With only two weeks left to fill my last spring turkey tag, I was spending a lot of time in the woods. On top of that I was spending a lot of time taking the dogs out and doing a little training. Living in this part of the country I have become so accustomed to finding ticks on myself and my dogs that I would simply give them a flick if they were not attached or just pinch them off it I found them attached. I had heard about Lyme disease but never really took any serious consideration about getting it. I am constantly checking myself and my dogs. I was told once that a tick needs to be attached for 24 hours in order to transmit Lyme disease. Since I never really found any ticks attached to me I didn’t think much about it. Both my dogs have the vaccine for Lyme, I however, do not…
|Check your Pets! Gross.|
Don’t get me wrong, if they offered a human version of the Lyme vaccine I would get it in a heart beat. Living in south-eastern New England I am among the most dense area of tick populations in the world. With 50% of deer ticks, (black-legged ticks or Ixodes scapulars) carrying Lyme’s or one of the other forms of diseases it has, calling this area high risk is an understatement. Lyme disease is an epidemic. The CDC reports that the number of CONFIRMED cases of Lyme has practically doubled from 2000 to 2010, going from 17,000 to 30,000 in a matter of 10 years. The tick population is on the increase and the disease is spreading. In Massachusetts alone there was over 4,000 confirmed cases in 2010. The scary part is that there are probably 10 times the number of people with Lyme disease that go undiagnosed. This year, spring of 2012 I have become a statistic. I was diagnosed with having Lyme disease, and let me tell you first hand, my experience has not been a pleasant one.
To think that such a small bug could cause such problems. I want to share my experience to give people an insight into what to look for and help prevent the same thing from happening to them. In fact there are some people out there who are suffering with debilitating symptoms that are going misdiagnosed. The reason is that Lyme affects everyone differently and has a wide range of symptoms. If someone goes untreated their immune system becomes weaker and this invites other diseases to come in. Luckily, (in a general sense of the word) I was diagnosed in the first stage of Lyme.
I was sitting in on a training for work when I started to get the chills. This progressed to an uncontrollable shiver with an extreme headache. I was tired and extremely foggy. I went home, put on the warmest clothing I could find and hid under the covers. I began to warm up, really fast. Before I knew it I was on fire. I was sweating uncontrollably and realized I probably had a fever. I quick check with a thermometer, (the one that goes under the tongue of course) and I figured I had the flu… it read 103.6. I took some ibuprofen and it went down. I did what they always say, rest, drink lots of fluids, etc, however three days later and I was in the same routine. Chills, headache, fever, body ache continued over and over. I decided to go to the E.R. After 16 hours, two bags of fluids taken intravenously, blood work, urine test, flu test, and an unsuccessful attempt at a spinal tap, (I should add, fuck spinal taps. That shit hurts. I would rather be tazed) I left the E.R. feeling worse than I had the day before. They tested for Lyme, but told me it would take a few days. They told me that I probably had a viral version of spinal meningitis. I went home and let the onset of really feeling like shit take place.
My fever subsided, which was good news, but I could not stand up without shooting pain in my head and eyes. I would get dizzy and want to throw up. Also I called the E.R. to see if my Lyme test came back yet and it had…NEGATIVE. As soon as I heard that I erased it from my thoughts. I must have something else then. I pretty much laid flat for three more days before I decided to go back to the E.R. One of the reasons I was persuaded by my girlfriend to go back was because she noticed a rash on my back that seemed to be getting worse. My ears were also bothering me and my jaw hurt… I figured that my situation would probably end up as the next episode on House.
|My “Bulls eyes”|
I went to a different hospital this time. Within an hour I was examined and told that I had Lyme disease. The E.R. doctor told me that my rash was consistent with erythema migrans, also known as disseminated Lyme disease. The disease was going into my body and that is what was producing all the rashes. This was typical in stage 1 Lyme. He told me that my headaches were caused by the spinal tap and they would go away within a week, (once again, fuck spinal taps.) I left feeling better, probably due to the fact that I knew what was wrong with me. I was prescribed amoxicillin for 3 weeks and started my dosage that day.
I was told by the E.R. doctor to see my primary care physician, so the next day I made an appointment. I went and was seen by a nurse practitioner. She told me I did not have Lyme disease because my blood test from the first E.R. visit was negative and that the rash I had, (now all over my body) did not look like Lyme, (according to her book.) She told me to stop taking the antibiotic because that was causing the rash. She made me make another appointment to see the doctor the next day. Well after doing some research on the internet I pretty much self diagnosed myself with Lyme. I did not take the advice of the nurse. I kept taking the antibiotic and saw the doctor the next day. He told me he was not convinced it was Lyme. I continued taking amoxicillin anyway. Three days later the E.R. doctor who had diagnosed me with Lyme called and told me the blood results were in. I tested POSITIVE for Lyme Disease.
I am not telling this story to make my primary care doctor, or the other E.R. doctors look incompetent, although they might be? My reason behind this is to show how difficult it is to be diagnosed with Lyme, even with all the tell-tale signs. I can only imagine what would have happened to me if I did not break out with the “bulls eye” rash. I would have gone on undiagnosed which leads to serious medical issues down the road. People in stage two and beyond are affected with serious nervous system issues, cognitive problems, arthritis, and vision problems. This all comes from going undiagnosed and untreated.
Being an outdoorsman here in New England has its risks. I know now that I will take more precautions when entering the woods, or doing anything outdoors for that matter. Using Permethrin on my clothing, tucking pants into my socks, using the dryer on clothing when I come home (the heat kills ticks) checking and double checking. Using all the pesticides on myself and the dogs probably has side effects too… but I guess that’s when you have to weigh the risks.
If you live in an area with a dense population of deer ticks, first of all make yourself informed. There are quite a few articles and documentaries on the issue. “Hidden in the leaves” is a good video, and you can find it on youtube. hidden in the leaves. Then take proper precautions to keep from getting bit. But since ticks are tiny, and they numb the area where they bite it makes it almost impossible to see or feel them. Having said that, you should know the warning signs of Lyme disease. The earlier it is diagnosed and treated, the better chance you have of beating it.
The fact that this tiny bug exists sucks enough, excuse the pun. They are creepy bugs that want to crawl on you and suck your blood. That in itself is gross and makes me hate ticks for simply existing. However then you add to it that they can give you a debilitating illness that could in fact ruin your quality of life. Can it get much worse? I want to know why there isn’t more being done about it. You see Bird Flu and Swine Flu making all this crazy hype in the media and the government responds by mass producing a vaccine for it. This is for only a few hundred cases being reported. Lyme disease is reporting almost 40,000 in a year and growing, and its widespread through the entire continental U.S. not just here in the North East. If a vaccination for dogs it available where is the one for humans?
Until a solution is found, stay informed, be safe and check twice.