All anglers and outdoor folk – PLEASE BE AWARE!
At some time, toward the end of July, I was bit by a tick. I’m not sure where it happened as I am out and about every day as I walk in the wild fields and woods on my none angling days, so it may have been during a walk, or it may have been whilst angling.
Being out a lot, I naturally get bit a lot, by all sorts of things and have many old scars to show just that. I have little willpower when it comes to having a good old scratch of itchy bites. Thus, getting carried away at times and being left with scars where I have not left my skin to heal properly, particularly on my legs.
At first, this rather odd-looking bite, I had I put down to a spider. It was different to the run of the mill bites you pick up whilst spending time outdoors, removed from the concrete jungles most others seem happy in. My bite started off as a rather angry looking hard lump and naturally I kept my eye on it as it was quite different to what I usually get.
Within a couple of days my foot and lower leg had swollen so much that my ankle was no longer working and the bite was starting to look more like the classic bulls eye of a tick bite. Being aware of Lyme’s disease, I was straight on the phone to book an appointment with the doctors. I explained the situation to the receptionist who then went on to tell me that I couldn’t see a doctor about an insect bite until I had tried some over the counter medications first!
Well, I guess that receptionist wished she had not gone into work that day by the time I had said my bit and I found myself being booked in for an appointment within a couple of hours.
I have friends who have had Lyme's and other who have had Weil’s disease. Both are incredibly serious things and both need picking up on and treatment starting as soon as possible. Delays in doing this lead on to a total nightmare for those who have contracted either. Yet, in each case I know of, the doctors haven’t taken my friends seriously and both Lyme's and Weil’s people are usually sent away without having any actual checks being done. Usually, they are diagnosed with a more common thing to start with the intention of seeing how things materialise. Yet, if you talk to any doctor who understands either disease, they will tell you that this is the worst thing that could happen. The sooner the symptoms are recognised, and treatments can start, the more chance of preventing a very long-drawn-out illness that can end up finishing you off.
Yes, I made a total nuisance of myself after that telephone call to the receptionist, but I was ready for a battle of words and this is something I urge you to be armed and ready for if you have a strong feeling you have been had by a tick.
Into the medical centre to see my first doctor, I made a point of stating my case before they had chance to ask my anything. I explained that I spend a great deal of my time outdoors which also involves sleeping outdoors a minimum of 2 nights a week, 52 weeks a year. The nights and days I am not by the side of water, I am out and about for an hour and a half walking in wild fields and woods, so naturally I get bit a lot by lots of different insects. I felt that I needed to drill home the fact that I know what most bites are like, but this one was very different, and I thought I had broken a tick off by scratching without looking first. I then went on to say that I am self-employed, did not want a sick note or time off work, I just wanted this bite looking at properly.
Sadly, I have lost a lot of confidence with our overstretched medical system after how my father was treated and indeed with how my rare visits to the doctors have been handled. I realise that a percentage of would-be patients are after little more than a sick note for some time off work. I feel I need to first convince doctors that I am actually suffering with something these days.
After once again making a nuisance of myself getting my point across before there was a chance of going down the route of, perhaps it’s a horsefly bite, or whatever. I got the reactions I wanted. I guess the fact that I was struggling to walk showed there was something quite bad happening. She went on-line to compare some photographs there with my bite mark. I had already been looking at the page she was using, so was able to mention if you scroll down a page, you will see an identical one.
It seemed there were two routes for her to follow and prescribe, one was a 21-day course of Doxycycline at 200 mg a day, the other was an intravenous drip. I decided the intravenous drip could get in the way of casting, so it was a no brainer for me. Five minutes later, I was hobbling back along the corridor with a box of pills.
I urge all outdoors people to read about both Lyme’s and Weil’s diseases, you are prone to picking up both and need to drill home to your doctor why you think that is what you have, or else you will be sent away again to see if symptoms persist or worsen. Neither disease from those I have spoken to, seem to be taken seriously at the start.
So, the pills made me feel sick, I never feel sick, but I felt sick. The pills gave me headaches, I never get headaches, but I did with the pills for the first few days. These were side effects that were mentioned on instructions. I put up with both as I know the alternative of having Lyme’s running through me unabated would end up much worse than feeling sick and having headaches. One of the warnings was to keep out of the sun as my skin would burn really easily whilst on medication. The doctor advised me to look at buying a big hat. I explained that I had only taken it off to see her!
My symptoms changed, the swelling in my foot and leg reduced within a few days of taking the anti-biotics and were just about back to normal. The big issue I had though was feeling incredibly tired all the time and having fever bouts. It was embarrassing, I would be absolutely wet through with sweat after attempting the slightest bit of physical effort. I would also sweat a lot each time I ate.
The tiredness really was an issue. For the past 17 years I have had to have my sleep monitored and need to connect to a machine every night, as I stop breathing when I sleep. All down to having a thick neck. Great for rugby and fighting, but not great for normal life.
Over the years my average sleep monitored on my machine (you can’t cheat an average) has been around 6 hours, this increased when I stopped drinking but is still less than 7. Suddenly I was sleeping for 10 hours plus and within a few hours of being up, I was fighting myself to keep awake. I can’t take a simple nap in the middle of the day like most, as I am reliant upon my CPAP to keep me breathing once asleep.
This tiredness has been a real big ordeal stopping me from doing so much. I can’t even read, my eyes have been becoming so heavy and from walking 1 ½ hour cross country each none angling day, I was struggling to even reach the post box which is literally a couple of minute walk away. The two times I had to walk there, I was wet through with sweat after the ordeal and out of breath too.
Another side-affect was that during the day I would slowly start to lose my voice until I had hardly any power left in my voice box. All very worrying and scary when you have been used to having good stamina.
Anyway, to-day I am real pleased with myself. A month on and I have managed a mini walk this morning. It took it out of me, but I walked a lot further than I could have gone a few days back. Without my angling to look forward to these past few week-ends, I think I would have totally cracked up with not being able to get a proper outdoor fix.
The first week-end when I was real bad, I was determined to get myself by the side of water. My reasoning is always the same. I will be better off mind wise being ill where I really want to be, than feeling ill indoors wishing I could get out. That first trip was such an ordeal getting my gear loaded into my motor. I was totally wringing wet through by the time I had done it and looking at myself in the mirror before I stepped into the shower, well, it looked like I had just stepped out of the shower. The fever was running high and my hair was plastered to my head.
I purposely remained local, not wanting to risk any tiredness kicking in whilst driving to my usual summer venues. Indeed, I felt far better out on the bank with the breeze on my face. I was fine really, under the circumstances until I needed to re-load my motor to return home after a couple of nights out.
I have continued this every weekend and each trip has been an ordeal, particularly loading my motor, but each trip has felt a little easier too. The doctors told me to rest. Being behind the rods, gives me more rest than I would get trying to occupy myself at home. So, from an angling point of view, it has all been pretty much the same with me still managing my two nights a week. I have been catching too.
I have written this piece for awareness among anglers and outdoor folk. I’m not after the sympathy vote. That has been a pain to be fair. I put on social media that I am not well, just to hopefully make as many others aware of Lyme’s disease as I could. It is nice people sending sympathy messages, but it does drive you mad with the phone bleeping all the time.
PLEASE TAKE TIME TO LEARN ABOUT LYME’S AND WEIL’S DISEASES.
One day, you may be thanking me and remember, if you have to make a nuisance of yourself to be heard, then do it. Those you are making a nuisance to aren’t going to be having to live with what you may end up with
Best wishes as always