October 2003: Port Coquitlam, BC
I am a 40 year old female. I have been married for 5 years. I have a 14 year old son and a 7 year old step son. Before I was bit by a tick I was very healthy and active. I worked full time and took care of our house and family and enjoyed walking and biking. I found that I could function on about 6 ½ hours sleep a night. Until my sickness I was healthy and have had no major health problems and very rarely got sick.
In August of 2000, while at our cabin in Tulameen (Southern Okanagan), I was bitten on the back of my head just above my neck (which was covered in hair). I knew it was different type of bite, not a normal mosquito bite, but never gave it much thought. It was sore and felt like it had a scab on it. I did not notice any rash. We thought it was a spider bite. About 4 days later I was sick with what we thought was a bad 24-hour flu. I did not relate it to the bite. The bite went away shortly after and I forgot about it.
Over the next few months I started to get a lot of headaches. I also started getting a lot of aches and pains, mostly in my neck and right shoulder, and I was tired al of the time. I was going through a ton of Advil trying to get some relief. As time went on these symptoms got worse. I didn’t go to the doctor because I had had an old injury in the spot that hurt the most (neck/shoulder right side). I just thought it was acting up again and would go away.
In April 2001 the pain worsened. I could barely move my neck and my right shoulder. The pain was excruciating. I went to my family doctor. I had to stay home from work at that point. I had an old injury in the back of my neck on the right side, which my doctor thought was acting up again. She put me on anti-inflamatories and muscle relaxants and after about a week sent me to physiotherapy. Over the next few months the pain got worse and was now moving down my back and into my right leg. Physio was not helping at all. I was so weak that I could barely get up the stairs of our house. I was extremely tired all of the time. I was getting cramping and spasms in my right arm and shoulder and now in both legs.
In the summer of 2001 my shoulder was so bad it became frozen. One morning I woke up and could not move m legs. They were full of cramps and pain. My doctor now knew it was something more. I was sent to a Neurologist who did a nerve conduction test, I saw a Rheumatoligist, I had a series of blood work done, and I had a CAT scan and a MRI. Nothing was found in any of the tests. I was still getting worse. I was still going to physio three times a week. They tried all different things including taping me and acupuncture with no results.
Finally in September 2001 I went to see a 2nd Neurologist. He did some tests and asked some questions, one of which was do I do any camping? I said no, but we have a cabin. He added the test for Lyme disease to his list of blood work that he wanted done. The test came back positive. The day the test came back my family doctor sent me to an infectious disease specialist. He started me on Ceftriaxone through IV. He said 3 weeks would be enough but extended my treatment to 30 days because we were so persistent. I got very sick during my treatment. At the end of the 30 days I was feeling only slightly better than before. Very shortly afterwards I was convinced that my medication had not worked. My family doctor had been diagnosed with cancer and would be off for about the next year. I went back to see the Infectious Disease doctor who told me that he was sure that the Lyme disease had been dealt with sufficiently. He said what was left was probably just the damage from the Lyme disease which needed time to reverse itself. He suggested it could be something else that was wrong. He did not want to see me again and suggested I go to a Rheumatoligist. I returned to my family doctor’s office to make arrangements to see a Rheumatoligist.
Over the next 16 months I continued to go back to my family doctors office but saw someone different all of the time as my doctor was still off. All of my aches and pains worsened but now it was affecting my head. My right arm did not move very much at all and it hurt constantly. Both of my legs were sore and weak. My hips were sore. I was extremely tired all of the time. I had very severe headaches. My face had bells palsy on the left-hand side. I was depressed with uncontrollable crying bouts and mood swings. My earls clicked constantly like they were popping when you land in an airplane. My left ear had a lot of sharp pains in it. I was very sensitive to noise. I was not sleeping well. I would wake up in a sweat lots of nights. Other nights I would be woken by severe head pain. And worst of all I thought I was going crazy. I felt like I was walking around in a fog. My memory was very bad. I would leave a room to do something and not know why I was there. I had trouble just thinking minor tasks through. I had to really concentrate when talking to someone. If there were other distractions or lots of people it would confuse me. I couldn’t get out what I wanted to say properly. I couldn’t read anything because I wouldn’t remember the sentence before. My mind was constantly wondering. I found myself avoiding people and just keeping pretty quiet. I felt like nobody was helping and that they did not believe me.
In May of 2002 my husband saw an article in the Vancouver Sun about Lyme disease. It was written by Dr. E. Murakami. We made an appointment and I started seeing Dr. Murakami. He did some verbal memory testing and exercises. I didn’t know how bad I was until I realized that I couldn’t count backwards from 100. I had worked with numbers all of my life. My husband did most of the talking while I just sat there and cried. It was the first time that I had someone who knew what I felt like. I was introduced to other Lyme disease patients. I felt like there was hope to get better.
I saw Dr. Murakami once a month. He was so good at answering calls and e-mails and made us feel that it was no bother asking questions. He would always get back to us day or night 7 days a week. He would e-mail just to see how I was doing. He started me recording my symptoms and their severity on a graph. He started me on oral Biaxin and Ap-Metronidazole in May 2002 and I continued with that until July 2002. During that time there was little progress. Dr. Murakami had to find an infectious disease specialist who would accept me as a patient. My family doctor returned about this time. Dr. Murakami and she worked together for me. Another Infectious Disease doctor agreed with him and started IV treatment of Penicillin in August 2002. The Penicillin was 24 hours per day, 7 days a week. I also started taking Tinidazole 250 mg. Also in August 2002 I got an infection in my pic line. I took Cephalexin 500 mg for that. Then also in August 2002 I got an extremely bad itchy rash and had to go to emergency. They figured it was from the Tinidazole so I had to stop taking that. In September 2002 the Rheumatoligist sent me for nerve blocks. The idea was to numb the arm and shoulder and then go directly to physio to have them work on it. I had the nerve blocks done at the Royal Columbian for 5 weeks. It did not work like it was suppose to. It was supposed to last many hours to days afterwards but it would only last 1-2 hours. The Doctor thought it might be reacting somehow with the Lyme disease. I stopped the nerve blocks in October 2002. In September 2002 Dr. Murakami also put me on Apo-Metronidazole. I would stay on the Penicillin IV drip for 3 months, finishing in October 2002. I stopped the Apo-Metronidazole also in October 2002.
About a month into the IV treatment I was feeling less tired and less sore. My mind was not running as much, I was sleeping better, and the bells palsy was gone. Things continued to improve over the next while. Then about 2 to 2 ½ months into my treatment I felt a lot better. My head was clearing up. Things were less foggy. I was remembering better. I was walking better, less pain in my arm and shoulder. I was less depressed. I remember being out for lunch with my husband and realizing that I could hear him and what was going on around us as well. My arm was even moving better. I was so very happy. I was still sore and weak and tired. They explained to me that my body had been damaged and the muscles had not been used for a long time.
I spent the next 6 months working on getting my strength back. I was weak from not being able to do anything for so long. I started walking every day. I did exercises for my arm and shoulder. I did a lot of reading and playing with the computer to build my mind back up.
It is now September 2003 and I have returned to work. It has been 2 ½ years since I first was off. I started out slow doing 4 hours per day. I had to be totally re-trained. Things have changed a lot. I had 3 weeks with someone with me. A brand new person takes about 2 weeks. Learning some of the new things took me longer than it should have. I got my notes in a really good order and I am now finally comfortable and confident that I know what I am doing. I am very sore when I get home from work. I have started massage therapy to try to relieve some pain and still take lots of Advil, but overall I am doing pretty good. Very good compared to 1 ½ years ago. I tend to sleep more now (9 hrs) compared with before I was sick (6-7 hrs). I am still sensitive to noise and at times have to leave my surroundings. My ears still click constantly.
I can’t help thinking that if I were treated for 3 months of IV meds the first time, I would not have gotten so sick and I would have been better at least a year earlier. I fell like I missed out on life during the time that I was sick. I feel that I have aged a lot. It has been very hard on me and my family. I don’t know where I would have been today if it were not for the support and encouragement and medical expertise of Dr. Murakami, my family doctor and the second Infectious Disease doctor that went further than her colleague in treating my disease..
I am writing this in hopes that it gives someone with Lyme disease hope to get better in the future and that doctors look into extending IV treatment to at least 3 months instead of 3-4 weeks.