Jimmelynn Garland Rice: My Battle against Lyme Disease
Jimmelynn Garland Rice is a deeply loved and highly respected leader in our community, as well as across the globe. Whether you know her as a public high school teacher, elementary music teacher, musician, worship leader, speaker, founder/CEO of Girls Nite In International, or pastor with her husband, Rodney; serving three impactful churches in our community since moving to the Indy area.
The instant you meet Jimmelynn (Jimme), you realize her heart is as big as the globe. You are immediately captivated and pulled into the warmth of her huge welcoming hug, and feel, safe, accepted and deeply loved. You have become her ‘family’…which includes literally everyone she meets! Her joy of life and heart of gratitude are contagious!
Jimme, Rodney, and their young family moved to Brownsburg in 1992. “We love this community and have poured our hearts and lives investing in this community. Serving and loving families in this community, who have, in turn, loved and cared for us and become home for our family. Our kids have been raised and grown up here and love being part of Brownsburg,” Jimme tells us. Jimme and Rodney, along with their family, are the co-founders and pastors of Church@Main in Brownsburg, celebrating their 10th Anniversary this year!
As a little girl growing up in South Carolina, it became clear that God had His hand on Jimme and placed a special calling, passion and purpose on her life. While teaching at Brownsburg High School, Jimme became keenly aware of the struggles our teens face daily and felt compelled to help. Jimme wisely states, “Our teen girls do not live in a PG-13 world, but are trapped in R and X-rated constantly.” Jimme began a group called Girls Nite In International offering a Safe Refuge providing true hope, help and life-guidance(www.girlsnitein.org), which quickly exploded into a global movement with affiliate groups across the country and around the globe.
While following her calling and mission from God to throw a life-rope of HOPE to teen girls drowning in self-destructive choices by mentoring and empowering them to make wise choices, Jimme’s own life took a drastic, devastating turn for the worse. In 2015, after returning from a mission trip to Argentina for Girls Nite In International, Jimme’s health began to rapidly decline. Jimme tells us, “I went from being a healthy, high-energy leader with a high capacity for life, leadership and relationships, able to handle a high level of stress to feeling physically depleted and totally, utterly exhausted at the core level. Every cell in my body; not just tired, but zero stamina or energy to do even a simple, basic task like taking a shower or writing a simple email. A simple email that should take three minutes, three hours later I found myself still staring at the computer screen in utter frustration because I could not put together one single sentence.”
No amount of rest would help despite a three-month sabbatical just to rest. Waking up every morning hoping to have strength to start the day but devastated to feel her tank on complete empty; depleted of any ounce of energy whatsoever. Jimme continues, “I began experiencing daily, excruciating, completely debilitating headaches. It was as if someone was taking a drill and drilling into the sides of my head. Like a vice-grip was squeezing my brain tighter and tighter. I kept saying, ‘My brain feels swollen, like my head is going to explode.’ The piercing pain was unrelenting 24/7, every day with no relief day in and day out, turning into months and months. Dizziness and nausea made it difficult to do anything. I could only hold my head completely still to keep from feeling that the room was spinning. When I tried to move, it felt as though my arms and legs weighed 50 tons and an elephant was sitting on my chest. The slightest movement to try to lift my arm or my body required such enormous energy and strength, that it became impossible. My adrenal system was crashing, but my central nervous system felt like every nerve ending was frayed and I was plugged into an electrical socket sending electrical jolts throughout my body. Like high voltage electricity, frying and burning on the inside. Pain was piercing every raw nerve ending, every joint and muscle in my body. I was feeling excruciating pain all over – my mind screaming out with pain. I began having extreme difficulty processing thoughts and trying to communicate. I would fight to find words and struggle to put sentences together or to answer simple questions. I eventually completely lost the ability to communicate, to speak, to read or to write. I could feel my body shutting down. I was terrified. I felt scared and trapped, unable to communicate to anyone what was happening, and no longer able to make my body or brain function. It was sheer terror! I knew my body. And I knew something was desperately wrong.”
During Jimme’s rapid decline, she and her family began going from doctor to doctor, specialist to specialist, desperate to find answers. Their daughter, Kristi, describes the fear and desperation, “Watching my mama decline – physically, mentally, cognitively, and emotionally – so rapidly was terrifying. She became a shell of who she used to be. Her eyes seemed hollow and she could barely communicate. The most heartbreaking aspect for her and us was that she had to remain in isolation because the slightest amount of stimulation was too painful and exhausting. Family has always been everything to her, but she could hardly endure us coming to see her. Her failing body and mind made her a prisoner in her home for months, unable to tolerate visitors.”
After having their hopes dashed time and time again by doctors who either wouldn’t listen well or just didn’t know how to help, the family was at their wits’ end. Jimme tells us, “The utter frustration of going to specialist after specialist, seeking help, seeking hope, seeking a diagnosis, having your hopes built up that THIS specialist was going to have the answer, only to have them hang their head and say they don’t know how to help was the most frightening thing.”
Living in a nightmare, Jimme desperately clung to Proverbs 3: 5,6; “Trust in the LORD with ALL your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and He WILL direct your PATH.” Jimme had faith that GOD would direct her path and everyone who loved her began praying for ONE. CLEAR. PATH.
That delivery came from Dr. Gordon Crozier, a physician, Lyme specialist, and geneticist from Florida, who has himself battled Lyme disease. Dr. Crozier was visiting family in Brownsburg and attended the service at Church @ Main one Sunday morning. Jimme, after attempting to lead worship and make it through her weekly welcome message, had to be escorted home before the church service concluded. Noticing the drastic change in Jimme’s health since seeing her last and recognizing the same look he often sees in his patients from around the world; Dr. Crozier made a point to speak with Rodney after church. “Dr. Crozier and his wife, Michelle, graciously came over to visit me at my home before flying back to the Orlando area where Crozier Clinic is located. As he sat at my kitchen table, going through my huge stack of blood work, lab test results, and medical files, he began making notes,” Jimme tells us. After reviewing her records, Dr. Crozier recommended specific, specialized tests Jimme should have done right away. When the results came back, Jimme finally received the long-awaited diagnosis. There were three processes that were destroying her body and her health: Late-stage Lyme Disease, an aggressive, invasive parasite infection likely acquired from her mission work in Argentina, and heavy arsenic poisoning and mold.
Most of us are familiar with Lyme Disease at a very basic level. But there is a lot of misinformation out there regarding Lyme Disease and its long-term impact on our health. Lyme Disease, much like cancer, is diagnosed in stages. Caught early, it is much easier to treat. Jimme, however, had late-stage Lyme Disease, with an active, vicious, deadly infection that had been in her body for years; and treatment was not going to easy. Dr. Crozier said to Jimme, “If you stand any chance of recovery, you need treatment immediately. I can help you. But, you have to come to my clinic in Florida right away to begin an aggressive, seven month IV treatment. The treatments are brutal like chemo on steroids. You will get much worse before you begin to get better.”
Devastated by the diagnosis, but relieved to finally have an answer, Jimme now needed to start the hard road toward recovery. She spent seven months in Florida at Crozier Clinic fighting for her life and receiving brutal, intensive, IV treatments. Rodney flew back and forth from Indy, caring for her, along with pastoring their church. Jimme’s mom drove from South Carolina to care for her during the weeks when Rodney came home. At the conclusion of treatment, Jimme came home grateful to be back and reunited with her family and all she loved. She began to enter back into life and leadership. However, the break in her symptoms was short lived. After just a few months, Jimme began to regress terribly. It is not uncommon, specifically in late-stage Lyme Disease, for a patient to regress if further treatment is not administered. So once again, Jimme headed to Florida for additional months of aggressive treatment.
This time, the vicious disease had destroyed even more, and Jimme began fighting the deepest, fiercest battle for her life. Rodney, her husband, describes what was the most terrifying months of his life, fearful that he was going to lose his wife. “Jimme was deathly sick, struggling for every breath, completely bedridden, unable to engage or participate in life, and fighting to stay alive. We were desperately praying and pleading with God to restore her and bring her back to life.”
Today, Jimme has regained quite a bit of what was lost in the time she was so ill, but says she still struggles to operate at the “old Jimme” level. Sadly, there is no cure for Lyme Disease. Treatment simply works to fight the active, deadly bacterial infection to get to a place of remission. Jimme must return to Florida every three months for additional treatment. She has an intense daily regimen and protocol of pills, supplements, and shots to keep fighting the disease. Lifestyle and self-care are of tremendous importance while trying to live in remission. Jimme surrounds herself with positive quotes, affirmations, scripture, and a positive attitude. When she speaks and shares her story, she doesn’t shy away from telling the truth of the devastation, despair, and hopelessness she felt – but also how her walk with God has deepened her faith, trust, devotion, and passion even stronger than ever.
‘God’s Not Done’ is a statement Jimme has shared countless times throughout her life to bring hope, counsel, healing and fresh trust to those she helps and encourages who are struggling; whether physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually. That phrase became hugely empowering when Jimme was at her lowest; and has now become the trademarked message of her life and the battle cry for a new movement. As her daughter, Kristi shares, “The “GOD’S NOT DONE” movement began during mama’s lowest point in her battle with Lyme. She had used that phrase with many of us (immediate family as well as church and GNI families) through the years, affirming God’s plans and purpose for our lives and encouraging us to keep moving forward. We had t-shirts made saying ‘GOD’S NOT DONE – Team Jimme’ and people from literally all over the world proudly wore the shirt and posted on social media, offering prayers for mama and thanking her for the impact she had made in their lives.”
A ‘God’s Not Done’ gift line has now been created both to inspire others and to bring HOPE. Each #GODSNOTDONE t-shirt purchase will go toward continued treatment, as well as important research in the quest for accurate diagnosis and cure for Lyme Disease. Even though Lyme Disease is a global epidemic and the fastest-growing infectious disease in the U.S., insurance covers 0%, leaving 100% of the cost coming out of the patient’s pocket.
Jimme is flooded with calls, emails and texts weekly from people struggling and battling Lyme Disease needing help, hope and direction. As Jimme continues treatment, she will not give up as she knows God has a plan and calling on her life! Although there is no cure yet, Jimme continues to trust God for healing and courageous strength every day.
In closing, Jimme tells us, “I know God has allowed my life and my story to impact multitudes of people. Both here in our community, across the nation, and around the globe. I want to personally thank each one! I am SO grateful for the outpouring of love, support, and prayers for me and my family. I feel forever indebted to the multitude of people who have prayed war-room prayers for God to bring me back to life, to bring healing, and to restore me. I am the most grateful girl on the planet! I know I am literally a walking miracle. I want my life to be God’s Story for God’s Glory. At the end of my life, my goal is to have been a courageous leader and woman of faith who dared to believe and trust God for the impossible!”
Jimme’s passion is to be a World Changer, bringing a message of HOPE, healing, life-guidance and God’s Love to everyone she meets; with the powerful message that:
#GODSNOTDONE ® with … YOU!