Cornell Professor’s Life Derailed by Lyme Disease

By Noah Johnston


Joe Laquatra is a professor emeritus at the Department of Design and Environmental Quality at Cornell University. In 2017, he began to deal with fatigue, brain fog, and nausea, seeking help from several doctors before he was eventually diagnosed with Lyme disease. Joe has volunteered to share his story with Project Lyme in the hopes to raise awareness about the realities of tick-borne diseases, especially for those experiencing chronic difficulties.

Lyme is life-changing

Joe Laquatra

Like many patients, Joe took a while to get diagnosed. When his symptoms began, he went to see his primary care physician, who advised that he had a viral infection. After a round of antibiotics and no resolution to his symptoms, Joe continued to search for answers. Eventually, he was directed towards ILADS and found Dr. Kenneth Liegner. Since Joe was located in upstate NY near Ithaca, he had to travel many hours to the appointment, just outside New York City. Once there, Dr. Liegner performed several tests on him. With the practiced hands of this specialist, Joe now knew he not only had Lyme disease but two other co-infections known as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Tularemia.  He was prescribed another round of antibiotic treatment which began to grant him relief, but there was more brewing under the surface.

While his flu-like symptoms began to subside, Joe soon learned his infection has spread to other bodily systems, most specifically his joints and bones. The invasive borrelia bacteria found its way into his knees, requiring several surgeries and a knee replacement. Joe’s delayed diagnosis led him to deal with an advanced stage of the disease, rendering him no longer able to live his life to the fullest. Once a long-distance runner, he now requires a cane to walk. As stated above, “Lyme is life-changing”, and while Joe knows his story is devastating, he shares it in the hope that others will be more alert. While Joe and many patients like him never saw a tick, he recalls many times when he didn’t take the proper steps to prevent a bite and wishes he would have been a bit more careful.

You can hear Joe’s full story below: