Story: Tick, tick, tick… Lyme Disease, part II (The Homecoming)

In yesterday’s post, I wrote about how I wound up in the emergency room, and was then admitted to the local hospital. I had a terrible headache, a high fever and chills, and body aches. Plus I was nauseous. I also had a large (7 inches in diameter) red, perfectly circular rash. After multiple tests and multiple doctors, I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease.

A nurse came in to my room. “The doctor put you on doxycycline,” she said. “It’s a pill. Do you think you can keep it down?”

I hadn’t been able to do any more than suck on an ice chip without retching. They decided they had to give me the medication via my IV. What they didn’t tell me is that doxycycline is, to put it mildly, caustic. It burns.  Each infusion was an endless hour of increasing pain.

It was about that point that I named my IV machine Astrid. I don’t know why; it’s just what came to me in my addled brain. She was my constant companion throughout my stay. An ornery creature, Astrid squawked if I moved my arm and blocked the fluid she was delivering into my veins. She poured over me a constant stream of aural irritation: clicks and whirs and clunks. Squeaky chirps in an unfriendly tone. Dings and dongs and electronic alarms.

I named my IV machine Astrid. She watched over me.

Astrid was never very happy, but she did look out for me. Here’s what she looked like at night.

Sunday night was probably my worst night in the hospital. I spiked another fever, causing me to shiver so furiously that my bed rocked and shook as if I were a stunt double for the infamous scene in The Exorcist. The shaking turned the screws in my head even harder. I couldn’t get warm, no matter how many blankets the night nurse piled on.

The next day, I was moved to the neurology floor. Astrid came along, leashed to me and complaining the whole way. Still a private room. Shades drawn. Quiet and dark. Unless someone was waking me up to examine me, take my vitals, remove some more blood or ask me questions.  A hospital is not a good place to try to sleep.

I’ll spare you the details of the next several days. It takes a good 48 hours for the antibiotic to start winning the battle.

My husband and son visited me daily. My daughter and parents called me. I was able to send text messages, which enabled me to feel connected to the outside world.

At one point, someone walked down the hall outside my room, keys jingling. My first thought: therapy dogs! When the nurse came in, I asked her if the hospital ever had visits from therapy dogs. “There’s one that comes around sometimes,” she said.

After she left, I cried.

I wanted to bury my face in Jasper’s fur. I wanted to feel the gentle pull of Lilah’s soft inhaling breath. I wanted to feel Tucker lean into me, and nearly push me over like he does when he’s giving his version of a hug.

I wanted to feel the weight of Athena on my chest, to hear the trills and chirps of Elsa Clair, and feel the soft rumbling of Dawn’s purrs as she settles into my lap. I wanted to feel Calvin draped across my shoulders like the arm of a friend, comforting me with purrs and head rubs.

And if I couldn’t have my own fur-family, I would have just loved to snuggle someone furry. Any dog, any cat would have made me feel so much better.

Those of you  who share your pets, who bring them to hospitals and nursing homes, schools and airports: you offer so much love and hope and hugs and warmth. Keep on doing it. I guarantee you it makes a difference.

The doctors told me I had to be able to eat, drink and take my medication without problems before they let me go home. I was very motivated. “What’s your pain level?” was a question I heard multiple times a day. On a scale of 1 to 10, I rated the pain of the doxycycline infusion 10. Or 11.

“How long do I have to go without barfing to consider the medication successful?” I asked.

“One hour,” said the doc. “One hour.”

Each time they gave me a pill, I would watch the clock, focused on that minute hand making one complete circuit. I was one step closer to leaving.

I proudly reported when I ate four grapes one night, or seven cornflakes the next day. I was allowed to take a shower. I was unhooked from my heart monitor. Astrid stayed by me, though. Ever vigilant.

Finally, the doc stopped by and told me I could go home. “You look like the Susan I know,” he said.

I had to wait for my husband to get to the hospital. I had to wait for the discharge paperwork to be processed. I had to wait for wheelchair to take me to the front door. I had to wait for my husband to bring the car around.

Ever the blogger, I asked Brian to take pictures when I walked through the door. They came out blurry, imperfect, as he isn’t familiar with my camera. But the emotion comes through.

I was so glad to be home.

Three dogs waiting by the door

They hear my voice.

Three dogs swirling around me

You can see the joy on my face, even through the blurry picture.

Three dogs greet me

Nothing like being surrounded by a swirl of happy pups.


Jasper and Tucker greet me

I think Jasper suffered the most when I was gone; he kept looking for me in the bedroom and seeemed so sad when I wasn’t there.

Athena looking at me on my lap.

A few minutes after I got home, Athena crawled onto my lap and stared her welcome.

Calvin the cat nuzzles Jasper

Later, as I relaxed in bed, everyone piled on…and got along. Here, Calvin head butts Jasper. It was good to be home.


What you can do to prevent Lyme Disease

Do a daily tick check. If you live in an area where there are ticks, you should check yourself–and your pets–at least once a day.

  • The good news is that to get Lyme Disease, you have to be fed on by a tick that carries the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, and it has to feed on you for a long time–the shortest number I found was 12 hours; more commonly I saw 36-48 hours. This means if you check daily, you’ve significantly reduced your chances of getting a tick-borne illness.
  • Remember, ticks can be very tiny, the size of a poppy seed. When you check for ticks, look at every freckle, every dot.
  • When walking in the woods, near the woods, or in fields, wear white socks and tuck your pant legs into them. You may look like a complete fool, but you’ll have a better chance of seeing a black tick on a white sock.
  • Use tick repellants as you feel comfortable. Read the directions, apply appropriately, sometimes just to your clothes.

If you find a tick–on yourself or your pet–remove it carefully

  • There are some tools on the market to remove ticks, but you can carefully use a pair of tweezers if you have one on hand.
  • Grasp the tick as close to where the mouthparts enter the skin as possible and pull directly away from the skin slowly and steadily.
  • Try not to squeeze the tick or break it off, leaving the mouthparts in the skin. If they do break off, try to remove them with the tweezers. Don’t worry if you can’t, though; leaving them there doesn’t seem to increase your chances of getting a disease. Your body will take care of what’s left the same way it would a very small splinter.
  • Afterwards, clean the bite area and your hands with soap and water, alcohol or appropriate veterinary cleanser.

Take steps to reduce tick populations around your yard.

  • Remove leaf litter, brush and tall grasses, and other debris from your yard.
  • Create a barrier of wood chips or gravel between recreational areas–lawns, playgrounds, decks and patios–and wooded areas to make it harder for ticks to go where the people are.
  • Mow your lawn frequently.
  • If you have a woodpile, stack it neatly and in a dry area; rodents like mice and chipmunks are carriers of ticks.
  • Discourage wild animals from coming too close to your home by installing a deer fence, or moving bird feeders away from your house. Consider deer fencing.  



35 Comments on "Story: Tick, tick, tick… Lyme Disease, part II (The Homecoming)"

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  1. Mary says:

    What an ordeal! I’m glad you’re home and doing better. I bet the crew is happy too.

  2. Bethany says:

    Welcome home! Lyme is awful… I know many people who have battled it. Some with cases that have taken years to beat. You are very lucky! Rest well.

  3. So happy you’re back home and on the mend. How wonderful to be back with all your furry friends again! 🙂

    Wags to all,

    Your pal Snoopy 🙂

  4. OMG I can’t begin to tell you how awful I feel for you! Thank God you are home and on the mend!!! Thank you for sharing with us how to prevent this awful disease. Sending healing purrs

  5. Wow… I had no idea Lyme disease was so terrible or serious. I am so sorry you had to go through that. Thank you for sharing tips on how to prevent it. I can’t even imagine how happy you must have been to walk in the door at home and be greeted by your furry family. What a great feeling. So glad you are feeling better.

    • Thanks. Lyme Disease isn’t fun, and if I could prevent just one person from going through what I did (or worse, as many people I know have), then these past 2 posts are the best I’ve ever written.

  6. I finally got caught up and read both your posts. Sending you an email. Sandra

  7. So glad to hear you’re finally home and doing better. Thank you for the helpful tips!

  8. What an ordeal! We never stopped to think that tiny ticks can carry Lyme just like big ticks can. That’s good to remember. It’s good to hear that you’re feeling better and on the mend. That’s the best news in all of this story.

    • Thanks. Yeah, it’s the little buggers that are the worst. The tiniest ticks seem to be able to carry the most evil bacteria. It’s not just Lyme, it’s also erlichiosis, anaplasmosis, etc. Ticks are on my list of Nasty Things I Don’t Like At All.

  9. Sandy says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience and for the tips that might prevent a similar problem for us. I’m so sorry that you had to go through that, but am smiling at your welcome home from the dogs and kitties as well as their healing and watchful eyes upon you when you were resting.

  10. Kitties Blue says:

    Susan, this entire ordeal sounds so frightening. We know that you and all the anipals are glad you are back home. We really pray that you have no residual problems from this. Mom says that it makes her scorpion sting seem like a walk in the park (sort of). Get totally well super fast. We are keeping you in our thoughts and prayers. XO, Lily Olivia, Mauricio, Misty May, Giulietta, Fiona, Astrid, Lisbeth and Calista Jo and Mom Janet

  11. Jon says:

    You were extremely lucky to be diagnosed on time. But you are not out of the woods yet. Lyme is no ordinary bacteria. Keep an eye on any funny symptoms over the next year. A substantial number of people treated will eventually relapse. It’s becoming clear from research that Lyme causes persistent infections in some.

    • Thanks. I’ve been doing my research on this, too, and will keep a watch on symptoms. Hopefully, since they caught the disease early, in the first stage, and hit it hard with the right antibiotic, I’ll be considered cured. I also saw some recent research that said the relapse phenomena may be reinfections with a new tick. Either way, I’ll be vigilant.

  12. OMC. We can’t believe what you went through. Thank cod you are better now…and home with the furbabies that love you.

  13. Beth says:

    I second Jon’s advice! Barley, my border collie mix, got Lyme a couple years ago and one of the things we’ve learned is that sometimes it never goes away. She’s had several rounds of doxycycline, sometimes her bacteria levels are really low, sometimes they are really high–even though she’s regularly treated with flea & tick protection and I have NEVER found a tick on her. She rarely has symptoms other than being a little more stubborn when the levels go up, so it’s hard to tell when she might need another round of medication. According to our vet, as long as her organs aren’t affected by it, we don’t need to worry, so we just do annual blood work now, but I’ve heard that humans can go through some of the same cycles with Lyme, too. Good luck!

  14. Novroz says:

    Oh Susan….so sorry, I didn’t know you were hospitalized 🙁
    I should have come here more often.
    Glad you’re okay now.

    I never heard of this disease before, thank you for sharing bits about it, I dhould be careful from now on

    • I’m much better now, thank you. As far as I know Lyme Disease is mostly found in the U.S. and Canada, and mostly in the north eastern states. I think every place in the world has its good points and its not-so-good points. I could choose to live away from the woods and nature, and not go hiking or walking, but to me it’s worth the risk. I just have to be more vigilant about looking for ticks.

      • Novroz says:

        Good to know that 🙂

        I read in other blog that this is because of deer tick. We have deer too here but not in the city where I live in. I also like hiking but I prefer living in the city.

  15. Cynthia says:

    Oh Susan, I am so happy to hear that you are on the mend. Your first post about being in the hospital was just chilling. So scary. And that photo of Athena makes me want to cry. She looks so worried.
    Thank you for all of the information on Lyme Disease. I did not know it could be so dangerous. Stay well!

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