Story: Tick, tick, tick…Lyme Disease

It was a pain in the neck. Literally. That’s how it began. Out of the blue, my neck started hurting. I popped a few Motrin, then some Tylenol a few hours later…nothing really helped. I figured I’d just have to wait it out.

I woke up in the early morning hours a few days later with fever, chills, body aches, nausea, and a terrible headache that arced across the back of my head. I slept fitfully, if at all, and around daybreak, took a couple of Motrin. A few hours later, I took my temperature; it was the first time in years I was over 100 degrees–and this was after the pills had time to work.

I sat at the kitchen table and pondered the situation.

I felt better.

But last night had been real bad.

Maybe it was a stomach bug.

But the headache was near migraine level.

I could just wait this out.

But what about the neck ache?

So I did the only thing a web-savvy person does these days. I Googled my symptoms. I didn’t like the results.


Now, mind you, I’m very careful about what I read on the interwebs. When it comes to health, there are only a few websites I trust: The CDC, Mayo Clinic, Medline Plus (the NIH).

They were nearly unanimous in describing my symptoms.

It was Sunday morning. Of course. I always get sick on the weekends. But I called the doctor’s office anyway, pretending my headache was getting better while the answering service patched me through to the on-call doc.

I described my symptoms and told Dr. Chou that I wouldn’t normally call on a Sunday morning for what is probably a 24-hour stomach bug, but I didn’t like how it all sounded.

“I don’t like it either,” she said.

Wait a minute. That wasn’t in the script. This was the part where she was supposed to say, “You’re right. It’s probably nothing. Take something for the fever and call me in a few days if you’re not feeling better.”

Instead: “You should go to the ER and get it checked out. Sooner rather than later.”

Well then.

I will admit, I didn’t follow Dr.  Chou’s instructions exactly. It was a gorgeous late spring day: sunny, warm, a slight breeze. I envisioned spending a whole bunch of hours closed off in a loud, antiseptic box with doctors and nurses poking at me.

Don’t try this at home, folks. I decided to sit outside and soak up the sun for just a little while, thinking I could carry that little bit of sunshine with me.

I didn’t last long; the day was too bright; my headache screamed. I went inside to take a shower before we left.

That’s when I saw it: a dark red spot underneath my right breast. I finished up, dried off and looked in the mirror. Lifting up my boob, I saw a huge, red perfectly-formed circle–about 7 inches in diameter.

“Holy spit!” was something like what I said. It was time to go to the ER.

The triage nurse at the hospital listened to my story. When I got to the part about the rash, a second nurse walked over with a surgical mask. “We’re going to ask you to wear this while you’re here,” she said and fastened it around me ears, covering my mouth and nose.

I was put in an isolation room; I tried to be amused by the emergency decontamination shower in the bathroom that was part of my cube. My husband and I joked about zombies. Until a doctor came in wearing a mask and ordered him to put one on too. “It doesn’t matter if you’ve been living with her. We can’t be too careful.”

Things got serious quickly. Vial upon vial of blood was pulled from me. I was sent for a CAT scan. (I prefer the kind of cat scan I get at home.)

CAT scan, the way I like it

The kind of CAT scan I like, courtesy of Athena

A lumbar puncture was done, collecting four vials of fluid from my spine. In the mean time, my headache got worse, my nausea increased, and every sound and light kicked it up a notch.

A nurse poked her head inside the room. “Would you like something for the pain?” Why didn’t I think of that?

They gave me morphine. Which, I learned, works really fast. It doesn’t help with the nausea, though.

My cardiologist showed up. “We’re keeping you,” he said.

I couldn’t quite parse the concept. “Overnight?”

“We still don’t know exactly what’s wrong. We need to keep you until we find out and can treat you.”

A neurologist came by. He seemed to talk forever and I tried really hard to understand him. He had me stand, walk, touch my nose, balance. My headache and nausea ruled me.

“We need to get this woman to her room.” An orderly interrupted the neurologist, who engaged his best imperious doctor stare, to no avail. Perhaps the orderly could see the effort it was taking for me to focus on what the doctor was saying. “We need to get her someplace more comfortable.”

The ride through the halls seemed endless. I had to shield my eyes from the bright lights.

“We’re taking you to ICU,” said a voice. One of the nurses maybe? “Don’t worry, though. It’s not because you’re that sick. It’s because that’s where there’s a bed.”

I learned later that wasn’t quite the truth.

I was settled into a mercifully darkened negative pressure room. A room with a double set of doors that everyone had to pass through to help prevent microbes from escaping.

I lost track of time.

Yet another doctor came in, gowned and masked. Once again, I went through my story, and he asked to look at my rash. He took one look.

“You have Lyme disease!” He nearly yelled, or at least that’s what it felt like to my searing head. He whipped off his mask. “We don’t need these. You don’t need to be here. I’ll get you on the right antibiotic.” He marched out, ripping off his extra gown.

Outside my door I could hear chatter. “She’s out of isolation.” “No masks.” “She doesn’t need to be there anymore.”

To be continued; read part II: The Homecoming

–End of part I–

Lyme Disease: What You Should Know

  • Thirteen states in the US account for 95% of the reported cases of Lyme Disease. Find out if your state is one of them.
  • If you live in a state where Lyme Disease is prevalent, be vigilant. If you go outside, walk in a park, a field, the woods, do a tick check when you come home–on yourself and your pets.
  • Two doctors told me that my tick bite location was typical: right underneath my bra, where it is tight against the skin. Ladies, please check there. Guys, check your underwear elastic.
  • Lyme Disease is carried by deer ticks, which are much smaller than dog ticks; the nymphs can be as small as a poppy seed or freckle. The tick has to be feeding for many hours before it passes the bacterium to you. So don’t panic if you see a tick. Learn how to remove it correctly, in a way that doesn’t squeeze the tick.
  • Sometimes Lyme Disease presents with what’s known as a bullseye rash: red in the center, surrounded by a cleared area, then red again. Mine was completely red, a perfect circle. Don’t think because your rash isn’t typical that you shouldn’t call your doctor. Sometimes the rash comes without any other symptoms.
  • If you live in a tick-prone area, and either get a rash or any of the Lyme Disease symptoms (fatigue, chills, fever, headache, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes) call your doctor.
  • Lyme Disease left untreated can cause a slew of long-term neurological problems. When in doubt, call your doctor.



This post was too long for one entry, so I’ll post part II tomorrow. Stay tuned.


We’re participating in the Monday Mischief blog hop, though in this case it was tick mischief. Take a look at some of the other blogs in the hop listed below.



32 Comments on "Story: Tick, tick, tick…Lyme Disease"

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  1. Emma says:

    That is so scary. So glad you got help early and they knew what it was fairly fast!

  2. Mary says:

    Wow, how scary! I’m glad you are OK, and caught it fairly quickly. I can’t imagine living in one of those states.

    • It’s scary, true, but I think no matter where you live, there are certain risks you live with. The chances of getting a tick, having that tick actually carry the bacteria, and having it stay on you long enough to get sick are actually pretty low. And I’ve heard that while a huge percentage of Lyme cases are in just a portion of the US, I heard from a vet that cases have been diagnosed in all 48.

  3. Brenda Efros says:

    Im glad they found out what it was and were able to treat it. Im hoping your feeling better. See you in a few weeks.

  4. Oh my…how scary. So glad a doctor finally realized what was wrong and just in time so they could get you the proper treatment!

  5. I’m glad they figured out what was wrong eventually!

  6. Oh my gosh. This is terrifying. There are ticks all over where I live, so this post is an important one. I hope you’re feeling better!

  7. OMC! What an experience! This could happen to anyone.

  8. Oh, how scary! Wheat on earth did they think you had, to put you in that kind of isolation? The symptoms sound like they were really alarming. We’re so glad you’re home and feeling better!

  9. Beth says:

    That is scary! I thought I had Lyme a couple years ago because I had similar symptoms and my dog had been diagnosed with it and since she hadn’t been anywhere without me, I figured it was possible I could have been bitten and not noticed it. The doctor looked at me like I was crazy when I told her that I wanted to be tested for it. Luckily, the blood tests came back negative and whatever was causing the symptoms seems to have gone away. I hope that you are on the path to feeling better!

  10. Wow, what a story! We are glad that you are home and on the mend. So scary. We will have to be extra vigilant about our tick checks! Purring, praying, and thinking of you.

  11. Kitties Blue says:

    OMC, Sue. What an absolutely scary thing. And we thought our mom has it bad with the scorpion sting. How long is it supposed to take before you are well again? We are going to be purring and praying up a storm for you. We are so happy that you are home again, and we bet all the anipals are as well. XO, Lily Olivia, Mauricio, Misty May, Giulietta, Fiona, Astrid, Lisbeth and Calista Jo and Mom janet

  12. Ruby says:

    HOLY COW PATTIES!!! That is one frighting story!! Good things you kept flashing, um, I mean, showin’ everyone your rash or that last doc wouldn’t have caught it! Thank Dog!!! Too bad he didn’t see your first, then maybe you could have avoided the spinal tap…(?)
    Anyhu, I am sure glads you are on the right meds and you are on the mend. I know that sometimes it can be a long recovery, so I am sendin’ POTP and tons of healin’ vibes your way!
    Oh, and I thinks YOUR CAT scan is cuter
    Ruby ♥

    • Thank you. It did start to feel a little strange, flashing my rash at every doc and nurse who came by. I think they might have done the spinal tap no matter what because of the severity of the headache. Apparently Lyme can cause meningitis too. Thanks for the good thoughts; I’m on the mend and surrounded by my fur family, who makes everything better.

  13. Sandy says:

    How frightening with the terrible headaches and nausea and then isolation. I’m so glad the doctor figured it out before things got worse.

  14. Oh wow, that’s beyond mischief, that was so scary! I’m glad they worked out what was wrong and can’t wait to read the next part to check you’re ok!

    Wags to all,

    Your pal Snoopy 🙂

  15. Jennifer says:

    One – kudos to the response team. Two – a BIG shout out to the Doc that knew the answer.

    Both of these are things I want to have in an medical emergency.

    Feel better soonest!

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