Ma here. We seem to live in a hotbed for tick activity. Three years ago Pa, who rarely gets ill started in with what at first he thought was just a bad headache and sore back. His noggin and back were surely hurting him something fierce. He felt so completely miserable that he just slept, almost continually. I was so worried about him. What I noticed that he did not seem to was the fever and chills. After a few weeks I mentioned the dreaded “D” word. You know the one – doctor. At first Pa flat out said no. No, no, no… Now it’s not that Pa doesn’t like Dr Jeff, heck, he thinks a lot of the man. Would gladly chat with him any day of the week he might encounter him in town. The thing is Pa prefers not to talk Dr Jeff up when he’s the patient in the office. A month in and 27 pounds lighter, Pa was not improving at all. Heck, in my opinion it was getting worse. Some things like the fever seemed to come and go. The pain and continual sleeping did not. Pa would quite literally go to work every day, come home, and I knew as soon as he stretched out on the sofa that was it for the night. I had to fight him to get up to eat a little, then he would be off to bed. Finally, about 6 weeks into it Pa was so sick of being sick that he went to see Dr Jeff. Not knowing what it could be, the barrage of tests started. Pa doesn’t have diabetes, or an imbalanced thyroid, or any of the other “most common” things they would look for. The initial testing and waiting for results ate up another 3 weeks. By this time Pa was not only miserable sick, but quite honestly getting quite angry at being sick. The other major thing was the quickness with which he tired out. The simplest things just drained him. I was so worried for him that sometimes all I could do was cry as he slept with his head in my lap. Finally, Dr Jeff ran the last batch of blood tests he could think to run and we had our answer. Pa had 2 forms of tick borne illness. One of which was Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and the other was Pahvant Valley Plague. Dr Jeff prescribed some heavy duty antibiotics and Pa was finally on the road to recovery. In the end Pa had to go back for another round of antibiotics before he really started to feel more himself. Now having said that, you need to know that tick fever just drains you of all energy, and it was well over a year until Pa was able to work at a regular pace on the farm after that. One thing I will say is through all of it Pa only called in sick to work 2 days, and not in a row. That man is the toughest and most admirable person I know.
Fast forward to last year about this time. I started in with a headache, not uncommon, especially with allergy season kicking off, not to mention being concussed by a shopping cart falling on my head not long before. Then the backache and hip pain started. Again, not uncommon with everything I do on the farm, trying to get new kitchen garden beds made, the chronic bursitis in my hips, blah, blah, blah. Thing is, it just kept getting worse each day, then the chills and fever started. About 2 weeks in Pa brought up the “D” word. I adamantly refused. With no insurance, I sure couldn’t afford a barrage of blood tests and whatnot. I said no way, and Pa respected that… for about a week. I guess I declined a lot in that week. Pa had pretty much taken over everything chore-wise on the farm, he even had to do his own laundry once or twice. Something as simple as carrying a load of clothes back to the laundry room and putting them in the washer put me in need of a nap afterward. Pa finally put his foot down and told me he thought it was tick fever and made the appointment and took me to see Dr Jeff. Not at all the way I wanted to meet the man, but the right move in the end. Definitely tick fever. Dr Jeff said no point doing a blood work up, as the tests aren’t always reliable. That in combination with Pa’s sickness the year before warranted a script of ten days antibiotics for me. After a few days I started feeling better as far as headaches and back pain went. The fatigue was another story. I tuckered out so easy I truly earned the title “Wussy”. I will be honest I don’t know that I ever recovered to the point I had been before the tick fever as far as tiring out went. It’s frustrating, let me tell ya. You know you shouldn’t be so tired from simple things, but add the heat of a sunny day in and there are times I’m not sure I have the energy to even make it to the house. Very frustrating indeed!
That brings us to this year. Now ever since we both got to learn the pleasure that is tick fever (granted, Pa had the worst of it as it went so long undiagnosed), we both have been very careful to do tick checks each and every day. We read somewhere if you get them off within 24 hours you were safe. Well, I beg to differ. About a week ago, I found a tick during my check right near my collar bone, it was a big tick, not a tiny seed tick. I know the tick was not there earlier in the day, and my first thought upon seeing it and the surrounding area was, “That can’t be good.” With this tick I had a reaction like I have never had before. The entire red area was swollen and hot to the touch. The site of the bite itself was rather itchy, but the rest of the area had a general burning sensation. I know being a ginger and all that my skin reacts more to things like this than most everyone else, but this was worse than anything I ever encountered before. I’ve had them welp up and bruise, but normally stay about an inch in diameter or less. I thought I best document this one each day.
On day 2 I noticed the red spot was growing. I went into research mode online and continued to watch it.
Day 3 the red rash was still growing. It started to spread onto my neck. The rash still had a burning sensation. I had to remove the necklace Fish Taco gave me for the first time in 2 years as it hurt where it touched the rash, almost like thar area was hyper-sensitive.
Day 4 I had my first inkling of illness. I woke up with a killer headache. I wrote this off as allergies. Secondly, I noticed quite a bit of pain in my neck and a pretty sore back. These I wrote off as sleeping wrong. I also had a low grade fever, but the day was warmer so chalked it up to that. Finally, I had a LOT of hip pain. Hip pain is a daily thing for me, so I simply figured I was just having a “bad hip day.” Needless to say I was feeling so rough by mid-afternoon that I went in and laid down on the bed for a good nap. Those of you who truly know me know that it is very rare I will take a midday nap. I have to feel pretty rough to do that.
Day 5 I still had the aches and pains from the day before, but they weren’t as bad. I figured the reasons I came up with the day before must have been correct. On day 6 Pa and I worked our tails off in the garden. I remember thinking more than once how incredibly tired I was after only about an hour of work. I thought “Wow, I haven’t tired out this quickly since I had tick fever.” Little did I know that I did, in fact, have a tick borne illness yet again.
That brings us to day seven – which was yesterday. I woke up with the splitting headache, severe neck, back, knee and hip pain. It was weird though, sometimes the neck would hurt so bad I couldn’t turn it, then it would lessen and the pain would become almost unbearable in another spot. I also started in with chills and burned a steady fever of between 101-102 all day long. The only relief I had was to sleep, though the pain would wake me often. That day seemed like 4 to me. I was generally miserable and at times despite trying to stop it, my eyes leaked tears. I decided to tell Pa my fears… I was fairly sure I had yet another tick borne illness, and feared it was Lyme disease based on the red and growing rash. Since it was Sunday, I told Pa I was going to call Dr Jeff first thing this morning and get on meds as soon as possible. I was not going to try to tough it out. Dr Jeff diagnosed it simply as tick borne illness, not Lyme disease. He gave me a script for ten days worth of antibiotics and some pain meds so I could sleep better. If I am not feeling better after this round of meds, then I get to visit him again. Only time will tell if it is truly Lyme (I sure hope not.)
I write this today, and share what I consider to be very personal photos for one reason – to try to help anyone who might encounter the things Pa and I have. Tick borne illness, no matter what strain is serious business and nothing to be messed with. Please do your tick checks regularly if you happen to be in an area where you might encounter the little vampires. If you EVER have a bite that develops a rash like my latest did, don’t try to be tough and think “I’ll just watch it and see if anything happens.” Go to your version of Dr Jeff and get on antibiotics as soon as possible. Don’t let them run a bunch of tests, as tests are not yet reliable for this type of thing. The longer you go undiagnosed the harder it is on your system to recover. I will be honest here, after this bout, I am not at all sure I will ever be able to work the way I used to.
With that, I’m off!