By Greg O’Brien, Codfish Press
Oh, New England! We wait eight months for the good weather, then spring bites. Literally. I felt the symptoms coming on a week ago Saturday like an Acela train blowing through a stop: nausea, chills, fever (pushing 104), fatigue, joint pain, stiff neck, muscle aches and a tingling down my left arm. I don’t remember ever being that sick; I thought I had the flu.
I woke up the following day in worse shape. I could hardly walk, had trouble remembering things, and had the off-balance reactions of someone trying to swat a Wakefield knuckleball on a day when it moves. That night I sweat through a shirt like I had been at the gym for six hours. By Monday, I was thumbing through a directory of priests, and picking the photo to lay on top of the casket—typically Irish, as was my reluctance to see a doctor, opting instead to grind it out. On Tuesday, I noticed a large red circle, the size of a Christmas ornament, on the left side of my chest. In the center, there appeared to be a “bull’s eye” bite mark the size of a quarter.
Getting in to see a doctor these days is akin to securing an invitation to the White House, so I took myself to Cape Cod Hospital emergency room where they made me wait mostly, then poked me, siphoned what seemed like about ten gallons of blood, and then delivered the preliminary diagnosis: acute Lyme Disease. The jury is still out with the final verdict (the smoking gun had fallen off). Some of the test results are due back this week.
Hospitals and doctors offices often remind me of customer service stations in large department stores: there is no one here who can answer your questions. But a quick check of Internet websites on Lyme Disease was revealing. In some parts of New England, Lyme Disease can be as common as a bad sunburn, only most victims—both children and adults—don’t know they have it, disregarding the warning signs until more serious indicators encroach. If untreated, the experts say, Lyme Disease, first diagnosed in Lyme, Ct., can result in variants of rheumatoid arthritis, irregular heartbeat, thinning patches of skin, severe headaches, hepatitis, and neurological problems like meningitis (inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain) and temporary paralysis on the side the face (Bell’s palsy). Even more alarming is the fact that a negative blood test can give false results.
Always best to check the early symptoms with a doctor; intervention can prevent years of debilitating pain in a state that ranks fourth in Lyme Disease cases. But be prepared; the cure—Doxycycline—can take a bite out of you, too, this time of year, making the skin hypersensitive. I’ve been ordered to stay out of the sun for a month! Spring bites in New England. So stay in close touch with yourself.