness Turns Family’s Home into Prison

By Jacqueline Ortiz, Trouble Shooter for News 4 WOAI


A mysterious skin disease is spreading across the country, and it has already extended into parts of Texas. It's called Morgellons, a parasite-like infection that will literally make your skin crawl. Patients say it feels like bugs are crawling all over you. To make matters even worse, many doctors say the victims are delusional.

For Anne Dill, standing in her backyard and looking over the lake is physically and emotionally painful.

“I can't...” mumbles Anne.

This silence and solitude serves as a constant reminder of what her family is facing.

"We're going to lose everything: our house, our dreams,’ she says.

Five years ago, the Dills bought their dream home. Then, two years later, Anne, her husband and their four children all got very sick at the very same time. They think they have Morgellons, even though they have no idea how they would have contracted it.

Morgellons is an unusual parasite-like skin disease, which produces irritating sores all over the body.

"My back will break out and will itch and I won't be able to stop it.,” says Anne’s 14-year-old daughter, Sarah.

Anne’s 20-year-old son, Tony, also has trouble, "I itch all the time still. I scratch my back constantly. I use the wall when I can't reach my upper back.”

The sores ooze blue fibers, white threads and little black specks of sand-like material.

"The sores are very funny looking says Anne, “It's something we've never seen before.”

The Dills say they're also plagued with a constant, creepy crawling feeling of bugs under their skin.

“Twitching, in my arms and in my legs... twitch, like movement.”

However, the most agonizing symptom is the chronic fatigue. The Dills are continually tired and weak, so they spend nearly all of their time at home.

"I'm home schooled,” says the Dills’ five-year-old daughter, Hanna.

"I've been out of school for almost a year,” adds Maggie, the Dill’s 11-year-old daughter. “One of my teachers made a joke, ‘You're always sick on test days.’ And I said, ‘I'm sick everyday.’”

The father, Tom Dill, is the sickest. Along with the Morgellons, he's developed signs of Lou Gehrig's Disease, a neurological disorder that robbed him of his muscle control. He's now wheelchair bound and has trouble speaking.

Tom doesn't know if his two conditions are related, and that has him worried about his children.

"I don't want to believe that what happened to me is happening to them,” he says.

But answers are hard to come by. In fact, doctors tell them the "bugs" they feel and sores they see are only in their minds. In medical terms: delusional parasitosis.

"I don't know how a doctor couldn't see that. It's ridiculous,” says Sarah. “I can see it. I know there's something there. I'm like a freshman in high school and I know that there's something wrong.”

"I was told quit trying to figure things out, quit looking into things,” explains Anne.

We tracked down one medical professional who may have found a clue to the mystery illness.

Ginger Savely is a nurse practitioner who specializes in treating the tick-borne Lyme Disease. She also has firsthand experience with the mystery disease.

"Right now I think I have about 28 Morgellons patients,” says Savely.

Savely says the antibiotics she gives to patients with Lyme are also working on some Morgellons patients.

"It's just uncanny,” she says.

But this treatment is also unproven, and since doctors don't know if it’s contagious, the dills say their home is now their prison.

“I used to have the whole softball team come and sleep over, but no one wants to come over anymore.”

“Everybody is scared there's something because everybody is sick that we're carrying something somebody else is going to get.”

So the Dills spend a lot of quality time together with five year old Hanna at center stage. She loves to write and sing songs. Her lyrics are very insightful.

“Gotta have faith in you, gotta have faith in your, what you're doing this to me... so upset, makes me cry,” Hanna sings.

Doctors don't know what causes the disease, who is at risk and exactly how many people may be suffering. The Morgellons Foundation says they have about 1,200 people registered on their site. Those are only people who have a computer and happened to find them online. The foundation fears the real number of people infected with this mystery disease is much higher.

Learn more at the Morgellons Foundation website:

Uploaded: 12-08-05