Misdiagnosed Lyme disease: One reader’s horrific experience
Excerpted from Boston.com ( Posted: 05/10/2012)
In the summer of 1997, while working at a camp in Maine after my freshman year of college, I found a blotchy red rash on my right arm. The camp nurse shrugged. “Maybe it’s from your sleeping bag. Let’s give it a few days and see what happens.”
A few days later I collapsed in the dining hall. When I came to, the camp nurse told me I’d had a low blood sugar reaction, something that had never happened to me before. She didn’t think to connect the incident with my mysterious rash, which by then had faded. She didn’t think to test me for Lyme disease, known for its tell-tale rashes. She didn’t think to test me for babesia, ehrlichia or bartonella, tick-borne parasites that consume oxygen in the red blood cells, which can first manifest as hypoglycemia. She didn’t think to do any of these tests, because she didn’t know the serious health threat that ticks pose in wooded areas.
I don’t blame the camp nurse for my misdiagnosis, but I do blame the lack of awareness surrounding tick-borne illness that led to her ignorance. It took eight years for a doctor to connect the dots of my burgeoning constellation of symptoms. By then the bacteria had spread to every system of my body, crossed the blood-brain barrier and invaded my central nervous system, and was replicating at a rate that evaded the strongest antibiotic treatment.
I was left bedridden, hooked up to an IV, for two years. The co-infections of babesia, ehrlichia and bartonella caused nightsweats, fevers, and neurological symptoms that demanded intense anti-malarial treatment.
This is the fate that awaits anyone who does not receive a proper diagnosis of tick-borne illness right away.
Our best defense against this health threat is Lyme literacy, not just amongst the general population but amongst doctors, too.