Just thought I would update some news as some of you have asked why I had not posted as often lately. Rest assured I am still writing plenty! This is my perspective as a doctor and a patient of the failing medical profession's attitude towards the unknown. The last paragraphs sum it all.
It all started after a visit to a farm in late December 2007, beginning of summer in New Zealand. I was bitten by a tick and not noticed it at first. Within a few days I started with a few random symptoms which I won't go into too much detail just now. I thought I was very unlucky, succumbing to a few ailments at the same time. I carried on working but felt very tired.
One day my left axillary lymph nodes became very enlarged and painful and that was when I noticed the remainders of an engorged tick...I was horrified as you can imagine. It was a friday evening, too late to go to my health center and I did not want to burden the guys after hours. So I self prescribed penicillin. The symptoms worsened as I experienced the Herxheimer's reaction ( healing crisis ) which happens in Lyme disease. I was certain then the tick was a carrier of Borrelia burgdefori, responsible for the disease.
I saw a GP the following monday who prescribed me Augmentin for one week, given my fever and symptoms, but failed to realize the urgency of early adequate treatment in Lyme Disease, despite all good intentions.
After I voiced my concerns, a colleague mentioned the name of a Microbiologist Specialist with an interest in Infectious Diseases, who kindly saw me in short notice. Unfortunately after the consultation he did not think it was a tick. Even though I saw it with my own eyes and asked a friend to confirm it and then removed it with tweezers. I was told to take painkillers and that I was probably suffering from a viral infection. Oh yes, the old virus excuse...The term some of my colleagues use when they don't know what is going on...
You can imagine my frustration. I was finding it very difficult to walk and had a lot of bone pain and numbness and at times a very high fever. Lyme disease or not, as a doctor I knew something was wrong. Still I wanted to make the most of my New Zealand experience so I carried on working to afford my caravan holiday in the end. I carried on with antibiotics for three weeks.
I actually began to feel better soon after and went on to have the holiday of a lifetime! I loved my " Jucy " caravan and saw much of the beautiful South Island as portrayed in the photos I have posted on this site. I was able to do sea kayaking in the Abel Tasman, glance at the Glaciers and gently hike in the Southern Alps. It was an unforgettable experience, so much so I did not want to come back to the UK. I enjoyed the freedom of the road, the pleasurable scenery, the laid back attitude far from the " rat" race.
When I came back, I worked in Accident and Emergency for two months but slowly symptoms started to come back. I had vowed to find out the truth about what happened anyway, but now with the symptoms again it prompted me once again to ask for help. I quit my job and visited family for two weeks. I was referred to the Institute of Tropical Medicine and tests came back positive for Lyme Borreliosis.
Funnily enough a few days later I actually developed the Bull's eye rash, which when encountered is pathognomic of Lyme Disease... so much for irony.
I have been taking doxycycline since and I am seeing an infectious disease consultant tomorrow.
So why the long post? I wanted to make a point. Not necessarily about me specifically as I am only one of many who suffer from this silent plague. But the fact that I am a doctor, I was able to recognize and reach for early treatment as this often betters the chances of full recovery. I am thankful for that. However I feel very sorry for all those who were not so lucky. Those who faced the medical establishment illiteracy regarding Lyme Disease and could not ask for help. As doctors we fail to listen to the patient. And when we cannot explain the medical mystery we attempt to give it some sort of name, some sort of virus perhaps. And failing that we accuse the patient of fabrication of symptoms, of somatomization, in summary "all in their head". As a doctor I will confess I did not know much about Lyme, only enough to think of it as a differential diagnosis. But I also like to think that when I am faced with something I don't know much about, I ask for help. A second opinion, a referral; I acknowledge my own limitations in the interest of best patient care. But so many doctors don't...
So to all you lymies out there I wish you the best of luck. Talk to your doctor and if he/she does not listen despite all good intentions ask another and another...