My Health Experience: What lurks in the long grass
The great danger of Lyme disease, caused by the bite of an infected tick, is that it often goes undiagnosed
He wanted to be certain that I hadn’t been re-infected, so he gave me a four-week prescription for antibiotics – twice as long as my original prescription – and arranged for me to have a lumbar puncture to see if the disease had reached my brain.
It cleared up. Gradually, I began to feel better, but it was only when a friend said to me “El, it’s great to have you back” that I realised how ill I had been all along.
And so, we began to read up on Lyme disease and realised how little awareness there is here about it, outside of regular hillwalking groups.
Hillwalkers will even tuck their trousers into their socks to avoid contact with long grass and possible ticks. It is a disease that is carried by deer and transmitted to ticks, and we were aware that deer from the Connemara National Park had been seen on Errislannan.
About 12 years ago, when our youngest son was getting married, David sustained a tick bite. He developed a temperature at the time, and was taken to St Vincent’s A&E on a Saturday afternoon.
He was filled with antibiotics and got a lumbar puncture. I think the medication hit him so quickly that it cleared up, but this could have been another case of the same condition.
We learned that when you get a tick bite, it can sometimes leave what is known as a “target mark”, dark red in the centre, with a ring around it of a lighter pinkish colour. If not dealt with, the mark enlarges and this is also a sign of Lyme disease.
Being near animals, or even kneeling down in the garden in long grass could be a risk. If it is caught in time, and treated with the right course of antibiotics, one doesn’t suffer the ordeal I did.
I recently had a visit from our electrician in Clifden and he asked me what was wrong with me. I told him I had Lyme disease.
“My father had that,” he exclaimed. “They checked him for everything on earth until they found it, and he was damn near dead . . .”
It proves that there really should be a lot more information on this, among GPs and in the public domain generally.