Lyme disease: The paramedic took one look and said, ‘You need a doctor now’

Excerpted from The Irish Times: (09/17/2019)

There is no way of definitively checking you have it, no way of definitively checking if you have rid yourself of it, huge disagreement over how many people have it, and no known treatment once it gets to a certain stage.

Lyme disease – the various grisly strains of the Borrelia bacterium that live in the guts of some ticks – is just the gift that keeps on giving.

I picked it up in a field in July.

At some point, I’m hoping to put it back down again.

There were warnings in the compost toilets, to be fair. No morning’s trudge across the campsite to the elegant wooden boxes for the dawn ablutions was complete without a glance at the warnings about miniature arachnids carrying the northern hemisphere’s very own climate change-induced tropical disease.

Like a lot of people, I just assumed I’d be grand. After a laptop-heavy June, I turned up for some voluntary physical work in England’s west country thinking only of losing a bit of early-30s padding and enjoying spending time with friends.

The first week I was riddled with bites.

That’s nothing new. Various flying invertebrates seem to regard my arrival as a school of sharks might greet the floating carcass of a sperm whale. In the folk tales of some mosquito cultures, I am fondly associated with times of plenty. And by and large, I’m happy to offer up a blood sacrifice now and then to assuage the insect masses, itching and scratching as I go.

This time was no different, with a creative menagerie of bites nestling between the scratches, bruises and cuts sustained in shifting firewood, pallets and intermediate bulk containers.

After breakfast one morning – aha! – I spotted two ticks, about the size of a sesame seed, and had them removed expertly by a first-aider, using a tweezers and a twisting technique.

Job done, you’d think.

The next morning, I sought some cream for my other bites, including one which had begun to annex the greater part of my thigh.

Kirsty, a paramedic on site, took one look at that bite – and two others on my ankles – and identified the telltale signs of Lyme disease: a red bite-mark, surrounded by a pale circle, surrounded in turn by another red circle. It’s like a second World War RAF roundel in miniature.

It explained, she said, why my muscles had ached in an unearthly manner for two days. I just thought it was the result of some uncharacteristic manual labour. “You need to see a doctor now,” she added.

The only problem is that it’s Saturday. A call to 111 and two hours later, and I’ve cadged a lift into town from a generous friend. Her sister apparently got Lyme disease but was only given 10 days’ worth of antibiotics, and it developed into a persistent condition – chronic Lyme disease.

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~ by Rob on September 22, 2019.

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